Robert Shaw (British actor)
publicity headshot (circa 1971)
|Born||Robert Archibald Shaw
9 August 1927
Westhoughton, Lancashire, England, UK
|Died||28 August 1978
Tourmakeady, County Mayo, Ireland
Cause of death
Jennifer Bourke (m. 1952–63); 4 children
Robert Archibald Shaw (9 August 1927 – 28 August 1978) was an English actor and novelist. With his menacing mutter and intimidating demeanor, he was often cast as a villain. He is best remembered for his performances in From Russia with Love (1963), A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Sting (1973), the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Black Sunday (1977), Force 10 from Navarone (1978), The Deep (1977) and Jaws (1975), in which he played the shark hunter Quint.
Robert Shaw was born in Westhoughton, Lancashire, England, in 1927. His mother, Doreen (née Avery), was a former nurse born in Piggs Peak, Swaziland, and his father, Thomas Shaw, was a doctor. He had three sisters and one brother. When he was seven, the family moved to Stromness, Orkney, Scotland. When he was 12, his father, a bipolar alcoholic, took his own life. The family then moved to Cornwall, where he went to the independent Truro School. Shaw was a teacher in Saltburn-by-the-Sea in the North Riding of Yorkshire for a brief period, then attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He served in the Royal Air Force, air crew.
During the 1950s, Shaw starred in a British TV series which also appeared on American television as The Buccaneers. Shaw's best-known film performances include the assassin, Donald Grant, in the second James Bond film From Russia with Love (1963); the title role in "The Luck of Ginger Coffey" (1964); the relentless panzer officer Colonel Hessler in Battle of the Bulge (1965); a young Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons (1966); Lord Randolph Churchill, in Young Winston (1972); the ruthless mobster Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting (1973), the equally-ruthless subway-hijacker and hostage-taker "Mr. Blue" in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974); the shark-obsessed fisherman Quint in Jaws (1975); and lighthouse keeper and treasure-hunter Romer Treece in The Deep (1977), and the Israeli Mossad agent David Kabakov in Black Sunday (1977), which was the most successful of his appearances in films as the principal good-guy.
He performed onstage as well, across Britain and on Broadway in the US, where his notable performances include Harold Pinter's Old Times and The Caretaker, Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Physicists directed by Peter Brook, and The Man in the Glass Booth, inspired by the kidnapping and trial of Adolf Eichmann, written by Shaw himself, and directed by Pinter.
In addition to his acting career, Shaw was also an accomplished writer of novels, plays and screenplays. His first novel, The Hiding Place, published in 1960, met with positive reviews. His next, The Sun Doctor, published the following year, was awarded the Hawthornden Prize in 1962.
Shaw then embarked on a trilogy of novels – The Flag (1965), The Man in the Glass Booth (1967) and A Card from Morocco (1969); it was his adaptation for the stage of The Man in the Glass Booth which gained him the most attention for his writing. The book and play present a complex and morally ambiguous tale of a man who, at various times in the story, is either a Jewish businessman pretending to be a Nazi war criminal, or a Nazi war criminal pretending to be a Jewish businessman. The play was quite controversial when performed in the UK and the US, some critics praising Shaw's sly, deft, and complex examination of the moral issues of nationality and identity, others sharply criticising Shaw's treatment of such a sensitive subject. The Man in the Glass Booth was further developed for the screen, but Shaw disapproved of the resulting film and had his name removed from the credits.
Shaw also adapted The Hiding Place into a screenplay for the film Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious starring Alec Guinness. His play Cato Street, about the 1820 Cato Street Conspiracy, was produced for the first time in 1971 in London.
Shaw died of a heart attack on 28 August 1978 while driving from Castlebar to his home in Tourmakeady, Ireland. He suddenly became ill, stopped the car, stepped out and then collapsed on the roadside. He was rushed to Castlebar General Hospital and was pronounced dead aged 51. He had just completed filming of Avalanche Express.
Shaw's remains were cremated and his ashes scattered near his home in Ireland. A stone memorial to him was unveiled there in his honour in August 2008.
Shaw was married three times and had ten children, two of whom were adopted.
- His first wife was Jennifer Bourke (1952–63) with whom he had four daughters.
- His second wife was actress Mary Ure (1963–75) with whom he had four children. He adopted son Colin, born in 1961, born from his wife's previous marriage to John Osborne. His son Ian Shaw, born in 1969, also became an actor. He also had two daughters, including Elizabeth, born in 1963. This marriage ended with her death from an overdose.
- His third and last wife was Virginia Jansen (1976–78) with whom he had one son and adopted Jansen's son from a previous relationship.
- The Caretaker (1962)
- The Physicists (1964)
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1968)
- Gantry (1970)
- Old Times (1972)
- The Dance of Death (1974)
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) (uncredited)
- Operation Secret (1952) (uncredited) – Jacques
- The Dam Busters (1954) – Flight Sgt. J. Pulford
- A Hill in Korea (1956) – Lance Corporal Hodge
- Double Cross (1956)
- Man from Tangier (1957) – Johnny
- The Buccaneers (1957) – Captain Dan Tempest – Television (39 episodes)
- Sea Fury (1958) – Gorman
- Libel (1959) – Newspaper Photographer
- The Four Just Men (1960) – TV episode – Crack Up – Stuart
- Danger Man (1961) – TV episode – Bury The Dead – Tony Costello
- The Winter's Tale (1961) – Leontes
- The Valiant (1962) – Lieutenant Field
- The Caretaker (1963) – Aston
- From Russia with Love (1963) – Donald 'Red' Grant
- The Cracksman (1963) – Moke
- The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964) – Ginger Coffey
- Carol for Another Christmas (1964) – Ghost of Christmas Future
- Tomorrow at Ten (1964) – Marlowe
- Hamlet (1964) – Claudius, King of Denmark
- Battle of the Bulge (1965) – Col. Martin Hessler
- A Man for All Seasons (1966) – King Henry VIII
- Custer of the West (1967) – Gen. George Armstrong Custer
- The Birthday Party (1968) – Stanley Webber
- Battle of Britain (1969) – "Skipper"
- The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969) – Francisco Pizarro
- Figures in a Landscape (1970) – MacConnachie (also adapted for the screen)
- A Town Called Bastard (a.k.a. A Town Called Hell) (1971) – The Priest
- Young Winston (1972) – Lord Randolph Churchill
- A Reflection of Fear (a.k.a. Labyrinth) (1973) – Michael
- The Hireling (1973) – Steven Ledbetter
- The Sting (1973) – Doyle Lonnegan
- The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) (uncredited) – The Oracle of All Knowledge
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – Mr. Blue – Bernard Ryder
- Jaws (1975) – Quint
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1975) –
- Der Richter und sein Henker (a.k.a. End of the Game, Murder on the Bridge, Deception, and Getting Away with Murder) (1975) – Richard Gastmann
- Diamonds (a.k.a. Diamond Shaft) (1975) – Charles/Earl Hodgson
- Robin and Marian (1976) – Sheriff of Nottingham
- Swashbuckler (a.k.a. Scarlet Buccaneer) (1976) – Ned Lynch
- Black Sunday (1977) – Major David Kabokov
- The Deep (1977) – Romer Treece
- Force 10 from Navarone (1978) – Major Keith Mallory
- Avalanche Express (1979) – General Marenkov
- The Hiding Place (1960)
- The Sun Doctor (1961)
- The Flag (1965)
- Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious (1965) (screenplay adaptation of The Hiding Place)
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1967)
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1968) (play adaptation)
- A Card from Morocco (1969)
- Cato Street (1971) (play)
- Wakeman, John; Stanley Kunitz (1975). World authors, 1950–1970: a companion volume to Twentieth century authors. Wilson. p. 1292. ISBN 0-8242-0419-0.
- "Full text of "The Player A Profile of an Art"". Archive.org. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- Robert Shaw at the Internet Broadway Database
- Old Times at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Caretaker at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Physicist at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Man in the Glass Booth at the Internet Broadway Database
- "Robert Shaw, British Actor, Dies in Ireland". The Post and Courier. 29 August 1978. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- David Parkinson, "Shaw, Robert Archibald (1927–1978)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press 2004; online edition 2007
- Connie O'Toole "Robert Shaw memorial unveiled in Mayo village" Irish Times (11 August 2008)
- "IMDB". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "JD Weatherspoon". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #44!". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- Robert Shaw at the Internet Broadway Database
- Robert Shaw at the Internet Movie Database
- Robert Shaw – For All Seasons
- Robert Shaw at AllMovie
- Robert Shaw at the TCM Movie Database