Live and Let Die: Roger Moore Arrives in NYC

Roger Moore as James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973)

Roger Moore as James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973)

Vitals

Roger Moore as James Bond, debonair British secret agent

New York City, Spring 1973

Film: Live and Let Die
Release Date: June 27, 1973
Director: Guy Hamilton
Costume Designer: Julie Harris
Tailor: Cyril Castle

Background

Happy 00-7th of May! This month’s focus is on Sir Roger Moore’s debut as James Bond in Live and Let Die.

After a brief sequence that finds Bond briefed at his flat by M and Miss Moneypenny, we are treated to the standard “airport arrival” sequence established in Dr. No and From Russia with Love, creating a sense of continuity with the character if intentionally breaking from the prior characterization.

Though the plot is still generally following Ian Fleming’s 1954 source novel at this point, the New York City that greets Moore’s Bond is much different than the Big Apple that inspired Fleming. By the mid-1970s, the national economic crisis was hitting New York hard with drug use and crime on the rise, creating the urban “cesspool” that films like Taxi Driver made no bones about showcasing. Fleming’s story about smuggling gold coins got a shot of contemporary relevance in the arm by updating the villain’s business to drug trafficking, specifically heroin. The popularity of “blaxploitation” cinema like ShaftSuper Fly, Coffy, and Foxy Brown in the early ’70s was also taken into consideration, and the film tapped blaxploitation stars including Yaphet Kotto, Gloria Hendry, and Julius Harris to round out the ranks of Mr. Big’s criminal organization.

“I sure hope you make friends easy,” Bond is told by a cab driver dropping him off at the Fillet of Soul restaurant in Harlem, and – sure enough – our hero finds himself captured even more quickly than usual… though it’s ridiculous to see just how many people are unnecessarily tailing Bond.

Anyway… following a brief flirtation with Solitaire (Jane Seymour), 007 comes face to face with heroin kingpin Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto). While swirling a glass of Jim Beam in his hand, Mr. Big unceremoniously condemns Bond to death at the hands of his henchmen…

James Bond: “There seems to be some mistake. My name is-”
Mr. Big: “Names is for tombstones, baby.”

Luckily, Bond is saved by CIA agent Harold Strutter (Lon Satton), who’d been one of the scores of people unnecessarily tailing him and seriously waited until the last possible second for this life-saving intervention.

What’d He Wear?

James Bond’s arrival in New York City was relatively uneventful when penned by Ian Fleming in his 1954 novel, but the cinematic Live and Let Die used the moment to establish the new 007’s fashion credentials. True, there would be a powder blue denim leisure suit just around the corner, but Mr. Bond’s arrival in New York sets an early gold standard for Roger Moore’s sense of fashionable elegance.

Bond’s navy double-breasted chesterfield coat, tailored suit, and regimental tie marks him as rather out-of-place and thus out-of-touch in early ’70s New York, but time has been much kinder to 007’s sense of style than its louder-dressed denizens with whom he interacts.

Bond steps out of John F. Kennedy International Airport, the same airport that Fleming had stipulated in the book (though it was called Idlewild at the time of the book's publishing in 1954).

Bond steps out of John F. Kennedy International Airport, the same airport that Fleming had stipulated in the book (though it was called Idlewild at the time of the book’s publishing in 1954). It’s impressive that his coat remained in such immaculate condition after a transatlantic flight…

James Bond never removes or even unbuttons his luxurious navy blue wool Chesterfield coat throughout the scene. The coat’s softness and sheen indicates the possibility of cashmere, a theory advanced by British Esquire editor-in-chief Alex Bilmes in his tasteful tribute to Sir Roger’s tenure published by MR PORTER.

The double-breasted coat has wide peak lapels that sweep across his chest to a six-on-two button front with flat navy plastic sew-through buttons. While a velvet collar isn’t essential to qualify a coat as a Chesterfield, the dark navy velvet collar on this coat is an elegant touch that befits Sir Roger’s characterization.

The knee-length coat is somewhat shorter than a traditional Chesterfield, flattering Roger Moore’s height while also allowing Mr. Bond a greater degree of movement as he dangles and kicks his way across fire escapes and alleyways in his attempt to escape Mr. Big’s henchmen. The coat has straight hip pockets with large flaps, situated between the lowest two rows of buttons, with swelled edges that echo the lapels. The sleeves are semi-cuffed with a single button on the end of each. More can be read about this coat in the excellent illustrated analysis at Clothes on Film.

BOND

Bond never removes the coat, but the trousers and the glimpses we get under the coat’s long single vent reveal a similarly colored navy worsted suit. Interestingly, Ian Fleming would also include his first mention of his literary creation’s trademark navy suits in the third chapter of Live and Let Die, set shortly after Bond’s arrival in New York City:

The afternoon before he had had to submit to a certain degree of Americanization at the hands of the FBI. A tailor had come and measured him for two single-breasted suits in dark blue lightweight worsted (Bond had firmly refused anything more dashing)…

In his expert exploration of Roger Moore’s outfit, Matt Spaiser of The Suits of James Bond comments that this suit shares its cut with the light gray suit to follow when Bond checks into his San Monique hotel. Both suits were tailored by Moore’s preferred tailor at the time, Cyril Castle. The only other place this suit is seen on screen is the film’s opening gunbarrel sequence.

The opening of Live and Let Die established Roger Moore as the first James Bond actor to perform the iconic gunbarrel sequence without a hat.

The opening of Live and Let Die established Roger Moore as the first James Bond actor to perform the iconic gunbarrel sequence without a hat.

Roger Moore poses with Live and Let Die castmates, from clockwise: Janey Seymour, Julius Harris, Geoffrey Holder, Earl Jolly Brown, and Yaphet Kotto.

Roger Moore poses with Live and Let Die castmates, from clockwise: Janey Seymour, Julius Harris, Geoffrey Holder, Earl Jolly Brown, and Yaphet Kotto.

The jacket’s double vents are the only part visible during the scene itself, though promotional photographs like the one to the right show details like the straight flapped hip pockets as well as the unique flared cuffs with a single link-button that was characteristic of Moore’s early ’70s Bond suits tailored by Cyril Castle.

The single-breasted suit jacket has notch lapels a touch wider than we’re used to seeing on Mr. Bond while still retaining classic proportions, the ideal balance of trendy vs. timeless. The lapels roll to a two-button front that neatly fastens at Moore’s waist.

Assuming that the trousers are similarly styled as Moore’s other suits in Live and Let Die, they would be darted – rather than pleated or traditionally flat-fronted – with button-tab side adjuster and only button-through back pockets.

The trousers’ gently flared plain-hemmed bottoms are seen on screen, breaking over a pair of black leather tassel loafers with slightly raised heels.

Bond's black socks are an acceptable choice, though a navy or dark blue would better continue the leg line from the trousers... though with a classic outfit like this, who am I to criticize anything?

Bond’s black socks are an acceptable choice, though a navy or dark blue would better continue the leg line from the trousers… though with a classic outfit like this, who am I to criticize anything?

Although the filmmakers made a point of establishing Roger Moore’s James Bond as a charming, cigar-smoking contrast to his Scottish predecessor, Sir Roger’s 007 continues Sean Connery’s tradition of wearing a shirt detailed with distinctive “cocktail cuffs”, the two-button turnback cuff that combines the sophistication and prestige of double (French) cuffs with the functionality of a standard barrel cuff. The difference between the shirt cuffs worn by Connery and Moore is best explored by Matt Spaiser’s fascinating entry at The Suits of James Bond, offering knowledgable insights and perspective unavailable anywhere else.

Made by London shirtmaker Frank Foster, Moore’s pale blue cotton poplin shirt has a semi-spread collar and front placket. Sir Roger had been a client of Frank Foster’s for at least a decade before he took over the role of James Bond, and Foster’s shirts – including several made with cocktail cuffs – can be seen on Moore in episodes of The Saint and The Persuaders.

Bond is wary of a potential tail as he is chauffeured on FDR Drive into Manhattan.

Bond is wary of a potential tail as he is chauffeured on FDR Drive into Manhattan.

If Moore’s shirt honored the Connery tradition, his striped tie was more of a revolution, marking the first time in the series that Bond doesn’t wear a single-color tie. Of course, it’s a quiet revolution as the subtle striping is actually the traditional regimental stripe of the British Royal Navy, nodding to Commander Bond’s branch of the military.

Bond’s navy tie has a widely spaced red-and-white stacked stripe pattern that follows the traditionally British “uphill” direction. Silk repp Royal Navy regimental ties can be found at retailers like Benson & Clegg, holder of the Royal Warrant to the Prince of Wales, and The Regimental Shop.

I know times have changed since 1973, but the Fillet of Soul has some of the best lunch prices out there, especially for New York City. 80 cents for a cheeseburger? Could be worth a trip on a rotating table.

I know times have changed since 1973, but the Fillet of Soul has some of the best lunch prices out there, especially for New York City. 80 cents for a cheeseburger? Could be worth a trip on a rotating table.

The Fillet of Soul's least popular customer flashes his Rolex before taking a nasty turn.

The Fillet of Soul’s least popular customer flashes his Rolex before taking a nasty turn.

Bond’s Rolex Submariner gets little action here, though he no doubt would have tested its magnetic bullet-deflecting ability had agent Strutter not stepped in when he did! (It’s perhaps for the best that he didn’t get to as copper-jacketed lead bullets are in fact non-magnetic, and Mr. Bond would have been sorely disappointed.)

This Rolex Submariner is a classic ref. 5513, introduced the same year as Bond was introduced to the big screen, 1962. The watch is stainless steel with a stainless “Oyster”-style link bracelet, a black dial, and a black rotating bezel modified by production designer Syd Cain to operate as a miniature buzz saw should the need arise.

This Live and Let Die Rolex, described by Sir Roger himself as his personal favorite gadget, was included in an auction lot from Phillips Watches in November 2015, signed “Roger Moore 007” on the caseback. Additional images and info can be found at Watch Guru.

The final element of Bond’s wardrobe is a pair of black leather gloves, a stylish and practical choice to combat the chilly New York air as production commenced in the city during the early months of 1973.

What to Imbibe

James Bond: “Tell him ‘neat’, would you? No ice.”
The waiter: “That’s extra, man.”

Bond orders himself a bourbon-and-water at the Fillet of Soul in Harlem but never gets to drink it, disappearing into the wall as his waiter pockets Bond’s cash and downs his drink.

Given the choice, would you rather wear Bond's navy Chesterfield or the zig-zag jacket of the gentleman seated at the bar?

Given the choice, would you rather wear Bond’s navy Chesterfield or the zig-zag jacket of the gentleman seated at the bar?

Ian Fleming’s book features Bond drinking plenty of martinis during his mission in the States, though “the American gin, a much higher proof than English gin, tasted harsh to Bond.” However, the casting of Roger Moore meant 007 would need a new drink of choice to further differentiate him from his predecessors.

Instead of martinis, Moore’s Bond thus turned to bourbon for comfort in this inaugural outing, though he never gets to actually enjoy it, as his second attempt would be foiled by Felix Leiter’s insistence on ordering a Sazerac instead.

Bourbon had made a few appearances in Fleming’s Live and Let Die as well, such as Bond’s “quarter of a pint of Old Grandad [sic]” with a steak dinner in chapter 15, followed up with “a double Old Grandad [sic] on the rocks” in the following chapter when drowning his sorrows on behalf of Felix at two in the morning.

How to Get the Look

Roger Moore as James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973)

Roger Moore as James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973)

Roger Moore established his 007’s sense of sartorial sophistication and fashionable elegance with this timeless cold-weather ensemble that incorporates James Bond’s origins, his traditional military pedigree, and contemporary trends.

  • Navy worsted suit:
    • Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, single-button flared cuffs, and double vents
    • Flat front trousers with 3-button side adjusters, back pockets, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Pale blue cotton poplin shirt with semi-spread collar, front placket, 2-button turnback/”cocktail” cuffs
  • British Royal Navy regimental striped tie with red-and-white thin stripes on navy silk ground
  • Black tassel loafers with raised heels
  • Thin black silk dress socks
  • Navy cashmere wool double-breasted Chesterfield coat with wide peak lapels, dark navy velvet collar, 6-on-2 button stance, straight flapped hip pockets, semi-cuffed sleeves with vestigal button, and long back vent
  • Black leather shoulder holster in blue nylon rig with black leather strap
  • Rolex Submariner 5513 dive watch with black dial and black bezel on stainless “Oyster”-style link bracelet

The Gun

Live and Let Die may have implemented a few chances to James Bond’s characterization to make Roger Moore stand out from Sean Connery, but the 007 team wasn’t about to take the agent’s signature sidearm away from him… yet.

Bond carries a blued Walther PPK, likely chambered in .32 ACP with brown plastic grips, in a shoulder holster under his left armpit. Mr. Big’s henchman Tee-Hee (Julius Harris) retrieves the PPK, prompting Bond to remark that “you can’t be too careful in New York City these days,” and this was even before the whole Bernie Goetz thing!

Bond's PPK in this scene was modified with a thinner metal frame from the trigger guard forward to make it easier for Tee-Hee's hook to bend the barrel.

Bond’s PPK in this scene was modified with a thinner metal frame from the trigger guard forward to make it easier for Tee-Hee’s hook to bend the barrel.

After Tee-Hee bends the barrel with his “butter-hook”, Bond promptly drops the presumably loaded pistol into Solitaire’s wastebasket… a bad idea as far as gun safety goes, but Bond’s situation is rather unique.

Tee-Hee hands Bond's disfigured PPK back to him, which still seems like a bad idea for a villain's henchman to do. Still, the risk pays off for Tee-Hee as Bond merely discards the still-loaded pistol in the trashcan.

Tee-Hee hands Bond’s disfigured PPK back to him, which still seems like a bad idea for a villain’s henchman to do. Still, the risk pays off for Tee-Hee as Bond merely discards the still-loaded pistol in the trashcan.

Gloria Hendry, Roger Moore, and Jane Seymour in a promotional photo for Live and Let Die (1973)

Gloria Hendry, Roger Moore, and Jane Seymour in a promotional photo for Live and Let Die (1973)

Evidently, Bond was able to swiftly procure another Walther PPK before heading to San Monique later that day. Perhaps 007’s new CIA pal Lon lent his own PPK to make up for his late arrival on the scene of Bond’s near-execution.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

“Waste him”? Is that a good thing?

Footnote

Last year, I found an “Americanized” version of the Royal Navy regimental tie from Tommy Hilfiger with a slightly wider red stripe. I first wore it with this navy blazer and light blue shirt for an early summer function, hoping to subtle channel Sir Roger, though with the somewhat rakish addition of a red silk pocket square.

Navy wool blazer and light blue cotton shirt: Michael Kors Tie: Tommy Hilfiger

Navy wool blazer and light blue cotton shirt: Michael Kors
Tie: Tommy Hilfiger

Macy’s still carries a similar tie, though the stripes have been inverted with the thinner white stripe on top of the wider red stripe, still available here for $45.99 (as of early May 2018.)

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