Robert Shaw


Actor
Robert Shaw

About

Also Known As
Robert Archibald Shaw
Birth Place
Lancashire, England, GB
Born
August 09, 1927
Died
August 28, 1978
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

A rough-hewn British character actor who played more leading roles later in his career, Robert Shaw went from being typecast as tough-guy villains to proving his versatility in a wide range of performances. Shaw had his start on the stage in the late 1940s and quickly segued to the screen where he broke through as an assassin for SPECTRE in "From Russia with Love" (1963). But it was his ...

Family & Companions

Jennifer Bourke
Wife
Married 1952, divorced; born in Jamaica; had four daughters together.
Mary Ure
Wife
Actor. Married 1963, died 1975; had two sons and two daughters together.
Virginia Jansen
Wife
Shaw's former secretary. Married 1976 until Shaw's death; had one son together.

Bibliography

"A Card From Morocco"
Robert Shaw (1969)
"The Man in the Glass Booth"
Robert Shaw, play (1967)
"The Cure of Souls
Robert Shaw, novel (1965)
"The Sun Doctor"
Robert Shaw, novel (1961)

Notes

Shaw once told an interviewer: "When they write my obituary I would like them to say, 'He was an author who wrote one book that will last and he was also a remarkable actor.'"--quoted in the "New York Times" obituary, August 29, 1978

He received the Hawthronden Prize for Fiction (1962) for "The Sun Doctor".

Biography

A rough-hewn British character actor who played more leading roles later in his career, Robert Shaw went from being typecast as tough-guy villains to proving his versatility in a wide range of performances. Shaw had his start on the stage in the late 1940s and quickly segued to the screen where he broke through as an assassin for SPECTRE in "From Russia with Love" (1963). But it was his Oscar-nominated turn as King Henry VIII in "A Man for All Seasons" (1966) that helped shed new light on the actor, leading to a variety of characters in films like "Battle of Britain" (1969), "A Town Called Hell" (1971) and "Young Winston" (1972). Shaw then entered his most fruitful period to play ruthless mob boss Doyle Lonnegan in "The Sting" (1973) and criminal mastermind Mr. Blue in "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (1974), which paved the way for his most iconic performance as salty Quint in Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975). From there, Shaw was a leading man in a number of major studio films like "Black Sunday" (1977), "Force 10 from Navarone" (1977) and "Avalanched Express" (1979). But at the height of his career, Shaw suffered a fatal heart attack. Whether on screen or as the author of award-winning novels, Shaw was a unique talent the likes of whom would not be seen again.

Born on Aug. 9, 1927 in Westhoughton, Lancashire, England, Shaw was raised by his father, Thomas, a physician, and his mother, Doreen, a former nurse. When he was seven years old, the family moved to Scotland and when he was 12, Shaw's father - a manic depressive and alcoholic - committed suicide. As a result, the family moved to Cornwall where Shaw attended the independent Truro School and briefly taught school in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, before attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1949, he made his stage debut with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and later in the year toured Australia with the Old Vic. Shaw soon made his London stage debut in a West End production of "Caro William" (1951) and a few years later, transitioned to the screen with minor supporting roles in "The Dam Busters" (1955) and "A Hill in Korea" (1956), before returning to the stage to star in his own play, "Off the Mainland" (1956). Following a turn in the British crime thriller "Man from Tangier" (1957), he spent 39 episodes as the lead pirate on the children-themed series "The Buccaneers" (ITV, 1956-57).

Following the show, Shaw went back to the big screen for small roles in "Sea Fury" (1958) and "Libel" (1959), before landing episodes of British series like "The Four Just Men" (ITV, 1959-1960) and "Danger Man" (ITV, 1960-68). After playing Leontes in the feature adaptation of "The Winter's Tale" (1961), he played cunning SPECTRE assassin Red Grant in "From Russia with Love" (1963). At this point, Shaw became a published author with The Hiding Place (1960) and The Sun Doctor, the latter of which won the 1962 Hawthornden Prize. He next played King Claudius in Grigori Kozintsev's adaptation of "Hamlet" (1964), the Ghost of Christmas Future in "Carol for Another Christmas" (1964), and a fictional colonel fighting in "Battle of the Bulge" (1965), an epic war film about the famed World War II battle starring Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas and Charles Bronson. In "A Man for All Seasons" (1966), Shaw was King Henry VIII to Paul Scofield's Sir Thomas More and Orson Welles' Cardinal Wolsey, a performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor - the only such honor of his career.

Shaw went on to portray Gen. George Armstrong Custer in the critically derided Western "Custer of the West" (1967), before starring in William Friedkin's adaptation of Harold Pinter's "The Birthday Party" (1968). In the "Battle of Britain" (1969), Shaw was cast alongside British heavyweights like Laurence Olivier, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer, Michael Caine and Susannah York for this epic and surprisingly historically accurate depiction of England's fight to stop the Luftwaffe from bombing Britain back to the Stone Age. That same year, he starred opposite Plummer in the historical drama "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" (1969), while the following year he had his first screenwriting credit with "Figures in a Landscape" (1970), wherein he played an escaped convict alongside Malcolm McDowell who try to escape from the secret police of an unidentified totalitarian country. Following a leading performance in the little known Western "A Town Called Hell" (1971), he was Lord Randolph Churchill, father to Winston Churchill (Simon Ward) in "Young Winston" (1972), a British-made biopic about the early years of the future prime minister.

Though a well-known actor both in Britain and America, Shaw had yet to hit his most fertile period, which commenced with his turn as ruthless Irish mob boss Doyle Lonnegan in "The Sting" (1973), who becomes the target of a long con by two confidence men (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) after he kills their friend and mentor (Robert Earl Jones). Shaw's performance as the barely contained Lonnegan was a terrific counterpoint to Newman's devil-may-care turn as expert con artist Henry Gondorff, which was perfectly exemplified in a card game where Lonnegan is out-cheated by Gondoff - one of the more memorable scenes of this multi-Oscar winning film. Shaw next played Mr. Blue, a criminal mastermind who leads a gang of thieves into a New York subway to steal $1 million in the commercial and critical action hit "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (1974). Standing in Mr. Blue's way is a gruff, but determined transit cop (Walter Matthau), who contends with the chaos of multiple city agencies and a reluctant mayor (Lee Wallace) while trying to figure out just how the gang plans to escape the subway tunnel while surrounded by police.

The following year, Shaw delivered his most iconic performance in Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975) playing Quint, a salty old shark fisherman who hunts down a killer great white with a landlubber police chief (Roy Scheider) and a know-it-all marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss). Shaw's turn as the grizzled seafarer was the film's most memorable, particularly in his confrontations with Dreyfuss' bookish biologist and in his haunting recount of the sinking of the doomed U.S.S. Indianapolis. The movie was a monster hit and the highest-grossing film ever made at the time, making "Jaws" Shaw's most successful film on all fronts. From there, Shaw starred alongside James Earl Jones as two pirates in "Swashbuckler" (1976) and played the Sheriff of Nottingham to Sean Connery's Robin Hood in "Robin and Marian" (1976). He went on to search for sunken treasure with Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in "The Deep" (1977) and was an Israeli military officer trying to thwart a crazed Vietnam vet (Bruce Dern) from blowing up the Super Bowl in "Black Sunday" (1977). Shaw next starred in the sequel "Force 10 From Navarone" (1977), taking over the Gregory Peck role as the leader of a special forces group that tries to blow up a bridge with a traitor in their midst. After completing the filming of "Avalanche Express" (1979), where he played a Russian general who defects to the United States, Shaw suffered a sudden heart attack while home in Tourmakeady, County Mayo, Ireland. He was only 51 years old.

By Shawn Dwyer

Life Events

1949

Stage debut with Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon

1949

Toured Australia with the Old Vic

1951

London stage acting debut, "Caro William"

1955

Film acting debut, "The Dambusters"

1956

Appeared in own play, "Off the Mainland," at Arts Theatre, London; his first play produced

1965

Scripted first screenplay, "Situation Hopeless, But Not Serious"

1967

Play "The Man in the Glass Booth" opened in London; based on his book of the same title

1970

Wrote screenplay, "Figures in a Landscape"

1971

Wrote play, "Cato Street"

1978

Was about to start shooting film about spy Kim Philby at the time of his death

Photo Collections

The Sting - Movie Posters
Here are a few variations of the one-sheet movie poster for The Sting (1973), starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Young Winston (1972) - My American Mother First Simon Ward as the young adult, then Russell Lewis as juvenile Winston Churchill, introducing his mother Jennie (Anne Bancroft) and father Randolph (Robert Shaw), in Richard Attenborough's Young Winston, 1972.
Jaws (1975) - I'll Catch This Bird Civic panic in "Amity" (in fact, Martha's Vineyard), as Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) chairs, Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) comments, and crusty shark-hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) takes over, in Steven Spielberg's Jaws, 1975.
Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The (1974) - Taking Your Train Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw), Green (Martin Balsam), Grey (Hector Elizondo) and Brown (Earl Hindman) take the train in the dramatic opening of director Joseph Sargent's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 1974.
Robin and Marian (1976) - We're Prisoners Nuns slow on the uptake and a lack of fitness impede what might have been a daring escape for Robin (Sean Connery) and Little John (Nicol Williamson) from the unworried Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw) in Robin and Marian, 1976.
Sting, The (1973) - Lay Off The Skirts An elaborate piece in the con game, Twist (Harold Gould) and J-J (Ray Walston) launch the fake paint job, as Hooker (Robert Redford) reels in the mark Lonergan (Robert Shaw), Ken Sanson the clueless Western Union functionary, in The Sting, 1973.
Sting, The (1973) - We Usually Require A Tie Now on the train, con artists Hooker (Robert Redford) and Gondorff (Paul Newman) check out the mark's pinched wallet, then join him (Robert Shaw as "Lonergan") for the crucial card game, in The Sting, 1973.
Carol For Another Christmas, A (1964) - The Imperial Me Together in a TV movie late in the year of Dr. Strangelove, Sterling Hayden as Scrooge-based "Drudge," observes Peter Sellers as the post-apocalyptic "Imperial Me," Robert Shaw the Ghost Of Christmas Future, in Rod Serling's variation on Dickens, A Carol For Another Christmas, 1964.
Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The - Listen Trainmaster Jaded New York transit cop Garber (Walter Matthau) loses face with Japanese guests, hijacker Blue (Robert Shaw) contacts trainmaster Frank (Kenneth McMillan) and Patrone (Jerry Stiller) doubts, in Joseph Sargent's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 1974.
Deep, The - Open, Bermuda Director Peter Yates' creditable opening sequence is famous only for its display of Jacqueline Bisset's scuba-diving anatomy, which goes on for some time, with Nick Nolte, in The Deep, 1977, from a Peter Benchley novel.
Deep, The - Beginner's Luck Tourists David (Nick Nolte) and Gail (Jacqueline Bisset) visit Bermuda treasure guru Trace (Robert Shaw, held over from the previous Peter Benchley novel-based hit Jaws) in The Deep, 1977.

Trailer

Companions

Jennifer Bourke
Wife
Married 1952, divorced; born in Jamaica; had four daughters together.
Mary Ure
Wife
Actor. Married 1963, died 1975; had two sons and two daughters together.
Virginia Jansen
Wife
Shaw's former secretary. Married 1976 until Shaw's death; had one son together.

Bibliography

"A Card From Morocco"
Robert Shaw (1969)
"The Man in the Glass Booth"
Robert Shaw, play (1967)
"The Cure of Souls
Robert Shaw, novel (1965)
"The Sun Doctor"
Robert Shaw, novel (1961)
"The Hiding Place"
Robert Shaw, novel (1956)

Notes

Shaw once told an interviewer: "When they write my obituary I would like them to say, 'He was an author who wrote one book that will last and he was also a remarkable actor.'"--quoted in the "New York Times" obituary, August 29, 1978

He received the Hawthronden Prize for Fiction (1962) for "The Sun Doctor".