Sunday, February 10, 2008

"We're gonna need a bigger boat"

RIP Roy Scheider, a classic movie Everyman, dead at age 75. He was in his forties when Jaws, one of my very favorites, hoisted him into the top ranks, up from distinctive workaday parts in The French Connection (his first Oscar nomination, in 1971) and its followup, 1973's The Seven- Ups. Ideally cast, he gives the Spielberg classic its gritty Northeastern heart and soul. 1979's All That Jazz was a stretch, but its director saw something in him that other filmmakers had not, and he excelled as the faux Fosse in the choreographer's meta-biopic, earning his second Oscar nomination by inexhaustible hard work.

A fist fight on the set of Jaws 2 (1978) with its original director hung a certain reputation on him, and his leading man salad days, largely in fun hardware movies like 1983's Blue Thunder and the following year's 2010, were over in a decade. 1986's effectively seedy 52 Pickup, with a similarly declining John Frankenheimer at the helm, was a last hurrah as the pictures got smaller, and eventually went straight to video as he himself took on more TV work and the occasional stage part. So, too, did the parts slim down, though he was a welcome add-on to worthier credits like The Russia House (1990) and the supporting actor heaven that was Francis Coppola's The Rainmaker in 1997. Whatever the circumstance, whether sharks, helicopters, or Ann Reinking were his co-stars, you always believed in Roy Scheider, which was the key to his career.

Writing this makes me ponder the mortality of the other screen stars who came of age in the Sixties and Seventies, all of whom are a huge part of the fabric of my moviegoing life. Has it really been four years since Scheider's French Connection co-star Gene Hackman, so ubiquitous for so long, has made a film (and the Ray Romano vehicle Welcome to Mooseport, at that?). It's worrisome when you start missing folks who are still around, and all the best to that greatest generation as one of its members departs.

1 comment:

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Well put. Hackman, Nicholson, Pacino, DeNiro, Beatty—none of them are young. I liked Scheider too, and I was always disappointed that he made so few good films. However, anyone can hang their hat on "Klute," "French Connection," "Jaws" and "All That Jazz" and be proud.