“You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” Delivering that single, splendidly spot-on line of dialogue—in Jaws, of course—was more than enough to eternally ensure for Roy Scheider a warm spot in the hearts of movie buffs everywhere. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that he also said, in the very same movie, “Smile, you son of a bitch!”)
But for some of us, the lean and leathery actor with the bluntly chiseled profile will remain most fondly remembered not for his engaging turn as a small-town sheriff battling a Buick-sized shark, but rather for his drop-dead brilliance as Bob Fosse’s stressed-for-success, razzle-dazzling autobiographical alter ego in All That Jazz, the go-for-broke, shoot-the-moon musical fantasia that deserves honorable mention on anyone’s list of the greatest and most audacious movies of the 1970s. I am not ashamed to admit that, the first time I saw this masterwork in 1979, the gut-punch impact of Scheider’s final exit (which, I swear, I most certainly did not see coming) caused me to burst into tears. Bye-bye, life, indeed. Jeez, I can still hear the sound of that damn zipper…
Other notable Scheider credits include his harder-than-hardboiled cops in The French Connection and The Seven-Ups, his frantic film noir antiheroes in John Frankenheimer’s 52 Pick-Up (adapted by Elmore Leonard from his own novel) and Jonathan Demme’s deeply flawed but oddly engrossing Last Embrace and, no kidding, his one and only turn as a romantic comedy lead in Sidney J. Furie’s Shelia Levine is Dead and Living in New York. And before you say that Scheider and Furie are names you don’t normally associate with romantic comedy—well, that’s part of that 1975 curio’s oddball appeal.
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