Monday, February 11, 2008

Smile, you son of a bitch! (Roy Scheider, 1932-2008)

Roy Scheider was the kind of actor you don't see much of anymore, a virile, rough-edged everyman whose performances are remarkable for their physical intelligence without ever sacrificing believability. Scheider was never larger-than-life, which is perhaps the key to his success, easy as it is to imagine him hanging out with dad down at the V.F.W. Much of the success of Jaws can be attributed to what Scheider brought to the role of Chief Brody, portraying the character's anxiety, sense of displacement and sexual insecurity - I love the moment during the "let's compare scars" scene when Brody searches for a scar worthy of competition, than wordlessly decides against it. Scheider anchors our emotional investment in the story - when audiences went wild at the film's explosive ending, it was his triumph as much as Spielberg's.

That seemingly effortless authenticity can be found in all of Scheider's best performances - consider the haunting reveal of Dustin Hoffman's brother at death's door in Marathon Man or his deliciously venal pimp in Klute. I'm particularly fond of his nefarious Dr. Benway in Naked Lunch, a role that gave him the opportunity to use his defintively hetero screen presence to remarkably subversive effect. I must admit that I haven't seen All That Jazz yet, but Netflix predicts I'd give it five stars, so I look forward to checking it out this week. It will be a welcome opportunity to celebrate an truly undervalued star, the kind they just don't make anymore.

For an excellent tribute to Scheider, head over to Sunset Gun.


Allen Lulu said...

You've never seen All That Jazz? In the words of Mrs. Broslowski: What what what?
You are in for a treat, I think. It's heavy handed, all the metaphors are worn on the sleeve, yes, but it is so brutally autobiographical. During 1972 Fosse won the Oscar for Cabaret, was working on Lenny, won the emmy for the Liza special and won the Tony for Liza with a Z (I think that was the show.) He ran the trifecta and was knocked on his ass for it. he is unabashadly self flagellating in this film not his best (That would be Cabaret). Not his worst (that would arguably Sweet Charity, but, in truth, is porbably Lenny)
Gorgeously shot, whimsical, powerful and Scheider is the stuff of Legend.
Imagine if Richard Dreyfuss had sccepted the role instead....oy.
1979 was truly one of, if not the, greatest year for film, ever.

Andrew Bemis said...

I can't wait to check it out. I'm a big fan of both Cabaret and Lenny. The former is a masterpiece; every shot and cut is just perfect (the start of the song "Money" always gives me chills). And for all the talk of the '70s as a liberated period in cinema, you don't hear much talk about both films' ahead-of-their-time treatment of bisexuality and nontraditional relationships.

Allen Lulu said...

You really don't. Its a shame that his work has sort of faded into the history of cinema. Have you seen Star 80? Not the best way to go out but still, the man had a grip of vision, theatre and film. Can not wait for your thoughts on Jazz