Showtime (Updated)

Late last night, I saw the report on CNN that Roy Scheider had died at age 75, after an ongoing battle with multiple myeloma. Scheider was an actor who combined a stripped-down, everyman grace with a sly sense of humor: he wouldn't have been out of place in a Howard Hawks western (his professionalism, or what his friend Richard Dreyfuss called being "a knockabout actor" seemed like a throwback to an earlier era), but he also had a coiled sense of danger that would release itself in an offbeat joke, or as a happily deranged grin (some of my favorite examples of this are in his drunk scene with Dreyfuss in Jaws). As others have noted, this blend of professional drive and over-the-top theatricality really came together for him in Bob Fosse's magnificent All That Jazz, a not-so-thinly-veiled self-portrait of the director/choreographer. From the opening scenes of Scheider methodically pill-popping, then looking into the mirror with forced glee ("It's SHOWTIME!"), the actor immediately captures the balance of Joe Gideon's genius, madness and almost wry self-delusion. His hangdog, what-the-hell body language works well for the character: we really slip into his exhaustion, and his desire to transcend it.

Of course, he was equally fine in any number of films: Jaws, Klute, The French Connection, RKO 281 (where he created a sympathetic studio boss opposite Liev Schrieber's charismatic Orson Welles), 52 Pick-Up, Naked Lunch. All should be rented and enjoyed, and you should also check out fine tributes from Jonathan Lapper, Glenn Kenny, Jim Emerson, and Dave Kehr.

UPDATE (4:59 p.m.); There's also a wonderful tribute up at Self-Styled Siren, and she links to a number of other remembrances.


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