Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Roy Scheider R.I.P.

Roy Scheider, the Oscar nominated actor best known for his role in Jaws, passed this Sunday at the age of 75. He had fought multiple myeloma for many years. The immediate cause was a staph infection.

Roy Scheider was born November 10, 1932 in Orange, New Jersey. He attended Columbia High School in Mayfield, New Jersey. As a teenager he participated in boxing and baseball. He attended the both Rutgers University in New Jersey and Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. Scheider majored in history with the intention of going of into law. He served three years in the United States Air Force. Upon his release from the Air Force, he came back to Franklin and Marshall to perform in Richard III.

Scheider made his profession acting debut in 1961 in Romeo and Juliet at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He made his television debut on the daytime serial The Edge of Night in 1962. He made his film debut in 1964 in William Friedkin's B movie The Curse of the Living Corpse. In 1965 he was a regular on the soap opera Love of Life. He guest starred on the TV shows N.Y.P.D. and Coronet Blue. After appearing in small parts in such films as Loving and Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Scheider received his big break in 1971. It was that year he had significant roles in two extremely popular films--Klute and The French Connection. For his role in The French Connection he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

It was in 1975 that Scheider would appear in what may have been his best known role, that of Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws. It was Brody who utter what may be the movie's absolute best line, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Over the next several years Scheider would appear in the films Marathon Man, Sorcerer, All That Jazz (for which he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor), Blue Thunder, 2010, The Russia House, The Rainmaker, Naked Lunch (as Dr. Benway), and the upcoming film Iron Cross

Scheider also continued to appear, albeit infrequently, on television. He starred in the 1983 telefilm Jacobo Timerman: Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number and the 1990 telefilm Somebody Has to Shoot the Picture. He was the star of SeaQuest DSV for two seasons. He appeared in the HBO movie RKO 281 in the role as George Schaefer. He made a notable guest appearance on Law and Order: Criminal Intent in the episode "Endgame" as one of the few criminals who could successfully match wits with Detective Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio).

Scheider also continued to appear on stage. In 1965 he made his Broadway debut in the play Tartuffe. In 1982 he appeared opposite Blythe Danner on Broadway in Betrayal.

There can be little doubt that Roy Scheider was one of the great actors of our time. If Jaws is one of the great films of recent memory, it is largely because of the performances of its leads--Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss. Not only did he deserve to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor for Bob Fosse's autobiographical All That Jazz, there are those of us who believe he should have won (Dustin Hoffman won for Kramer vs. Kramer). Later in his life Scheider stopped playing the lead and started playing character roles. He was great as Dr. Benway in Naked Lunch and Mafioso Don Falcone in Romeo is Bleeding. While most people remember Scheider from Jaws, he deserves to be remembered for so much more.


J. Marquis said...

I recently watched him in All That Jazz again. What an amazing performance.

d. chedwick bryant said...

I hope to see that 'Endgame' episode of Law & Order sometime. I loved Roy and Robert Shaw in Jaws--I know everyone thought the Richard Dreyfus character was the witty endearing one--but I really was knocked out by Scheider & Shaw's acting in that.
'All that Jazz' is another great performance. I really wish he had left behind more starring roles in big films.