Performance as Bond, then. Now, obviously, the comparison is phoney given that they haven’t had the same script and direction nor been in the same film, but that’s never stopped anyone being “Best Actor” at the Oscars or the like and being lauded for it. Common perception may hold that Bond is a flat character and doesn’t change film-to-film but is the genial old cove on screen for 20 minutes of A View to a Kill really the same as the MooreBond of Live and Let Die? The Craigs may show breadth of character; the Connerys breadth of waistband, etc.
Criteria for choice is up to you; it could be which performance you prefer, it could be which you think would win in a “real” (cough) fight against the other, it could be which had the better nose. Who knows what criteria the voting public base their choices on, anyway? Recent elections and referendums, it could be absolutely anything, some of it considered unnatural.
I have to say these are all harder than I’d have expected. For instance, it’s fair to say OHMSS is pretty much revered whereas TLD is more sort of generally “liked,” but would anyone really argue that Lazenby did a better acting job than Dalton? OHMSS could steamroller over much of the series, but does that make Laz a better actor than, really, anyone else on any given day?
I personally think MR features Roger as his most cool and self-assured: it’s the most “Roger” Bond of all. But is that “acting” really? Is charisma and charm a form of acting? Maybe. But put it next to FYEO, where he’s sometimes pushed out of his comfort zone by the director and script, and actually hints for the only real time in his tenure at the realities of getting older and feeling the weight of years, and which performance comes out on top? MR may be more iconic in its way, but FYEO would seem to have required more effort, and by succeeding there, Roger has perhaps accomplished more.
Or take DAD, unlikely to be anyone’s favorite anything, but Brosnan, bless him, does try pretty hard, at least in the first bit, to do a few things that had never been asked of a Bond before. He puts in the work even if the film is hardly worth the effort. For that matter he pretty much acts his heart out in TWINE, which is always Exhibit A in my argument that “Acting” and Bond movies just don’t mix.
All of which is to say, this may be the hardest round we’ve had yet. I’ve got to fight that impulse to pick the better film and really think about specific performances. So for example, while I generally find YOLT more impressive than DAF, Sean’s performance in the latter will always win out, because at least he showed up for that one.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Roger fan and I appreciate the fact that “charisma” is hard to pull off on film or in person…otherwise everyone would do it. Besides Cary Grant – who made it look so easy he probably cheated himself out of a few Oscars – I’d also offer the example of Errol Flynn, who was so accomplished at “easy charm” that he never seemed to be trying at all, and never got any respect as an actor. Except for the fact that nobody else ever seemed to manage what he did, or even come close.
What I was getting at is: how are we defining “acting” for the purposes of this poll? Does
“acting” mean histrionic emoting like Jon Lovitz’ “Master Thespian” character? If so, the top prize might go to Brosnan in TWINE, a sort of “Olivier meets Young And The Restless” performance. Or in the world of James Bond, is “acting” more about selling the coolness, the charm, the massive appeal of the 007 persona itself? In which case, we have lots of contenders, and the actors are all over the map just within their own eras. Connery oozes charm in GF, but obviously doesn’t give a crap in YOLT. It doesn’t take a great actor to utter that dialog, but it does take a certain level of engagement. There’s nothing brilliant about DAF’s script either, but Sean seems to be having a great time and that makes all the difference.
As far as my FYEO remark, I just meant that I personally feel Roger had more of a challenge put before him in that one. By this point, he’d shaped Bond into something that worked for him and fit like a glove. Now he was being asked to do a few things that found the character ruffled, rattled, battered, haunted, vengeful, even briefly brooding, to take on a more fatherly than lecherous relationship with two female co-stars and in several small ways acknowledge the passage of time and the effects of age. The fact that he did all that convincingly and emerged on the other side with his carefully crafted Bond persona not at all diminished…indeed enhanced…is a tribute to the man.
Indeed it’s pretty much the way I prefer things to go. I know Craig gets all the juicy material with heartbreaks and betrayals and tragedies, and he does a fine job, but personally I could go the rest of my life without a Bond film that requires that kind of “acting,” because it’s not what I go to Bond films for. All the melodrama in the world won’t change the fact that Bond films – even and maybe especially Craig’s – exist in a universe where the laws of physics and logic are on permanent vacation.
And for me TLD is miles ahead of OHMSS, offering more Fleming Bond, more interesting locations and stunts.
OHMSS has great photography, THAT score and Diana Rigg. But the shock ending does not make the film‘s many flaws better. I never believe the relationship between Bond and Tracy, it is just something I go along with because I’m supposed to.
Yeah, I’ve always had a hard time breaking down each of the Bond actors’ individual performances into a specific ranking rather than their era as a whole. Ranking everything else about their films is not really a problem. But regarding their own individual efforts, I pretty much give up because it’s such a struggle to break them all down. I guess that’s because they’re all doing variations of a theme as opposed to just one single performance (George Lazenby excluded), so you’re grading in shades rather than colors. So other than a handful of instances that stand out on either the positive side or the negative side, it’s just really difficult to separate the actors’ Bond performance(s) from their overall Bond(s) much less comparing them to other 007s’ efforts.
Great example, and total agreement. Upon reflection, I would add in the effortless category: John Wayne. Often (unjustly) overlooked because of his politics, his performances in THE SEARCHERS; THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE, and EL DORADO (to name just three) are masterpieces of effortlessness. “Let’s go home, Debbie” maybe the most powerfully/perfectly delivered four-word line in film history, and I have yet to figure out how he did it.
StB said it best: the greatest job-action-as-performance in film history.
Agreed. I think I am just more/too aware of his efforts to stretch into this new characterization–I am watching Sir Roger’s limits fast approaching, and hold my breath. I had a similar experience when I watched Bernadette Peters play Mama Rose in GYPSY. It was clearly a stretch (especially vocally), and I sat in the Shubert Theater for 2 1/2 hours worrying if she had the vocal stamina to make it to and through “Rose’s Turn.”
Agreed. Why I like SPECTRE’s Robot Bond best among the Craig Bonds–it is an amazing performance.
Exactly. In this well-ordered universe, wrist dart guns and white lab coats/clipboards magically/providentially appear on cue, and we in the audience never need worry.
Let’s allow John Wayne to sing us out gracefully and effortlessly (supremely abetted by the mise-en-scene of some guy named Ford):
I was actually rather exhilarated by his ability to pull it off in FYEO, because yes he does have his limits. Roger is not the “break down in tears” type, so when he veers from the cool cucumber routine to indulge in “theatrics” it’s usually to display “righteous indignation.” This is true both in Bond and The Saint, where he’s periodically called on to be thoroughly disgusted with some no-goodnik and deliver a verbal lambasting with voice raised and cheeks flushed. It’s shaky ground; sometimes he pulls it off and sometimes he doesn’t. The bit in OP where he chews out Orlov (“Surely you can’t be inviting full-scale nuclear war!”) takes it right up to the edge.
Overall, though, Roger is a performer who knows his limitations and compensates ably. His heroes are generally so imperturbable that when the facade does falter, a little means a lot: The momentary flash of seriousness when Anya brings up Tracy’s death, the “In our business, people get killed” speech in the same film, looking Melina in the eye as they’re about to be dragged to their deaths and saying, “We’re not dead yet.” These are the little moments where the wall comes down and we’re reminded there’s a human being in there, and behind the “easy-going” facade there’s a lot of work going on. Like that metaphorical duck, he seems to be gliding smoothly above the water, but those feet we can’t see are paddling like mad. I so miss that sort of thing in Bond films.
One more example and I’ll let it lie: after Locque has killed Lisl and Luigi and nearly just blown Bond to bits, Roger-Bond takes an uncharacteristically physical approach to things, running up an impossibly long flight of stairs to overtake the getaway car, standing directly in the path of a speeding vehicle, firing repeatedly at the windscreen instead of getting out the way, then ruthlessly kicking the thing over a cliff. The kid gloves are off and he is taking no crap. But by the time Colombo reaches his side, the mask is back up, cool is restored and it’s time for a witty one-liner. We know it was personal, he knows it was personal, but as soon as it’s done he’s back in “too cool to care” mode. Beautiful.
I’d add two more examples into the mix, Robert Mitchum and Toshiru Mifune, both actors are effortless and yes John Wayne too, political views aside, when you think that he modeled his iconic stance on the statue of David you have to think of the monumental effort put in to show such effortless charm. Mifune too, to hold the screen in Yojimbo as he does is magnetic. I am thinking of a training example in my profession that I still teach is about being like a Swan. Graceful elegance above water and furious paddling underneath. For my taste actors like Tom Cruise for example are the opposite, the paddling is what you see.
On Roger, his limitations are evident much like another charming actor who is a great director, Clint Eastwood, I’m reminded of something I read years ago where he wrote a letter to Pauline Kael who had disparaged his performance iwhere he is wounded in Two Mules For Sister Sarah’ I believe he wrote , " Ms Kael, that’s all I got"
Roger gives a better performance in FYEO, than in LALD and TMWTGG, however I’ll leave my last word about 3 performances of pure charm that I can’t decide which is the greatest…
Sean Connery in DAF
Errol Flynn in The Adventures Of Robin Hood
Jimmy Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy…
Did my FYEO re-watch this weekend, and I sit corrected.
Much came back to me, (I will admit there are Bond films which have repeatedly failed to make an impression). Thanks to your tutelage, I found the film quite enjoyable. Some thoughts:
FYEO is the best directed Glen entry. There is modesty to the whole enterprise–well-crafted, nothing too extravagant, cinematography, art direction, costumes and editing well-matched–that I have not found in his other films. All elements seemed to be of a piece, with both villains and allies scaled to the same (human) template.
Enjoyed Bond’s less lecherous approach with women, and, in fact, found all four women’s roles to have some substance. The infatuated teenager; the pretend Countess from Liverpool; the strict skating coach; and the Bond girl were all given some dimension, without being over-freighted with psychology. For each woman there was a modicum of poignancy permitted, and Bond seemed more sympathetic lover than Lothario.
If MR was a star vehicle, then FYEO is a guest star vehicle. Moore is great in the scenes he is in, but the performance is a cooperative one, involving him and his stunt double. Glen is shrewd in how he handles this reality, but does not (could not) hide its reality. Bond seems like the eminence grise of his own movie, a status, which you note, he handles convincingly. Sir Roger lands each of the moments when he goes for it, and afterwards, again as you note, his Bond personna is undiminished. He never two-foots any of the landings.
Bond also accepts and benefits from the help of other characters–each instance smoothly and believably accomplished.
I also enjoyed the score. I do not know where the score sits in general estimation, but it was effective. Interestingly, I started watching OP as a follow-up (I will finish tonight, I hope), and Barry in symphonic mode does not complement late-stage Moore Bond as well as Conti does.
FYEO brings Bond back to earth effectively–and represents the start of establishing a new cinematic equilibrium.
Yes to this! Greatness reminding near greatness that it will be second best as long as it is around–reel narrative meta-informing real life (and McQueen acknowledged it. He wanted Robinson for the role. To top it all off–Joan Blondell’s vocal inflections are sublime music. Vaudeville [her] meets Yiddish Theater [him], all stirred to precision in Burbank in the 1930’s on the Warner Bros. lot.
“Gets down to what it’s all about, doesn’t it? Making the wrong move at the right time.”
Back to Flynn for a moment (I’ll take any excuse), Adventures of Robin Hood will always be what he’s remembered for, but a particular favorite of mine is They Died With Their Boots On, pure Hollywood hokum and utter rubbish for anyone who wants to understand the true history of Custer’s Last Stand but nonetheless a thoroughly engaging film held together by the charming romance between Custer (Flynn) and his wife Libby (Olivia DeHavilland).
The scene where Custer prepares for the mission both of them know will be his last never fails to make me tear up, for all its obvious melodrama. Adding a metatextual significance is the knowledge that this is the last scene the two performers ever worked in together, after 8 successful pairings on screen and a complicated relationship off it. The characters know they’re parting for good and so do the actors, so there’s three conversations going on here: what the actors are thinking but not saying to each other, what the characters are thinking but not saying to each other and the superficial “Oh, it’ll all turn out fine” bravado of the words they do utter. Supposedly Olivia attended a screening years later, after Flynn’s passing, and had to leave the room when this scene came on, because it was too much for her.
Anyway it’s always high on my exhibits list when countering claims that Flynn couldn’t act.