TROUBLE CITY

MAY 14TH IS ROY SCHEIDER DAY!

Movie NewsJeremy SmithComment

http://chud.com/nextraimages/scheiderbyebye.jpgOkay, James Wolcott. I'll see your "lean cut Giacometti sculpture with a lone wolf aura" and raise you "the apotheosis of wounded American manhood in an era when being a man was anathema to the national mood". I can't win here because I had to click through to your linked picture of a Giacometti sculpture; that's why you're writing for Vanity Fair and I'm on my third movie news website.

But, goddamn it, look at Roy Scheider and tell me the (smile you) son of a bitch doesn't deserve a twenty-four hour period dedicated to venerating his cinematic contributions! As Wolcott notes, the weathered-at-birth actor's run as the man who saved the male identity began with Alan Pakula's Klute in 1971 and concluded in 1979 with Bob Fosse's masterpiece All That Jazz. In between, there were little films like The French Connection, Jaws and William Friedkin's excellent Wages of Fear riff Sorcerer. Wolcott remembers The Seven Ups fondly; it's pretty good, but I really want to guilt Quentin Tarantino into screening a double feature of The French Conspiracy and The Outside Man, the two French-produced crime flicks he made with Jean-Louis Trintignant. Then, I'll have Scheider's entire 1970s body of work accounted for (aside from Michael Schultz's To Be Gifted, Young and Black; though, to be honest, that's the story of my life).

Scheider's most iconic role was easily Amity Police Chief Martin Brody, the aquaphobic protagonist of Steven Spielberg's Jaws. While Scheider wasn't classically handsome, he had a leathery everyman quality. He was like a versatile, soulful Richard Conte; he could shift effortlessly from the put-upon lawman (which he reprised in the useless 1978 sequel Jaws 2) to the (straight!) philandering Broadway choreographer Joseph Gideon in All That Jazz. And that's how he became, for a bafflingly brief moment, one of the best actors of his generation. More than "You're gonna need a bigger boat", I now hear Scheider excoriating Ann Reinking: "You're always talking about being faithful. Why do you think so small?" What a wonderful line! And could anyone phrase it with the same mix of selfishness and tenderness better than Scheider? How did this guy fade away? (I will say that he gives a nice performance as a real piece of shit in Eric Red's Cohen and Tate.)

In any event, I'll be watching (or Tivo-ing) Monday night's episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent just to see what got Wolcott all charged up. And if you're a decent human being, you'll do likewise. We owe it to Scheider. He shouldn't be squandering his talent in garbage like The Punisher and The Myth of Fingerprints; we need the seventy-four-year-old badass back in movies that matter. So drain a bottle of red wine, make funny faces at your kid, and go slice open the gut of a tiger shark that, while incredibly rare for these waters, did not ingest Alex Kintner. Enjoy your Roy Scheider Day!