I marched smartly
down to the nearest telephone and called Hamburg to
get hold of the C.O. in charge
of Combined Services Entertainments. I already knew
him; he was Colonel Sanders Warren (who had toured as
Red Shadow in "The Desert Song"). I said if
he applied very quickly for me he might get me. Almost
immediately I was out of the bull and back with half
of the people I knew from R.A.D.A. days. There was Sergeant
Bryan Forbes, Joey Baker, Basil Hoskins, playwright
David Turner, Charles Houston (who works with me a great
deal now); comics like George and Jimmy Page.
One of my first chores was to take pay parade, which
was absolutely hysterical. I was paying out A.T.S. girls
who were chorus girls and soldiers who were ballet dancers.
I remember one pretty little A.T.S. girl who came in,
saluted smartly and I smiled up at her. She smiled back
and the R.S.M. standing behind me yelled: "Don't
smile at the paying officer!"
First I was in administration and then out on the road
with the various shows we would put together. Rhine
Army suddenly became responsible for supplying entertainment
to Italy and Austria so we got around quite a bit. In
my last few months of my three years in the Army they
let me do a little acting, to get my hand in for demob.
This was very nice indeed. I did a production of "Shop
At Sly Corner" which we toured. One thing I learned
was that at most camps the welfare officers rather looked
down on soldier actors and actresses. They were fine
with the civilian performers who sometimes joined us.
They were always trying to make the leading lady or
the chorus girls. But they frowned on actors in uniform.
To give me some parity with the welfare officers they
made me up to Captain, which was very necessary.
We would arrive at some of the camps and their idea
of looking after us would be to send in a bucket of
tea, great wads of bread and a bowl of half-cooked sausages
and say: "There's your rations." I stirred
them up about this sort of treatment. It was probably
the only time I ever flashed rank around in the Army.
Many were the times I was pulled up by senior officers
for failing to maintain some semblance of discipline
amongst my performing soldiers. Once we were on a train
going from Holland to Italy. My crowd had our own coach
and during the trip we were all pals together.
There were no eating facilities on the train so we had
meal halts at various camps where the Other Ranks were
supposed to go to their messes and I was supposed to
use the officers' mess. At one of these halts my crowd
herded themselves into the officers' mess, in various
states of disarray, and started tucking in. A major
grabbed me and asked what all this was about. I pointed
out that they were all E.N.S.A.
or civilians and chatted them all out of trouble. Back
on the train I felt I had to give them some kind of
"While we're on our own-fine," I said.
"But once we are off the train for Chrissake act
like soldiers." There was silence for a moment,
then one of them said: "Well, Roger, we thought
what was good enough for you was good enough for us."
That's the sort of discipline there was in Moore's Army.
Then we had a regimental type of officer in Hamburg
who put the squeak in for me with the adjutant. He thought
it disgraceful that no one in my group ever seemed to
salute me, that I was on first name terms with them
all and they all called me Rodge.
Anna Neagle and
Wilding in "Piccadilly
Incident". A crowd player
was Roger Moore - on leave from the
The Colonel gave me a lecture and said
that in any public place we had to act like soldiers-or
else. So after lunch, I'm walking down the stairs of
a hotel in Hamburg with the very fellow who shopped
me to the adjutant. In through the foyer comes one of
my boys, Sergeant Joey Baker. He ifings down his kitbag,
rushes up the stairs to me, flings his arms round my
neck and shouts: "Roger, darling !" -and kisses
The regimental twit behind me almost became violent.
So once again I'm up on the mat.
One of my jobs was meeting in visiting shows from London.
Kay Kendall came out with a revue and I joined up with
them on the train. The first vision of Kay looking so
glamorous amongst all the dull brown of Army uniforms
was a sight indeed. This was when she dubbed me "The
Duchess" because of my shining buttons and gleaming
leather of the uniform. I remember going into her compartment
to tell her what the arrangements were and she looked
up and said: "Blimey, here comes the bloody Duchess
!" It stuck for a long while after I was out of
the services. We had a lot of laughs but my mind was
becoming increasingly preoccupied with whaf I would
be doing when I got out. I had about five months left
to do when I got what I thought was going to be my big
Even though I was married I was young
enough not to worry too much about responsibility. At
the same time I kept in close touch with the events
back in London and nothing would have pleased me more
than going back
to some kind of professional engagement.
So I was naturally delighted when my agent Gordon Harboard
wrote to say that I had been picked to test for the
leading role in the film of "The Blue Lagoon."
It was 1947 and the timing of the production was such
that I would probably be out of the Army to do it. If
I got it, which I didn't. Possibly they didn't think
I looked rugged enough to survive on a desert island
with Jean Simmons. But I was given five days leave to
test for the part in front of the marvellous team of
Frank Launder and Sydney Gilliatt. Testing the same
day was Laurence Harvey. My test was made with Claire
Bloom. Eventually, of course, it was Jean Simmons and
Donald Houston who took the leading roles.
There was one exquisite side issue: Dennis Van Thai,
who was executive producer of casting or something,
asked me at lunchtime to keep Claire Bloom chatting
in the studio bar because he wanted to introduce her
to some other people. It was one of those social-cumbusiness
chats and I was happy to assist. Two days later I received
a cheque for 10 guineas "for expenses incurred,"
which was virtually a windfall on my Army pay.
Dennis is now my agent and one of my closest friends.
But be was never more friendly than with that timely
cheque. That was my first film test and I had failed.
But Launder and Gilliatt recommended to Rank that I
was a good bet as a contract-artist. This never materialised.
I was advised that I would be better off getting some
more practical experience. But Olive Dodds and Ronnie
Walters, who were in charge of casting for Ranks, said
they would circularise details about me around the studios
so that I would get some kind of preference for any
work that was going.
From that I was to get 30 days on "Trottie True"
at Denham studios. All I did was to cough occasionally
and say "What ho!" and "Rather!"
in a very English voice. I shared a dressing room with
Christopher Lee, Patrick Cargill and Charlie Houston
(who had been in the Army with me) and we were all getting
£7 a day each. Others in that crowd were D'Arcy
Conyers, now a director, and Peter Dunlop, who became
an agent. We were all stage door johnnies surrounding
James Donald, Michael Medwin, Jean Simmons and Lana
But that was a good phase, financially, and it came
a few months after I was demobbed. When I first emerged
from the mob, resplendent in a demob suit comprising
a nothing-green sports coat and a nothing-brown pair
of trousers, all I could get was repertory work at The
Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green. it was good for me,
but there were lots of frustrations. I was told by my
agent to go to many of my 22
interviews and auditions wearmg my Army uniform. Which
was just as well because it was the only decent apparel
I had. But I was going through a strange phase. Nothing
fitted me properly. I was too big, too small or out
They suggested me for a part in the film "They
Were Not Divided" with Terence Young
-now a good friend, but not then! -but they said I didn't
look like an authentic officer, which goes to show how
marvellous it all is...
NAAFI beer had enhanced my shape somewhat, yet that
was not the whole problem throughout that period. When
I was up for the part of a Corporal they said I looked
more like an officer; when I was up for an officer's
part they said I looked more like a young, fat doorman.
Nothing was ever right about me. I was always too tall,
too thin, too fat. The Intimate Theatre at least gave
me a haven. I think the first play I did there was Noel
Coward's "Easy Virtue". The leading lady was
Noele Gordon, now of Crossroads fame.
Jimmy Grant Anderson was the director. He was God at
the Intimate, Palmers Green. But I was working and making
about £10 a week. Better money than some rep.
work pays these days. MONEY was
pretty tight in those first few months. Doom wasn't
working and Christmas was lean that year. We were living
in one room at her sister's home in Streatham. Yet we
never bothered too much about being broke. We struggled
along together and I always had a feeling that success
wasn't very far away.
There was a little electric grill in the corner of our
room, which I surrounded with her mother's paintings.
To stop the fat spraying on to the wallpaper. There
was one time when I thought I had a particularly good
"in" with Herbert Wilcox. I was on leave from
Officers' Training School and to swell my Army pay-about
5s. a day- I got a bit of crowd scene work on "Pii~cadil1y
Incident" starring Anna Neagle-this was Michael
Wilding's first big film.
You know how you sense someone is looking at you? Anna
Neagle had seen me and I looked up and saw her talking
to her husband Herbert Wilcox. He came over to me and
said they had been discussing me. He asked if I was
an actor or a real soldier earning a few bob on the
side. I said I was both and he told me to come and see
him when I was eventually demobbed. Naturally I took
him up on it. But his cast-ing
director was convinced I was trying to con her and she
didn't believe my story, so I never got near him. I
wasn't very pushing and I didn't make too big an issue
of it. However, Doom had a small part in another of
those Wilcox spectaculars "Maytime in Mayfair"
and I went down to the studios to have lunch with her.
Choosing my moment I approached Herbert, at which point
he turned away and went to the toilet. Grimly, I followed
him in and, standing next to him, I said: "Hello
Mr. Wilcox, do you remember me?" He looked at me
as if I was a fruit, said "no", buttoned up
and went out.
Then there was the time at the Intimate Theatre when
I had a message to ring Al Parker, then the biggest
agent in films.
After going through 16 secretaries I finally spoke to
him. "My name's Roger Moore." "So what,"
he said. "I had a message to ring you; I'm an actor
at the Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green." "I
didn't ring you," he said, and hung up.
Then there was Buster Collier, who in partnership with
Wesley Ruggles, made "London Town" with Sid
Field and the very young Kay Kendall. Now this was legitimate,
they asked me to go and see them. I did a small part
for them in "The Paper Orchid" with Hy Hazel
and Sid James and they said fine. It seemed a contract
was in the offing.
1 was going to be groomed, even my hair was to be cut
only by their own hairdressers. Every week I presented
myself at their Hanover Square Qflices, each time hoping
that this was when the contract would be signed. Then
one week I arrived as usual and the commissionaire asked
me who I wanted and I said either Mr. Ruggles or Mr.
Collier. "They don't live here any more,"
he said. "What do you mean?" I said. "They've
gone abroad." I didn't believe him. I pushed past
him and opened the office and there was this big bare
room. The commissionaire was right. And I was beginning
to get slightly disillusioned about film people. I'm
not suggesting anything was wrong with them. It seemed
everything was wrong with me. Never knock a knitting
pattern. Especially if you are being paid for it. That
lesson was an easy one for me to learn in those early
struggling days. A photographer friend of Doom's asked
me if I would do modelling and although I wasn't at
all keen at least there was some money attached. Soon
I was doing a bit of everything: knitting patterns,
where I tried to make my muscles bulge out a pullover,
even women's magazine work where
I was the model for the handsome hero in those ghastly
fiction stories where Nigel is ensnared by Dolores even
though Celia Loves Him Truly.
Work like this started to flow in, so much that I even
farmed some of it out to other actors and put up my
own rates. I gave a whole new status to an unknown dimension-mainly
because before me there weren't any male models! In
fact later, when I was an understudy in the West End
theatre, I even got some modelling work for some of
the people I was understudying. In my modelling days
I was the illustration of The Doctor in Woman's Own;
and I was even David Niven. One of the women's magazines
had bought the rights to David Niven's life story "Around
the Rugged Rocks" and instead of using actual photographs
they did illustrations of David Niven-and I was the
model for the drawings. I did a lot of work for Dinah
Sheridan's mother, Lisa, who had a photographic business.
Funnily enough I was recently working with Dinah's daughter,
Jennie Hanley-whose father was the actor and TVTimes
columnist Jimmy Hanley.