We’re Gonna Need A Better Eulogy…

Actor Roy Scheider passed away at age 75 on Sunday. Since then every obit I have read quotes his famous line from JAWS – “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”. This is fine because it’s his most famous role and he reportedly adlibbed the line so it’s a fitting reminder of his place in pop culture (the line is #35 on the AFI’s list of best quotes from U.S. movies). What’s not fine is that most people misquote it as “we’re going to need a bigger boat” and they let it stand alone as if it’ll be on his tombstone. I saw a CNN bit yesterday that had the clip of the said scene in that damn classic Spielberg movie with the solitary caption “Roy Scheider (1932-2008)” and that was it – a man’s life reduced to a soundbite. C’mon people! We can do better than that! The guy had a whole career we can talk about! So since everybody knows JAWS (and JAWS 2 for that matter) let’s look at:

5 Essential Sharkless Roy Scheider Roles

1. THE FRENCH CONNECTION (Dir. William Friedkin, 1971) This film won 5 Oscars but Scheider, despite being nominated, went home without any gold. Everyone talks about Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle and the incredible chase scene but what about Scheider as Buddy “Cloudy” Russo? He was the glue that held this tense 70’s cop tale of drug smuggling uncovered by jaded racist cops together! Not exactly the “good cop” to Hackman’s “bad cop” but close enough in my book – or on my blog. See the trailer here.

2. ALL THAT JAZZ (Dir. Bob Fosse, 1979)

In an interview Scheider remarked that he had made what he considered “three landmark films” – JAWS, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and ALL THAT JAZZ. He was right for many consider JAZZ his finest performance. In his role as Joe Gideon, a character who was somewhat semi-autobiographically based on Fosse, Scheider acts, sings, and dances with a verve unseen in the rest of his filmography. As Vincent Canby said in his review “With an actor of less weight and intensity, ALL THAT JAZZ might have evaporated as we watched it. Mr. Scheider’s is a presence to reckon with.” Check out this clip of “Bye Bye Life”.

3. 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT (Dir. Peter Hyams, 1984) This sequel to the classic Kubrick film is better than most people remember. Sure, it was pretty unneccessary and its conclusions are far from satisfying but it is full of worthy dialogue and acting – most of which comes courtesey of Scheider. As Dr. Heywood Floyd (a role originally played by William Slyvester) Scheider brings his reliable determined intensity displayed by such lines like: “Reason? There’s no TIME to be reasonable!”

4. MARATHON MAN (Dir. John Schlesinger, 1976) It’s another sidekick role but Scheider shines as Dustin Hoffman’s brother Henry ‘Doc’ Levy. He is extremely enjoyable as he effortlessly glides through his scenes. What’s really worth seeking out is the DVD of the documentary about producer Robert Evans THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE for the bonus material features Hoffman and Scheider riffing on the MARATHON MAN set doing dueling Evans impressions. funny stuff – funnier than when Scheider hosted SNL in 1985 anyway.

5. BLUE THUNDER (Dir. John Badham, 1983) Sure some people will snicker at the sight of this flick making such a tributary list but it’s my list and this was the first Scheider film I ever saw at the theater. It’s not the most memorable film – I saw it with my mother and she doesn’t remember it but I sure do. Scheider is a cop assigned to the heavily armed police helicopter of the title and with his sidekick Daniel Stern they fly around and fight crime. Yep, it’s a big dumb 80’s action thriller but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. “Uh-oh. You’d better hold your nose. We’re in deep shit” Scheider warns his partner at one point, and yeah, that’s no match for the “bigger boat” line but damnit this film could stand a few more late night TV airings – that is, if JAWS needs to take a rest. See the trailer here.

Scheider Spillover: ROMEO IS BLEEDING (Dir. Peter Medek, 1993) This is a personal favorite and it’s the only film of Scheider’s I own on DVD. He’s a mob boss who has only a few scenes but they’re pretty damn vital.

Post Note: Somebody put this inevitable mash-up on Youtube – ALL THAT JAWS. Enjoy!

I feel unqualified to properly access Scheider’s ouvre since I haven’t seen many of his films (including the highly regarded SORCERER) but I feel this top five will suffice – for now.

R.I.P. Roy Scheider.

More later…

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