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Robert Archibald Shaw (9 August 1927 28 August 1978) was an English stage and film actor and novelist, remembered for his performances in The Sting, From Russia with Love, A Man for All Seasons, the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), and Jaws, where he played the working-class fisherman Quint.

Early life

Robert Shaw was born in Westhoughton, Lancashiremarker, Englandmarker, in 1927. His mother, Doreen (née Avery), was a former nurse born in Piggs Peakmarker, Swazilandmarker, South Africa, and his father, Thomas Shaw, was a physician. He had three sisters and one brother. When he was seven, the family moved to Stromnessmarker, Orkneymarker, Scotlandmarker. When he was 12 his father, a manic depressive and alcoholic, took his own life. The family then moved to Cornwallmarker, where he went to Truro Schoolmarker. Shaw was a teacher in Saltburnmarker, Yorkshire for a brief period, then attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Artsmarker in Londonmarker.

Acting career

Shaw began his acting career in theatre, appearing in regional theatre throughout England. In 1952 he made his London debut on the West Endmarker at the Embassy Theatremarker in Caro William.

During the 1950s, Shaw starred in a British TV series which also appeared on American television as The Buccaneers. Shaw's best-known film performances include a turn as the dangerous enemy secret agent, Donovan Grant, in the second James Bond film From Russia with Love (1963); the relentless panzer officer Colonel Hessler in Battle of the Bulge (1965); a young Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons (1966); Lord Randolph Churchill, in Young Winston (1972); the ruthless mobster Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting (1973), the equally-ruthless subway-hijacker and hostage-taker "Mr. Blue" in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974); the shark-obsessed fisherman Quint in Jaws (1975); and lighthouse keeper and treasure hunter Romer Treece in The Deep (1977), and the Israeli anti-terrorism agent David Kabakov in Black Sunday (1977), which is the most successful of his very few appearances in movies as a principal good-guy.

Shaw was nominated for the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in A Man for All Seasons.

He performed on stage as well, both in Britain and on Broadwaymarker, where his notable performances include Harold Pinter's Old Times and The Caretaker, Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Physicists directed by Peter Brooks, and The Man in the Glass Booth, inspired by the kidnapping and trial of Adolf Eichmann, written by Shaw himself, and directed by Pinter.

His penetrating, stage-trained shouting voice can be heard briefly in A Man for All Seasons, Black Sunday, Force Ten from Navarone, and The Sting.

Writing career

In addition to his acting career, Shaw was also an accomplished writer of novels, plays and screenplays. His first novel, The Hiding Place, published in 1960, met with positive reviews. His next, The Sun Doctor, published the following year, was awarded the Hawthornden Prize in 1962.

Shaw then embarked on a trilogy of novels – The Flag (1965), The Man in the Glass Booth (1967) and A Card from Morocco (1969); it was his adaptation for the stage of The Man in the Glass Booth that gained him the most attention for his writing. The book and play present a complex and morally ambiguous tale of a man who, at various times in the story, is either a Jewish businessman pretending to be a Nazi war criminal, or a Nazi war criminal pretending to be a Jewish businessman. The play was quite controversial when performed in the US and the UK, some critics praising Shaw's sly, deft, and complex examination of the moral issues of nationality and identity, others sharply criticizing Shaw's treatment of such a sensitive subject. The Man in the Glass Booth was further developed for the screen, but Shaw disapproved of the resulting film and had his name removed from the credits.

Shaw also adapted The Hiding Place into a screenplay for the film Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious starring Alec Guinness. His play Cato Street, about the 1820 Cato Street Conspiracy, was produced for the first time in 1971 in London.

Personal life

Shaw was married three times and had ten children, one of whom was adopted. His first wife was Jennifer Bourke, from 1952 to 1963, by whom he had four daughters. He was then married to Mary Ure from 1963 to 1975, until her death as a result of accidental overdose; they had two sons and two daughters together. His last wife was Virginia Jansen (1976-1978); they had one son together and adopted another. One of his sons by Mary Ure, Ian Shaw, is also an actor and bears a striking similarity to his father.

For the last seven years of his life, Robert Shaw lived at Drimbawn House, in the village of Tourmakeadymarker, County Mayomarker in Irelandmarker.


An alcoholic for most of his adult life, Shaw died of a heart attack in Ireland while filming Avalanche Express, on 28 August 1978. He was driving home with his wife, Virginia, and his youngest son, Thomas (then twenty months old), after golfing with friends during a break in filming. After feeling chest pains, he stopped the car and told Virginia he would get out and walk them off. After taking four or five steps he collapsed by the side of the road and was pronounced dead by the paramedic team that arrived fifteen minutes later. He was 51. He was cremated and his ashes scattered near his home in Ireland. A stone memorial to him was unveiled there in his honour in August 2008.

File:ShawMonument01.jpg|MemorialFile:ShawMonument02.jpg|Closeup of TextFile:Pier_at_Shaw_Monument.jpg|View at the site






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