So Long, Chum

The best reverse shot everRoy Scheider, the star of “Jaws” and several other key movies of the 1970s — but mostly the star of “Jaws” — died yesterday after contracting a staph infection during treatment for mutiple myeloma. He was 75.

For a guy who was largely perceived as a journeyman actor, he worked with a hell of a lot of great filmmakers: Pakula, Fosse, Friedkin (twice), Schrader, Demme, Coppola and of course David Cronenberg, who gave him the strangest and most memorable role of his later years in “Naked Lunch”, as the jovial Dr. Benway. (“BENWAAAAAY!”)

It’s “Jaws” that makes him immortal, though; he’s the heart and soul of that movie, the nervous, sheepish fish-out-of-water cop who gradually evolves into a kickass action hero, keeping the audience with him every step of the way. Because of Spielberg, “Jaws” is a perfect thrill machine. Because of Scheider, it’s a marvelous human story, too.

There’s a lovely tribute to him over at the official site of the perpetually imminent “Jaws” documentary The Shark Is Still Working”. You should spend some time there if you can.

3 thoughts on “So Long, Chum”

  1. You nailed it on the head — Scheider’s portrayal of Chief Brody elevated the film beyond measure. Definitely one of the most underrated performances in the last 40 years of cinema. Hell, he even makes “JAWS 2” work when it has no right to.

    Though “Jaws” was released the year I was born, one of my earliest memories was seeing the movie. I was lucky enough to have parents who weren’t really concerned about the “rating” of a film, so they must have taken me to see it at some sort of re-release in the early ’80’s. Talk about a defining moment of your childhood.

    Around the house, or playing in the snow outside, I pretended to be Han Solo. But anytime I was at the beach, or even around a pool, I WAS Chief Brody.

  2. After mentioning All That Jazz after yesterday’s entry, it struck me to hear about Scheider’s death. His portrayal of self-destructive choreographer Joe Gideon (based on Bob Fosse) was totally unlike the iconic Chief Brody, but absolutely compelling to watch…”It’s showtime…”

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