ONE LUCKY BASTARD
Tales from Tinseltown
By Roger Moore
Lyons. 272 pp. $26.95
Roger Moore’s screen superpower has always been his ability to project the seemingly opposing qualities of geniality and entitlement at the same time. He was already a 45-year-old star of British television when he was propelled to global fame as Sean Connery’s goofier, less virile replacement in the iconic role of James Bond.
Having published one earlier autobiography, “My Word Is My Bond,” and a photo-heavy tome of his observations on the cinema’s long-lived franchise, “Bond on Bond,” the 87-year-old Moore now scrapes his memory banks for cocktail gossip in “One Lucky Bastard.” The book features some dishy tales about the various high rollers he worked and chummed around with in London, Monaco, Las Vegas and Hollywood, most of whom are long dead. Much of this material is recycled, and some of it sounds apocryphal. A story he tells about a hilarious, very public mispronunciation of the birth name of the British starlet Diana Dors (nee Diana Fluck), for example, has been previously reported in a number of places, including Peter Marshall’s “Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square” (2001).
Meanwhile, if you were desperate to know which “My Fair Lady” star made a habit of sending back wine served to him by his butler, or what famous 1970s pornographic film Sammy Davis Jr. invited Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and his mortified wife to screen, or which studio boss kept a life-size, solid-gold replica of his genitalia on his desk, well, you’ve had decades to find out. Moore’s disclosures on these and other not remotely current events, delivered in an easygoing, conspiratorial purr, are mildly diverting anyway.
Anecdotal is too formal a word for Moore’s oh-and-here’s-another-thing-I-just-remembered style of yarn-spinning, but he’s as agreeably self-deprecating a narrator as one can be while (lovingly) throwing dirt on corpses. On the subject of his own off-duty endeavors, he’s distinctly reticent. If he has any salacious transgressions in his own past, you won’t read about them here. Nor, mercifully, will you read a single word about the craft of acting.
Rather, Moore acts as though he’s delivering one of M’s supercilious confidential briefings to 007 even when spilling beans that have long littered the kitchen floor. For example, he writes that screenwriter Johanna Harwood’s contributions to the first two Bond movies have been “clouded by the vagaries of film history and the egos of those within.” Never mind that Harwood was credited as a writer on “Dr. No” (1962) and “From Russia with Love” (1963) . Indeed, the third sentence of Harwood’s current Wikipedia entry reads, “She co-wrote two James Bond films.”
On other, more (literally) pressing matters, Moore is indeed authoritative. If, while watching him maul Maud Adams in “Octopussy” (1983) or ravishing Barbara Bach in “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), you’ve ever wondered how or where or from whom he learned his terrifying accordion-lipped kissing method, the answer is: from Lana Turner, with whom he appeared in the 1956 historical drama “Diane.” “I had already been married twice and hadn’t had many complaints in that department,” Moore writes. “But Lana taught me the new technique of ‘passion without pressure’ — what a lady she was!”
If you’re going to kiss and tell, the least you can do is be this nice about it.
Klimek is a freelance writer based in Washington.