Sunday, 13 February 2011

From Gold to Golden

As I watched the other month the 1974 film Gold, starring Roger Moore and Susannah York and directed by OHMSS director Peter Hunt, I couldn’t help thinking that Roger Moore should have played Bond the way he played Rod Slater, the lead character in Gold. Slater, the general manager of the southern African Sonderditch gold mine, uncovers a plot hatched by the mine’s owners to flood the mine and drive the price of gold upwards. Moore’s Slater is a forceful and gritty character, and these traits become more prominent as the film progresses. In his determination to save the miners and expose his paymasters, Slater is angry and on the edge of violence. In other words, a dangerous man. Film-goers would have to wait until Licence to Kill (1989) starring Timothy Dalton to get a Bond like Rod Slater.

I must admit, however, that the argument is rather unfair to Roger Moore, as it places too much expectation on the actor’s ability to determine the how a character is to be played. After all, like most actors, Moore acts in accordance with the script and the instructions of the director. Gold was filmed in between Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), and the traits of those films were set on a different path that began before Roger Moore’s Bond tenure.

Live and Let Die was written by Tom Mankiewicz and directed by Guy Hamilton. Both were also responsible for the previous film, Diamonds Are Forever, released in 1971 and starring Sean Connery. The Man With The Golden Gun retained the writing and directing team of Tom Mankiewicz and Guy Hamilton. It is little wonder that all three films, creatively (and memetically) linked, were similar in tone and style – lighter and humorous with family-friendly violence and action. The chances that the Bond of The Man With The Golden Gun would acquire the traits enjoyed by Rod Slater were low.

That said, Roger Moore writes in his autobiography that Guy Hamilton wanted him to toughen up his portrayal of Bond for The Man With The Golden Gun, which, though Moore was reluctant, we see in the scene where Bond slaps Andrea Anders, played by Maud Adams. The influence here, though, is Ian Fleming’s (and probably a measure of Sean Connery’s Bond), rather than Roger Moore’s Rod Slater.

Still, Rod Slater is reminiscent of Fleming’s Bond to the extent that if James Bond had chosen a career in mining rather than spying, then he would have become Rod Slater. Gold is one of Roger Moore’s best non-Bond films. Possibly Wilbur Smith, the author of the original novel, Gold Mine, had Bond in mind when he wrote the character of Rod Slater.

Roger Moore, 2008 My Word is My Bond, Michael O’Mara Books, London

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