Monday, 6 May 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1975: Robert Shaw in Jaws

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Quint in Jaws.

Jaws is one of the greatest thrillers ever made which is of course about a tourist filled island being terrorized by a shark.

Robert Shaw is one of my favorite actors and one of the reasons is the variety of ways he takes on parts. The last three times I have reviewed him he played Henry VIII in a properly flamboyant larger than life fashion, Lonnegan in The Sting where he portrayed an Irish gangster with substantial menace through the sense of the anger within the man, and Mr. Blue in The Taking of Pelham where he again played a villain but found new ground while bringing the menace still by emphasizing the proper English soldier background of his character. This time as Quint he plays a rather different character an old American sailor who has his own checkered past with the Sharks.

Shaw does not appear too much early on in the film but when we do see him he makes quite an impact. His accent is downright brilliant putting on the voice of an Old Sea Salt. Shaw doesn't overdo it never making it a parody instead it perfectly amplifies the characteristics of this man. We don't even need to hear about his past just from Shaw's manner and style we know this man has been out to sea most of his life, and as well certainly has had his experience with sharks and knows what he talking about. All that he does adds to his character from his particular scowl with the turn in his mouth, the way he hunches over, or even that particular way that he smiles.

I have to say once again that I just love watching Shaw perform here again. What is amazing about Shaw as an actor is that despite how magnetic he is in his performances he can still be entirely natural as well. Shaw simply becomes Quint as easily as became Mr. Blue or Lonnegan, there never feels like a performance here. He just becomes the part in the most wonderful fashion that he just makes every scene more than it would be otherwise. He is such an energetic performer while even playing a cold or in this case a curmudgeon type of character. Shaw is on here as he usually is, but possible even more so than usual. Even in his two brief scenes early on he livens the film with his presence and makes sure we will remember him.

One thing that is so great about Jaws as a film is how in the middle it transitions from a brilliant monster on the loose film to an adventure film flawlessly. This occurs when the town finally hires Quint to kill the Shark who goes along with Chief of police Brody (Roy Scheider) and Shark expert Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). Shaw absolutely dominates the film once the transition occurs as Quint does not only take over the shark expedition but he also takes over the film. This is not to say even the slightest thing against Dreyfuss or Scheider, they both commit themselves splendidly, but it is Shaw's show. Quint technically might get a slow start in terms of his appearances early in the film, but once's he's in charge Shaw sinks his teeth right in (no pun intended). 

Shaw is so brilliant abrasive here that he turns the jabs Quint gives Hooper into an art form. Shaw is such a delight as he ridicules Hooper in every way he can. Shaw mischievous smile and always firm delivery make every little thing he says not only very incisive but honestly quite enjoyable as well. The joy of performance is quite apparent here and boy does Shaw make it so we have just about as much fun as it appears he had making the film. He not only succeeds in doing that but also because of that he makes Quint even with all his crustiness endearing. He brings a great deal of humor even right along with it just through the enjoyment Quint clearly is having while giving everyone he can a hard time.

One of the reasons this performance is so good is due to Shaw's refusal to ever allow Quint to be just one type of man. Even while he gives Hooper all hell, he still adds some nice camaraderie between all three, and suggests that there is no true malice to Quint's mischief. Shaw is particularly effective in just the quick moments when Quint instructs Brody how to handle himself on the ship. Shaw is so nice in showing a bit of a gentler side to Quint as he deals with someone that he clearly has far greater respect for. Shaw puts in a little bit of warmth when Quint tells the chief just to ask him first when handling something on the ship. Shaw is fantastic how he inserts these moments adding greater complexity to the character while never compromising the rest of Quint.

Shaw just never fails to realize any part of the man and makes into all one wholly believable individual. He creates so many shades and never makes one overwhelm the other nor does he allow one facet to compromise another. For example the elements that make Quint into an Ahab figure are certainly well established through silent moments as he conveys the drive and conviction in Quint that will not allow him to give up on the mission or even allow him to ask for the further help. This is only part of him though and it only comes out in times of great stress. This something Shaw brings out so naturally and completely within all the rest. It will come in right after he is making a joke and Shaw still has it be something Quint would do. The Ahab element is in twined with the whole of Quint.

Now I have done plenty of praising I think of this performance as a whole. It is a outstanding performance that creates complexities in a character who could have easily been one note, but there is one scene that does stand out above the rest of his performance simply because I personally feel it is the best acted scene in all of cinema (yeah I just said that) that of course is the Indianapolis monologue. The speech details Quint's experience when he managed to survive after the ship he was on sunk during World War II even though he and his fellow crew mates had to survive in shark infested waters. Shaw delivery here is something to behold, truly behold there is nothing quite like how he tells the tale of Quint's horrific experience.

Shaw has almost a nostalgia at first as he describes the past of Quint's life, he keeps it that this was something in the past although not something he could ever forget. Despite this film being filled with many frightful moments, the most gut wrenching of them all is the morbid tale Shaw spins all through his words. He conveys the fear not as you might think, but there is so much power in the way Quint seems to be holding so much back not to be fazed by this. He is not emotional in the sense you usually think of the word in but there is an enormity of the emotions in the story even though he manages to keep his composure throughout the tale. Shaw brings the sadness, the anger, the pain, all of it with an unrelenting power.

The power of the speech is astonishing as Shaw takes you deep into Quint's mind and that traumatic event that Quint could never forget. Although you never see a shark in the scene Shaw never lets your mind escape the images he so vividly describes. Shaw never allows the attention to be wavered as the horror of it all unfolds and he allows the glimpses in the mind of Quint and what exactly drives the man. I really cannot do the scene or Shaw's performance justice in my review here. It is almost indescribable in its power, and Shaw's performance seems otherworldly at times in the way he seems to be everything stand still as he reflects on the terrible past of Quint the terrible past that has never stopped haunting him.

Shaw gives an incredible performance as Quint, it truly unforgettable work and the greatest from the great Shaw. This is a supporting performance that is captivating all on its own accord completely away from the film, even well it seamlessly mends with it. His portrayal of Quint is heartbreaking, humorous, entertaining, enjoyable, and all together excellent. There is never a wasted scene or even a wasted moment with Shaw. I honestly cannot praise this performance enough. Shaw gives my favorite supporting performance of all time, and this particularly amazing considering that Quint could have easily been an overacted one dimensional nothing. Shaw though turns him into one of the most compelling characters ever to grace the screen. 

22 comments:

Mark said...

Well, this was no surprise. Is Dreyfuss also Supporting or do you consider him a Lead?

Anonymous said...

One of the greatest performances of all time.

Edward L. said...

A great review - and it's largely down to your reviews of Shaw's performances that I've come to realise that he's one of my favourite actors too. And in Jaws, yes, he's amazing.

My only query is whether he's supporting or leading. I guess he's supporting, because he's hardly in the first half of the film, but the second half confuses matters, as all three actors are onscreen continually and all make vital contributions to the film. (Schedier is obviously leading, and it's interesting to note that Dreyfuss was nominated in the leading category at the BAFTA awards.)

But either way, excellent work from Shaw - again!

Edward L. said...

Sorry - Scheider...

JamDenTel said...

Yeah, he's winning this.

If he didn't win, he'd put his fingernails on the chalkboard until he did.

Louis Morgan said...

Mark: I'd put Dreyfuss in supporting although I think you can make an argument for him in lead. I put him in supporting though because the film does feel like its from Brody's perspective most of the time.

Anonymous said...

I hope you continue to do more reviews for Shaw like Young Winston and From Russia with Love.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Interestingly, he was actually the favorite to win before the nominees were announced. Shameful, Academy. Just fucking shameful.

Psifonian said...

Easily one of the best performances ever committed to celluloid. Shaw's "Indianapolis" monologue should not only be revered, it should be studied, taught in classes. What's interesting about that scene is it almost didn't happen. Shaw figured he should be drunk when they shot it, but he kept screwing up the takes. After a night of shooting take after take, Spielberg found no usable takes. He was all set to abandon the scene when, the next morning, Shaw showed up, sober as a judge and deeply apologetic for the distress he'd caused. He begged Spielberg for one more chance to do the scene. Spielberg acquiesced, and Shaw nailed the scene in one take. This is the take we see in the film.

I'll go ahead and say it: Shaw's Quint is the definitive Captain Ahab.

mrripley said...

Simply a totally spot on right up,you believe he is quint from the momnet we 1st see him until bruce eats him whole,i do not know what the academy were thinking.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

As great as Shaw is, it's obvious that Bruce the Rubber Shark will win this year, hands down.

micmac said...

i think he just named the winner guys

Tommy Petersen said...

Robet shaw owned this film. Everyone loves jaws but then they re watch it and everyone talks about quint! The worst slight in oscar history! Next to or including john wayne for the searchers. Some performances are just otherworldly,they.dont fit at oscars table, a f-xxxxxxx shame

Tommy Petersen said...

He could also have been nominated for Robin an Marian. He again makes you care for a complex man. He passed just as he was entering superstardom. A great great actor!

Tommy Petersen said...

Just watched Black Sunday again and he was just as compelling. Being jewish I felt he nailed the accent. Like Anthony Hopkins he was transitioning to more good guy roles. Damn booze! We lost him too soon

Tommy Petersen said...

Is it true that he was favored to be nominated beforehand? Hell he should have been nominated for pelham 123, and the sting. I think he was just too edgy for Hollywood, plus he did not do a lot of press. The brits dont get the whole oscar campaigning thing. He would have been as big as Anthony Hopkins hadhe lived. Can u imagine shaw as lector!?

Louis Morgan said...

I'm not sure if he was favored beforehand as he was not nominated by the Golden Globes. The few critical groups also failed to recognize him as well unfortunately.

He would have been a great Lector.

tommy said...

Look at his death scene on jaws, it was only scary due to his screaming! He made that goofy rubber shark seem like a real threat. If you watch the making of ...special features,he worked his butt off. Turn off the sound and its notscary.he really knew how to sell it. Also dont forget spielberg was and is resented by Hollywood. Only one of his nominated actors ever won.

Tommy Petersen said...

Just re-watched jaws and the deep. Your right, his quint was truly transformative. In the deep he was quite charming. (Esp. In the extended t.v. version) he was soo on the way to becoming a leading man. )

Tanvir Bashar said...

Wat wud u say r the top 20 best supporting performances of all time

Louis Morgan said...

1. Robert Shaw in Jaws
2. Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet
3. Martin Landau in Ed Wood
4. Richard Jordan in Gettysburg
5. Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter
6. John Cazale in The Godfather Part II
7. Gene Hackman in Unforgiven
8. Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity
9. Sessue Hayakawa in The Bridge on the River Kwai
10. Tsutomu Yamazaki in High and Low
11. John Goodman in Barton Fink
12. James Dunn in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
13. Joe Pesci in Goodfellas
14. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
15. Dana Andrews in The Ox-Bow Incident
16. Orson Welles in Touch of Evil
17. Claude Rains in Notorious
18. Jason Robards in Once Upon a Time in The West
19. Barry Fitzgerald in The Quiet Man
20. Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future

Tommy Petersen said...

Richard Jordon! I thought you were nuts but then re watched Gettysburg and damn if you are spot on. You also nailed Eddie G., Barry Fitzgerald and esp. Robards. You sir know your stuff! Well done. And good that Mr.Shaw is no. 1!