Roger Moore and Doorn Van Steyn, date unknown.Facebook
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Bond. Mrs. Bond. From Kiryat Ono.

How the late Roger Moore’s first wife ended up in a small Israeli town

Liel Leibovitz
May 24, 2017
Roger Moore and Doorn Van Steyn, date unknown.Facebook

In 1946, two students of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts found themselves falling madly in love. She was Doorn Van Steyn, 26, a Dutch-born single mother who had previously made a living as a model and a professional ice skater. He was Roger Moore, 19, who had previously done not much at all. Soon, they were married, and soon after that, divorced. “You’ll never be an actor,” Moore later recalled Van Steyn taunting him, “your face is too weak.” Enraged at her impoverished young husband, who was working as a knitwear model to make ends meet, the Dutch beauty hit and scratched him, and on one occasion, he claimed, tossed a teapot at his head.

Her marriage over, Van Steyn joined a traveling ice skating circus. One of the stops on its tour was Tel Aviv. “Anyone present in those performances of ballet on ice will never forget the moment that into the rink leaped, dressed up as Snow White, a flickering ray of light, colorful and charming, a young and graceful skater, a real enchantress who made everyone fall in love with her,” the Israeli journalist Ofra Eligon later recalled. The skater was Van Steyn, of course, whose nom de ice was Gilda. Taken in with all the admiration, Gilda decided to quit the troupe and stay in Israel a while longer. It didn’t take her long to fall in love again, this time with a garage owner named Ami Sollel. Immediately, she announced that she wished to make aliyah, converted to Judaism, married her new beau, and moved in to an apartment in the suburban town of Kiryat Ono, giving birth to a son. Again, her happiness was short-lived.

By 1961, Van Steyn was once more divorced. This time, however, her ordeal was public: Israel of those years was still small enough for “Gilda” to remain a big star, and her bitter separation from Sollel—he accused her, among other things, of reverting back to her Christian faith and living an extravagant lifestyle of conspicuous consumption—made front-page news. Van Steyn replied with accusations of her own, claiming that Sollel, another much-younger man, was being unfaithful. When the divorce was finalized, Van Steyn made a living working with children, teaching camel riding, and running a high-end furniture store. To amuse herself, she raised wild boars in her apartment, but even that did little to amuse her. Bored with life in the sleepy little state, she left Israel for Washington, D.C., in 1967, finding another husband as well as work as a photographer for National Geographic. Moore, of course, found some employment himself, stepping into the iconic role of James Bond in 1973. As we remember the late gentleman, let us remember his remarkable former wife as well, the late Israeli Mrs. Bond.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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