Born this day in 1927
Donald ‘Red’ Grant in From Russia with Love
Robert Archibald Shaw was from Lancashire, England and was one of five children to parents who had careers in medicine – his father was a doctor and his mother a nurse. As a child, his family moved to Orkney, Scotland, in the far north, then southwest to Cornwall. In his early teens, Shaw was inspired by one of his schoolmasters, who encouraged him to read. The teacher would take a few of his students to see plays in London, so on one of those outings, Shaw saw Sir John Gielgud in “Hamlet” (1944) and was later to cross paths with Gielgud at Stratford-on-Avon, where Gielgud told Shaw he admired his acting ability but the young man made him nervous. Shaw went on to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Shaw joined the Old Vic (London) and began stage acting, mostly Shakespearean roles. He also got a start in film and television around the same time. Alec Guinness suggested Shaw for a small role in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and then Shaw was cast in a small role in the war drama The Dam Busters (1955). The following year, Shaw was cast as the lead in the television series The Buccaneers as the swashbuckler/ex-pirate Capt. Dan Tempest. From then on, Shaw found steady work, however he kept exploring ways to challenge and express himself through other creative outlets.
I did not know until researching for this spotlight that Shaw had been a writer. He wrote a novel titled The Hiding Place and then wrote the dramatization that was aired in England and in the US. Not satisfied, he became a reporter and covered the Olympics in Rome. In all, Shaw wrote five novels, two adaptations, and a play.
In the early 1970s, American audiences were re-introduced to Shaw in The Sting (1973) where he played crime boss Doyle Lonnegan and was famously stung by Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford). Shaw was then cast as Quint in Jaws (1975), and he was re-paired with Sean Connery in Robin and Marian (1976). I also remember him as Ned Lynch in Swashbuckler (1976) and as Romer Treece in The Deep (1977).
Shaw was one of the most memorable henchmen of the Bond films, in part because he had such delicious lines! However, I’ll always remember Shaw as Quint and my favorite scene is when Quint recounts the sinking of the Indianapolis and his encounter with sharks. Shaw’s delivery is intense and absorbing and unforgettable.
Take a look at Shaw's speech in Jaws:
Shaw passed away at the young age of 51 of a heart attack in August, 1978.
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