Sunday, February 10, 2008

Farewell and adieu you old Spanish ladies

Roy Scheider sadly passed away today at the age of seventy-five and the world of film is a poorer place without him in it.

I'll be the first to admit that the really plum roles had gotten away from Scheider following the 1970's (I mean when your most high profile film is playing the captain in SeaQuest and the dad in The Punisher, well that's a problem). But his work in the aforementioned decade was so strong that Scheider has become an invaluable part in twentieth century film.

To nerds everywhere Scheider will be immortalized as the water-hating Sheriff of Amity Island, Martin Brody in Jaws. Sheriff Brody was a stalwart, solid man who ultimately triumphed over personal and natural adversity to unleash a shining crowd pleasing moment at the film's conclusion. In a decade filled with anti-heroes and moral ambiguity, Scheider carried the torch of Gary Cooper and John Wayne maintaining a principled manly-man sort of vibe.

Schedier hardly begins and ends with Jaws. Scheider began the 70's in the high profile mystery drama, Klute. Scheider followed that up as the only man who could keep up with vigilante cop Popeye Doyle in William Friedkin's The French Connection. Smaller parts followed and then came Jaws and suddenly Scheider was the star of the biggest movie of all-time. He starred as Dustin Hoffman's brother in the thriller Marathon Man, teamed up with Friedkin again for the director's remake of Wages of Sin, Sorcerer. Again Scheider's ruggedness came into play. His success allowed him to grow increasingly selective about his roles and as a result his work grew increasingly dark and complex. What came next was perhaps Scheider's finest dramatic work. As Joe Gideon, Scheider played a man of a thousand vices, an analogue for director/choreographer Bob Fosse in the autobiographical film All That Jazz. The film is dark, tortured and I would hardly be surprised if the set was littered with drugs, booze and cigarettes. Subverting his rugged appeal to play Gideon was a daring move and Scheider was rewarded with critical acclaim and an academy award nomination.

I'm not wild with his post-seventies work (with the exception of his brief work in Cronenberg's Naked Lunch) but Scheider worked steadily his entire career and appeared in a number of classic films. Scheider will be missed and I'm sorry that never got one more role to show off his greatness.

Here's to swimmin' with bowlegged women.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scheider was first choice to play the lead in The Deer Hunter. He agreed, but when shooting conflicted with Jaws II -- which he was contractually obligated to do, and fought against doing so, to no avail -- his role in Deer Hunter went to Robert DeNiro.

Such are the vagaries of casting ...