- Sex appeal
- Well-Regarded in Private Life
- Comedic Ability
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- Risk-taker or Innovator
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robert shaw, actor
- chris morrell
Robert Shaw was that rare kind of actor whose looks, gestures and voice inflexions remain in the memory. Looking through his credits, I realise that some work I have not seen since release, as much as fifty years ago. Yet very precise images spring out of otherwise unremembered films; and yes (as he himself complained) often out of unmemorable, sub-standard scripts. This suggests that he was not only a highly intelligent man (many reviewers are awed by his career as a published novelist), but that he worked hard, in that best and most necessary tradition of screen acting, to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. To describe him as a 'character actor' is no disservice, in the sense that Alec Guinness or Peter Sellers were also character actors; actors, that is to say, capable of building a character, even out of subtle, apparently unpromising materials. But the term does not contain him. Who else could steal that scene in Sir Thomas More's garden from perhaps the greatest of all his English contemporaries, Paul Schofield? It is not just a tyrannical display of a monarch facing down a subject, it is fragile nature at the edge of hysteria, a momentary recognition of blinding egotism, and its destructive effects, that is interesting. Who, out all the alter egos to James Bond offers the most perfect, menacing counterpart to the protagonist? Is there a more affecting scene in The Battle of Britain than the one in which Shaw takes silent leave of his family, asleep in their cottage, and goes out to face not merely another grim day of combat, but, with immense tact , the young airman (Ian McShane) whose family has just been killed? Robert Shaw built many images, hence explanations, of human behaviour, that have informed my life: the heroic and the anti-heroic; the driven, criminally insane (The Sting); of tragic degeneration (exploration of syphilis in Young Winston). I still miss his presence on our screens, and honour his memory.
Range-3/5 Influence/Legacy-4/5 Well regarded in private life-3/5 Comedic Ability-4/5 Risk-Taker or Innovater-4/5