Monday, February 11, 2008

"Bye-bye life"*

*Joe Gideon, "All That Jazz" 1979

Iconic actor Roy Scheider passed away yesterday at the age of 75. It's no secret that "Jaws" is viewed as one of the greatest films of all time here in the blogfoot offices, due in no small part to Mr. Scheider's performance as Chief Martin Brody, an everyman resort-town sheriff having to deal with a giant killer shark plaguing his beaches as well as the city's power structure acting as if it doesn't exist. The chemistry between Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss literally made the movie. It had to, because the mechanical shark barely worked.

But he was more than just Chief Brody. He was without a doubt a seminal figure in 70's cinema (for my money the greatest decade of film ever), playing Gene Hackman's partner in "The French Connection" (bring him his first Oscar nomination), an ominous pimp in "Klute", doomed CIA operative Doc Levy, a man who exposes his brother to the perils of Nazi dentistry, in "Marathon Man", a guy transporting nitroglycerin through the dangerous roads of South America in "Sorcerer" (a remake of the French classic "The Wages of Fear") and topped off the decade playing self-destructive choreographer Joe Gideon, a thinly-veiled version of Bob "Chicago" Fosse in Fosse's wacky and enjoyable 1979 sorta-biopic "All That Jazz", for which Scheider received an Academy Award nomination for best actor. He also left his imprint on "The Seven-Ups"( a solid 70's crime movie), "Blue Thunder", "2010", "Naked Lunch" and many others. I've also read that he had to pass on the lead role in "The Deer Hunter" ( a role that went to Robert DeNiro) because he was contractually obligated to do "Jaws 2." Ouch.

He was a pretty big star during these years, in a glorious time when a good actor didn't have to look like freakin' Brad Pitt to be a leading man. He looked like a guy you saw on the street, which is why viewers gave a shit about him fighting a giant shark: you could relate to him. But if you had to put your finger on the quality he had that made him a star, it would have to be this: intensity.

Roy, you were cool. Adios.


E. Jason said...

Shit dude- you made me all misty-eyed. Now I have to order my criterion-like edition of Jaws and the French Connection.

RGame said...

Agreed with every word. Jaws was the first movie I ever fell in love with as it came out in theaters (Planet of the Apes was my first, but from TV), and as much as I loved it for the shark, Brody was the non-shark character I identified with.