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teaser Shamus (1973)

Detective films enjoyed a resurgence in the seventies: think Dirty Harry, Klute (both 1971), and Chinatown (1974). In 1973, Burt Reynolds got in on the act with Shamus, a film loosely based on the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain, the nom de plume of Evan Hunter. As Shamus McCoy, Reynolds plays a rough-edged private eye who is quick with his fists ... and even quicker with his pick-up lines. This was Reynolds' second McBain film in two years: he starred in Fuzz (1972), a film also based on a McBain novel but for which Hunter wrote the screenplay as well. Shamus, referring not only to the title character but also slang for a private detective, paid homage to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep (1946), with a twist on the hothouse scene between Marlowe and General Sternwood. In Shamus, Reynolds meets his client in his air-conditioned home as he sips iced tea - the opposite of Bogey sweating it out with Charles Waldron.

The supremely sexy Dyan Cannon figures prominently as Reynolds' love interest. Cannon, born Dyan Friesen, has an interesting story behind her name change. As she once explained, "That was from Jerry Wald, who was interviewing people to play Jean Harlow. An agent walked up to me at Frascati's on Sunset Boulevard. I was working in the garment industry at the time, and this agent said, 'I have somebody for you to meet.' I walked into Jerry Wald's office about a week later, and he said, 'Oh my God! Guns, explosions, cannonballs!' He said, 'What's your name?' I said, 'Dyan Friesen.' He said, 'Dyan like that name?' I said sure. So I walked in Dyan Friesen and walked out Dyan Cannon." During production, Reynolds got a taste of her firepower at his own expense. In his autobiography My Life, he describes, "As Dyan and I walked down Broadway one afternoon a guy stopped us and asked for a picture. A camera dangled around his neck. 'Well, okay,' I said. Grinning broadly, he put his arm around Dyan and handed me the camera." Not just another pretty face, Cannon was nominated twice for supporting Oscars® for her work in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) and Heaven Can Wait (1978). And let's not forget, she was once married to another actor with a famous name change: Archibald Leach...a.k.a. Cary Grant.

Shamus is also worth a look for its varied supporting cast, including an opera singer and a famous feline. On the human side, The Rockford Files (1974-80) fans will recognize Joe Santos as that show's Detective Dennis Becker. More recently, Santos enjoyed a stint on The Sopranos (1999-present). Smallville (2001-present) fans will recognize John Glover in his film debut as a heroin addict. Giorgio Tozzi, on the other hand, had little experience in front of the camera (he plays Dottore in Shamus). He was much more at home singing in front of hundreds of people, as he did for many years as a member of the Metropolitan Opera. The bass-baritone also earned a Tony nomination in 1980 for his work in the revival version of The Most Happy Fella. But perhaps Shamus' most famous supporting actor was the smallest and hairiest. Reynolds' furry roommate, the aptly-named Cat, was played by none other than Morris. Yes, that Morris, from the 9 Lives Cat Food commercial. For his stellar work in Shamus, Morris won the coveted PATSY award that year-Performing Animal Top Star of the Year. Who says Shamus wasn't an award-winning film?

Behind the camera talent on Shamus included director Buzz Kulik and composer Jerry Goldsmith. Kulik also directed the tremendously popular television film Brian's Song (1971) and Goldsmith was one of Hollywood's most prolific film scorers. His films include Planet of the Apes (1968), Patton (1970), and L.A. Confidential (1997). He was nominated a phenomenal 17 times for his work, winning only once for The Omen (1976).

Producer: Jim Di Gangi, Robert Weitman
Director: Buzz Kulik
Screenplay: Barry Beckerman
Cinematography: Victor J. Kemper
Film Editing: Walter Thompson
Art Direction: Philip Rosenberg
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Burt Reynolds (Shamus McCoy), Dyan Cannon (Alexis Montaigne), John P. Ryan (Hardcore), Joe Santos (Lieutenant Promuto), Giorgio Tozzi (Dottore), Ron Weyand (E.J. Hume).
C-106m. Letterboxed.

by Eleanor Quin

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