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Live and Let Die

The first appearance of Roger Moore as James Bond came in the 1973 release Live and Let Die. This time Bond takes on, not a secret evil organisation bent on world domination but, the heroin trade in New York which is stereotypically run by black gangsters. The film received a lukewarm response from the critics and Moore failed to convince fans of Connery but none of that stopped the film being a huge financial success. Made on a budget of around $7 million it took over $160 million at the worldwide box office. The action starts with the mysterious deaths of three MI6 agents. So how do they react? They send another agent, in the shape of Bond on his own to investigate. After narrowly escaping death on arrival in New York he begins to track Mr. Big, a local gangster. He meets the tarot reading Solitaire, played by Jane Seymour (the youngest Bond girl ever at the time at just 22 years old) and she has the ability to predict the future. Following Mr. Big back to San Monique he uncovers a huge heroin production operation. It turns out Mr. Big is also Kananga, the dictator of San Monique and his expensive plan is to distribute loads of free heroin to put the other dealers out of business and create a monopoly for himself. The action moves back to the US, to New Orleans where Bond is captured by the brilliantly named henchman Tee Hee Johnson. A series of chases leads back to San Monique for the big finale. The producers had tried to persuade Connery to return for this film but he refused turning down a fee of over $5 million. A few actors tested for the role including Julian Glover, John Gavin and Jeremy Brett. According to reports United Artists floated the idea of an American Bond and considered Robert Wagner, Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman and Robert Redford but producer Albert Broccoli insisted he should be British. The favourite was apparently Michael Billington and he went on to do several screen tests for the part but in the end it went to the eyebrow raising Roger Moore. Yaphet Kotto was cast as the villainous Kananga and Julius Harris took on the role of Tee Hee Johnson. Jane Seymour was cast as Solitaire although they briefly considered changing the race of the character and casting Diana Ross. The film itself may have been somewhat ropy with Moore establishing his double entendre style and less than convincing physicality and some racial overtones which caused consternation among some critics but the soundtrack was great. Paul McCartney and his wife wrote the theme song and he performed it with Wings giving the Bond franchise its first rock and roll track and a hugely successful one at that. In fact it was nominated for an Oscar and later covered by The Pretenders and Guns n’ Roses. Live and Let Die is a strange Bond film and it pops up on lists of the best Bond movies and on lists of the worst. Truthfully there are legitimate reasons for it to appear on both.