Sir Roger Moore: The Saint’s TV and film links with Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 17:51 24 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:06 26 May 2017
Sir Roger Moore, who died of cancer this week aged 89, had a long association with filming in Hertfordshire and received an honorary degree from the county’s Hatfield-based university.
The James Bond star was “humbled” to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Hertfordshire in 2012 after filming The Saint at Elstree Studios in the 1960s.
The official Twitter page for the University of Hertfordshire Alumni Association, @HertsAlumni, tweeted: “Sad to hear the passing of Honorary Doctorate recipient Sir Roger Moore. A truly outstanding contributor to tv & film in Hertfordshire.”
University students were left shaken, but not stirred, five years ago after seeing Sir Roger pick up his honorary degree at St Albans Cathedral.
Best known for starring as secret agent 007, Sir Roger collected the award in recognition of his contribution to the UK film and television industry, particularly in Hertfordshire.
He is the longest-serving Bond, having spent 12 years in the role between 1973 and 1985. Among his Bond films are Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, Moonraker and A View to a Kill.
After collecting his honorary award in 2012, Sir Roger said: “Having spent many enjoyable and successful years of my working life in Hertfordshire, I feel deeply humbled the University of Hertfordshire is bestowing this great honour on me.
“In particular, I regard Borehamwood and Elstree as a home from home, and know that my dear department friend and employer Lord Grade of Elstree will be smiling down on us all today.”
In his citation, Professor Quintin McKellar, vice-chancellor at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “As well as a full film career, Sir Roger began in television where he was cast in the highly successful series Ivanhoe, stepped into the role of Simon Templar in The Saint and co-starred in the TV series The Persuaders.
“In recognition of this contribution, in particular in the county of Hertfordshire, I am delighted to award an Honorary Doctor of Arts to Sir Roger Moore.”
In the 1960s, The Saint – based on a character originally created by Leslie Charteris – was filmed at the iconic Elstree Studios in Borehamwood.
The now Hertsmere Borough Council-owned studios had intended to hold a celebration for the production later this year.
Roger Morris, managing director of Elstree Studios, said: “We are saddened to hear the news of Sir Roger Moore’s passing.
“We were looking forward to welcoming back Sir Roger to celebrate the anniversary of The Saint at Elstree Studios this year.
“We already have a plaque locally and a neon Saint sign hanging high on Stage 7.”
Sir Roger spent seven years filming the television series at Elstree Studios before becoming James Bond.
He filmed 118 episodes of the spy thriller at Elstree from 1962 to 1969, with Carry On actress Angela Douglas among his many co-stars.
This made it the longest-running series of its kind on British television in line with The Avengers, also filmed at Elstree Studios.
Angela Douglas tweeted: “He’s up in heaven now still telling his awful jokes!! God bless Roger, Rest in Peace.”
Asked why he was chosen to play the role of Simon Templar, Roger Moore joked: “Because Sean Connery wasn’t available!”
In 2006, Sir Roger returned to Elstree for a ceremony to see a plaque unveiled in his honour, 35 years after his career took off.
Elstree was then part of the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC).
At the time Sir Roger said: “I’m grateful for this plaque. It is going to be moved to Borehamwood High Street, which was used all the time in The Saint.
“It was meant to be the Champs-Élysées, but all they did was flip the film – they forgot about the London buses.
“I just want to be assured that it will be high enough that dogs can’t reach it, because the critics have been doing it to me for years.”
Potters Bar West & Shenley county councillor and Hertsmere Council leader Morris Bright said: “Roger Moore was an integral part of the success of Elstree Studios.
“The success of that show not only catapulted him in his career but cemented the studio as a legitimate place to film.”
The Elstree Studios chairman added: “We will miss him a great deal. He was a wonderful man and he leaves behind a great legacy on screen.”
As well as The Saint, Sir Roger also made the films Crossplot (1969) and The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) at the famous studios.
Local film historian Paul Welsh remembers: “I was very lucky to invite Sir Roger back to Elstree Studios in 2006 when we unveiled a plaque in his honour.
“We gathered various old stars together, including producer Robert Baker and some of the crew who had worked on The Saint at Elstree Studios in the 1960s.
“The Saint launched Sir Roger into his international stardom where he went on to do James Bond.
“He never took himself or showbiz seriously and was a practical joker on set. He was a lovely man and a real gentleman.”
Sir Roger said: “When I was last here in the studios I had a lot more hair, and I had 20:20 vision and a 32 inch waist. Life has caught up with me. I had the best time here at Elstree.”
Robert Baker, producer of The Saint, recalls: “Roger accepted the role of Simon Templar and the rest is history. That it became a great success was largely down to him.
“In all my experience, I’ve never worked with a more professional, hardworking, more sincere actor.”
The original Saint cars are regular visitors to Elstree Studios.