By John H. Foote
Every year there are artists that deserved a nomination for an Academy Award in any one of the categories. So for the next year, Alan and I are going to explore one nominee in each category from various years of the Academy Awards.
Not just the big categories, but the below the line, the crafts and sciences awards.
We begin today in 1975 with the great Robert Shaw for Jaws.
ROBERT SHAW – BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, JAWS (1975)
How, given the brilliance of the performances, is Jaws not remembered as a superbly acted film? Steven Spielberg’s direction was sublime, but more importantly his imagination was running on all cylinders behind the scenes. When the three mechanical sharks failed, one of them sinking to the ocean floor, forcing the young director to create, on the spot, new ways to show the shark and intensify the film.
The editing helped, the music helped, but the performances, I think, took the film new to the next level. Roy Schindler and Richard Dreyfuss were superb as the Police Chief and Oceanologist, respectively, but it was Robert Shaw who stole the film and brought to audiences the true horror of sharks.
As Quint, the crusty shark hunter who knows before anyone in town the trouble they are in, Shaw was haunting and yet haunted. He is offensive, vulgar and arrogant, but no one can deny he knows what he is doing. One night when the men bond with whiskey he reveals to the others he was a sailor aboard the S.S. Indianapolis during the war. Slowly he tells them the ship was torpedoed and sank leaving more than one thousand men in the water. At night the sharks came cruising, devouring them. They would kick, punch, scream and die bloody, horrific deaths, witnessed by their friends, just feet away. As he finishes the nightmare he lived through, we understand Quint a whole lot more than we did.
Ironically, he will die a similar death as the sailors on the ship, in the jaws of a shark. Quint slides into the jaws, to certain death and is bitten in half.
Jaws was nominated for just four Academy Awards, ignored for Best Director, Cinematography, Visual Effects and Best Supporting Actor for Shaw. When the film was released, it came out that Shaw had written his monologue as Quint the night before they show it.
This astonishing performance was the year’s finest supporting performance but was not even a nominee. Shameful.
Sadly the wonderful actor died just three years after Jaws.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.