Robert Shaw (British actor)
Robert Shaw publicity headshot (circa 1971)
|Born||Robert Archibald Shaw
9 August 1927
Westhoughton, Lancashire, England
|Died||28 August 1978
Tourmakeady, County Mayo, Ireland
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
(m. 1952–63) (4 children)
(m. 1963; d. 1975) (4 children)
(m. 1976) (2 children)
|Children||10 (2 adopted); including Ian|
Robert Archibald Shaw (9 August 1927 – 28 August 1978) was an English actor, novelist, and playwright. With his menacing mutter and intimidating demeanour, he was often cast as a villain. He is best remembered for his performances in Jaws (1975), in which he portrayed a shark hunter named Quint, and The Sting (1973), where he played the conned mobster, Doyle Lonnegan. Shaw also appeared in From Russia with Love (1963), Battle of the Bulge (1965), A Man for All Seasons (1966) (for which he was nominated for the 1967 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Battle of Britain (1969), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Black Sunday (1977), The Deep (1977), and Force 10 from Navarone (1978).
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, Elisabeth, Joanna and Wendy, and one brother, Alexander. When he was 7, the family moved to Stromness, Orkney, Scotland. When he was 12, his father, an alcoholic, took his own life. The family then moved to Cornwall, where he went to the independent Truro School. For a brief period, he was a teacher in Saltburn-by-the-Sea in the North Riding of Yorkshire, then attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He served in the Royal Air Force.
Shaw began his acting career in theatre, appearing in regional theatre throughout England. In 1952, he made his London debut in the West End at the Embassy Theatre, in Caro William. He developed his formidable, piercing shouting technique.
Shaw starred in a British TV series which also appeared on American television as The Buccaneers (1956–57). Shaw's best-known film performances include 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 German Army 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); General George Armstrong Custer in Custer of the West (1967); mobster Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting (1973); the subway-hijacker and hostage-taker "Mr. Blue" in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974); the shark-obsessed fisherman Quint in Jaws (1975), lighthouse keeper and treasure-hunter Romer Treece in The Deep (1977); and Israeli Mossad agent David Kabakov in Black Sunday (1977).
He performed onstage as well, across Britain and on Broadway in the United States, 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.
Shaw was also an accomplished writer of novels, plays and screenplays. His first novel, The Hiding Place, published in 1960, received 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). His adaptation for the stage of The Man in the Glass Booth 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 critical of 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 screenplay and had his name removed from the credits. However, Shaw viewed the completed film before its release and asked to have his name reinstated. In 2002 Director Arthur Hiller related Shaw's initial objection to the screenplay and his subsequent change of heart: "When we decided that we needed more emotions in the film and leaned it towards that, we tried, obviously, to be honest to Robert Shaw, to keep that intellectual game-playing, but to create more of an emotional environment. And Robert Shaw became very disturbed. He did not like the idea and indeed, if you will watch the film, you will see that his name does not appear in the credits, nor does it even say, 'based on the play, The Man in the Glass Booth' because he wouldn’t let us do it. He just didn’t like the idea until he saw the film. Then he phoned Eddie Anhalt, the screenwriter, and congratulated him because he thought it was—just kept the tone he wanted and did it so well. And he phoned Mort Abrahams the Executive Producer to see if he could get his name put on the final credits. But it was too late to restore his name, all the prints were all made."
Shaw also adapted The Hiding Place into a screenplay for the film Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious starring Sir Alec Guinness. His play Cato Street, about the 1820 Cato Street Conspiracy, was produced for the first time in 1971 in London.
Shaw was an alcoholic for most of his life. He died at age 51 from a heart attack on 28 August 1978 while driving from Castlebar to his home in Toormakeady, 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. He had just completed filming of Avalanche Express.
His remains were cremated and the 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 during his wife's previous marriage to John Osborne (According to an interview with Colin, he was Robert Shaw's son born during an affair while she was still married to John Osborne). His son Ian, born in 1969, also became an actor. He also had two daughters, Elizabeth and Hannah, born in 1963 and 1966, respectively. 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, Thomas and adopted Jansen's son, Charles, from a previous relationship.
- His grandson is notable musician and composer, Rob Kolar.
- The Caretaker (1962)
- The Physicists (1964)
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1968)
- Gantry (1970)
- Old Times (1971)
- The Dance of Death (1974)
- The Cherry Orchard (1947)
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) – Chemist at Police Exhibition (uncredited)
- The Dam Busters (1954) – Flight Sgt. J. Pulford
- Double Cross (1956) – Ernest
- A Hill in Korea (1956) – Lance Corporal Hodge
- The Buccaneers (TV, 1956–57) – Captain Dan Tempest (39 episodes)
- Rupert of Hentzau (TV, 1957) - Rupert of Hentzau
- Sea Fury (1958) – Gorman
- Libel (1959) – First Photographer
- The Four Just Men (1960) – TV episode – Crack Up – Stuart
- The Dark Man (TV, 1960) – Alan Regan
- Danger Man (1961) – TV episode – Bury The Dead – Tony Costello
- The Winter's Tale (1961) – Leontes
- The Valiant (1962) – Lieutenant Field
- The Father (1962) – The Captain
- Tomorrow at Ten (1962) – Marlowe
- The Caretaker (1963) – Aston
- The Cracksman (1963) – Moke
- From Russia with Love (1963) – Donald 'Red' Grant
- Hamlet (1964) – Claudius, King of Denmark
- The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964) – Ginger Coffey
- Carol for Another Christmas (1964) – Ghost of Christmas Future
- 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
- Luther (TV, 1968) – Martin Luther
- The Birthday Party (1968) – Stanley Webber
- Battle of Britain (1969) – Squadron Leader "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 Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) – The Oracle of All Knowledge (uncredited)
- The Sting (1973) – Doyle Lonnegan
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – Mr. Blue – Bernard Ryder
- Jaws (1975) – Quint
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1975) – Writer only
- 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 (final film role)
- The Hiding Place (1960)
- The Sun Doctor (1961)
- The Flag (1965)
- Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious (screenplay adaptation of The Hiding Place, 1965)
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1967)
- The Man in the Glass Booth (play adaptation, 1968)
- A Card from Morocco (1969)
- Cato Street (play, 1971)
- 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
- The Man In The Glass Booth; Interview with Arthur Hiller; 2003 DVD release; KINO VIDEO.
- "Robert Shaw". tourmakeady.weebly.com.
- "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)
- "JD Weatherspoon". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #44!". Retrieved 9 June 2011.