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