The title is indicative of Roger Moore’s self-effacing and tongue-in-cheek view of life. As he points out in the introduction (preceded by a wonderful picture of Sir Roger enjoying a cup of tea), many of the film stars and entertainment legends whose stories he tells in these pages are now deceased. Sir Roger, well into his ninth decade, is truly a living legend, connected by years of work and revelry to equally distinguished dead legends. With an extraordinary life that has been filled to the brim with colourful characters and amusing situations, Roger Moore proves he is as good a storyteller in prose as he is on screen by putting some of it into writing.
Last Man Standing isn’t a salacious or bitchy tome (well, there’s a saucy story about Sellers). There’s no score-settling or public shaming. Neither is it a love-in, where the reader is persuaded that everything has always been lovely. Undoubtedly, Moore paints the people in his book in the best possible lights, but he also doesn’t hold back on exposing the sometimes mean-spirited (take a bow, Rex Harrison), the crazy (Rex’s wife Rachel Roberts) or the occasionally cruel (Alfred Hitchcock). There are a few embarrassing stories included too, such as the time Dirk Bogarde accidentally swallowed his false tooth the night before shooting close-ups.
This is a celebrity memoir with a difference. If you want to read an account of Roger Moore’s life and career, pick up a copy of his autobiography My Word Is My Bond (we recommend it – it’s a cracking read). Last Man Standing is a compilation of tales about Moore’s encounters with various personalities, as well as (possibly apocryphal) stories he’s picked up about others (some of whom he never worked with – such as Marilyn Monroe). The overall effect is joyous. It’s rather like spending an evening bending the elbow with Moore as he recounts story after story, each one leading to the other. It’s a book that wanders about all over the place, but just go with it: your host knows how to entertain you.
Parts of Last Man Standing are hilarious, often stemming from Moore’s compulsion to commit practical jokes on his co-stars. We laughed out loud at the prank he played on Jack Watson during filming of The Wild Geese. Watson, who by all accounts took himself rather seriously, certainly had it coming!
Yet there’s a great affection in Moore’s prose too. It’s not all laughs and hi-japes, but some moving tributes to deceased friends and colleagues who have touched his life personally. Michael Winner, Audrey Hepburn, Cubby Broccoli and stuntman Martin Grace are just some of the names afforded touching eulogies; and his affection for Kenneth More, Gregory Peck and David Niven is readily apparent. Affection and humour can be combined to good effect: who knew that John Mills had such a good party trick?
Some of the stories will be familiar – the hellraising of Peter O’Toole, for example, is well-documented, but ultimately what sells Last Man Standing is also the secret of Moore’s considerable acting success – his infectious personality coupled with a sense of fun and fair play. He’s simply great company. Whether you’re interested in the Rat Pack (and he has a few stories to tell about Dean, Sammy and Frank), James Bond, The Persuaders! (his thrifty co-star Tony Curtis comes in for some loving ribbing) or even British theatre (a mention for Wilfred Lawson!) there are tales to tickle your fancy here.
Last Man Standing, we feel, only scratches the surface of the enormous reserves of anecdotes Moore has to tell. We’re hoping for a second volume. In the meantime, we recommend this one, which is presented with plenty of black and white photographs of the author with his cast of characters, using two inserts of colour photos on glossy paper.
Last Man Standing indeed. Roger Moore truly is the last of the great raconteurs and bons vivants.
Last Man Standing is available in hardback, published by Michael O’Mara Books Ltd.