That combination made a profound impression on Horowitz’s 8-year-old son, for whom the notion of a secret agent man who never overly exerted himself proved just as healthy a role model as an all-star first baseman who smoked in the dugout. So when Horowitz returned home to Queens after a day of shepherding Moore around the city, it caused a stir when he produced from his weather-beaten briefcase a signed promotional headshot of Moore, himself looking rather weather-beaten, with crow’s feet around his eyes, a rogue’s smile on his mouth, an unbuttoned white collar on his neck and rugged furrows in his Hollywood-tanned brow. The picture was quickly framed and hung above the light switch in young Horowitz’s room. For years to come, a flicking on of the light revealed a scrawl on the glossy’s upper right-hand corner that read, “To Jason, With my best wishes, Roger Moore.”
Reader, we have bylines for a reason. I, Horowitz, Jason Horowitz, was that boy. And Moore was my Bond. What follows, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the franchise, is a defense of why Moore’s Bond — slightly geriatric, addicted to eyebrow raising, caddish to a fault — was, despite all evidence to the contrary, the greatest 007.
Let’s start with his strangest movie, 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” a James Bond blaxploitation flick starring Yaphet Kotto (“Names is for tombstones, baby”), but more memorably, a recurring redneck sheriff character and the baritone-voiced actor most famous for calling 7-Up the marvelous uncola. History’s other Bonds, which at the time really meant Sean Connery, would have seemed out of place in this 1970s hallucination. Moore fit right in. He put the moves on Jane Seymour by raising his eyebrows as high as his co-stars’ afros.
By then, Moore was already 45 years old and on the third of his four marriages. He had served in the Royal Army Service Corps. He had appeared in movies with names like “Trottie True” and “One Wild Oat.” He had worked as a male model for knitwear (“The Big Knit” they called him) and played James Garner’s Brit cousin in “Maverick.” He had become famous in 1962, as the spy Simon Templar in “The Saint,” reruns of which aired on Channel 11 during those acres of home-sick airtime between kung fu movies and “The Godfather.” He had been a playboy detective opposite Tony Curtis in a show that apparently did better in Germany, where they dubbed the dialogue with a different script. He had already tasted, in other words, a healthy portion of life.