I’m on a Robert Shaw kick lately, after scoring a great deal on one of his movies at the nearby Hollywood Video’s going-outta-biz sale. I managed to snag Force 10 From Navarone for a few dollars. This has always been a movie I would rent every few years just to see it again, or show it to others. Now I own it, and since we’re coming up on the 35th anniversary of the premiere of Jaws, here’s some factoids about Quint, aka Mallory, aka Lonniman (It’s Lonnegan!).
As a boy, he attended Truro and was quite an athlete, competing in rugby, squash and track events but turned down an offer for a scholarship at 17 to go to London with furthering education in Cambridge as he did not want a career in medicine but luckily for the rest of us, in acting.
He went on from the Academy, after two years (1946-1948) to Stratford-on-Avon, where he was directed by Sir John Gielgud who said to Robert Shaw, “I do admire you and think you’ve got a lot of ability, and I’d like to help you, but you make me so nervous.”
He appeared briefly in 1954’s The Dam Busters.
Around 1959, he became involved with the well-known actress Mary Ure, who was married to the actor John Osborne at the time. He slipped her his telephone number one night at 3 a.m. while visiting the couple and she called him the next day. It was around this time, in 1960, that Robert Shaw became a reporter for England’s Queen magazine and covered the Olympics in Rome. Robert Shaw and Mary Ure acted together in Middleton’s The Changeling at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1961. He was playing the part of an ugly servant in love with the mistress of the house who persuades him to murder her fiancé. Robert Shaw and Mary Ure had a child on August 31st, even though they were still married to their other spouses. His wife Jennifer and Mary Ure had children to him only weeks apart from each other. Mary divorced John Osborne and married Robert Shaw in April 1963. The couple was often quoted by the press as being, “very much in love” and together, they would have four children together. (Ten total for Shaw.)
It was in the following films, The Sting and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three that Robert Shaw became familiar once again to American audiences but it is his portrayal as a grizzled Irish shark hunter, named Quint, in Jaws that everyone remembers, even to this day. Hard to believe that Robert Shaw wasn’t that impressed with the script and even confided to a friend, Hector Elizondo, “They want me to do a movie about this big fish. I don’t know if I should do it or not.” When Elizondo asked why Shaw had reservations he mentioned that he’d never heard of the director and didn’t like the title, “JAWS.”
“Avalanche Express” was Robert Shaw’s last film in which he played General Marenkov, a senior Russian official who decides to defect to the west and reveals to a CIA agent, played by Lee Marvin, that the Russians are trying to develop biological weapons. (Shaw sadly died of heart failure midway through filming.)
Many of Captain Quint’s ramblings in Jaws were actually Shaw’s improvisations, and he is considered one of many authors of the famous USS Indianapolis scene.
Allegedly he didn’t get along with Richard Dreyfuss while filming Jaws.
His performance as Captain Quint is ranked #28 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
He also wrote four books that were well received, along with some plays.
“Writing is where the real center of my integrity lies. I never write for money. I only act for money, but not invariably of course. I would never write certain sentences that I say in films, or even that I write in films, because I often fix up my lines.”
“Acting is instant enjoyment and childlike. As an actor, Lord God, I can take an audience in a theatre and throw them in any direction. I can’t do that as a writer. Writing is painful, it’s lonely and you suffer and there’s no immediate feedback.”
I knew there was some reason I liked him from the get-go. The Shakespeare work doesn’t surprise me, but the life of this man we barely knew through his few cinematic roles is, to say the least, incredible.
Link [IMDb] (More Jaws and Force 10 stuff to come)