1973: Live and Let Die
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Written by Tom Mankiewicz
Live and Let Die is far from being the best James Bond movie. It’s not even my favorite Roger Moore Bond (that honor would probably go to either The Spy Who Loved Me or For Your Eyes Only). But it was the first, watched on ABC on what I’m pretty sure was a Friday night, so I was allowed to stay up late and see it in all its glory. I had the dimmest idea of what James Bond was all about, but I did know that watching it made me feel delightfully grown up. Most of the innuendo went completely over my head, although I wasn’t too young to know what was going on with those silhouetted women gyrating through the opening credits.
Those credits were my introduction to the Bond theme song, and it was one hell of a first date. I knew a little about The Beatles by this time, and knew who Paul McCartney was, but none of that prepared me for the wild ride that is “Live and Let Die.” By turns mellow, thunderous, and funky, it’s the perfect overture for a Bond film, especially one that’s steeped in so many different genres. It’s perhaps the most famous musician of the time going over the top for an over-the-top character, and it definitely made an impression on me.
What followed that song was pretty much exactly what Solitaire described in Bond’s tarot reading as quoted above. Live and Let Die hadn’t yet fully established Moore’s jokier take on the character, and in a lot of ways he’s still doing Sean Connery’s Bond, with less of the ruggedness Connery brought to the table and hints of the dandier air that would come to define Moore’s run. It’s not quite a perfect fit (nor is it in the next film, The Man with the Golden Gun), but a kid who’d never seen a Bond movie before didn’t know any of this, and so I sat in rapt attention as Bond made his way through the New Orleans underworld, throwing quips as often as he threw punches.
In time, I became an acolyte of the Church of St. Sean, but for a good while, Moore was my Bond, mostly because his films were staples of network television for a good chunk of my childhood. Only later did the Connery Bonds start popping up, and, perhaps inevitably, my tastes drifted toward the classic variety. But I’ll always have a soft spot for Moore. He had the unenviable task of being the long-term replacement of the man who wrote the book on the character, and while he maybe wasn’t as iconic as Connery, there really wasn’t much chance of that happening, coming in when he did. But Moore, like Bond, served long and served well. Besides, none of that mattered a bit to the boy getting his first 007 fix on that long-ago Friday night.