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Robert Shaw (1927-1978)

  1. Laurence Olivier, Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965.     Odd to see Sir, later Lord Larry ... as a humble Scotland Yard cop!
  2. Raf Vallone, Se tutte le donne del mondo... (Operazione Paradiso) [US: Kiss the Girls and Make Then Die], Italy, 1966.     The iconic Rome Rome producer Dino De Laurentiis thought it was dead easy to make a Bond film (pinching much of Moonraker,not made until 1979) and crush the 1967 releases of You Only Live Twice and the first Casino Royal.  (it was all Italy was doing doing at the time; one spoof featured Sean Connery’s brother, Neil). Bond filmsters Curd Jurgens and Robert Shaw were also up for  Ardonian, the wealthy industrialist planning  to render the world sterile and repopulate it via his harem. Also chased, Richard Harris had also been up for 007, himself, in Thunderball, and a copy, The Liquidator, played by another nearly-Bond, Rod Taylor.  This is among Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films. Yeah, that bad. 
  3. Richard Harris, Camelot, 1966.    Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson (with Shirley Jones as his queen), Peter O’Toole and Gregory Peck were run up the Warner Bros flagpole when Richard Burton wanted too much money to reprise his Broadway and Tony-winning King Arthur. The only true substitute cabled director Joshua Logan:  HARRIS  BETTER THAN BURTON.  He got the throne. Burton won the crown back for  a 1980 tour until his health made him quit. Harris succeeded him again. And paid $1m for the stage rights, revamped and extended the tour, making a considerable fortune.
  4. George Kennedy, The Boston Strangler, 1967. Change of the cop Phil DiNatale hunting the Tony Curtis in the titular role which ruined his career, dwindling ever downward into such garbage as Lobster Man From Mars, Tartzan in Manhattan, The Mummy Lives and Christmas in Connecticut directed by… Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I can’t find time to do everything I’m asked to do.” In this case because of…
  5. Richard Attenborough, A Severed Head, 1970.      “And I dearly wanted to do both.” The actor-novelist was set as Martin Lynch-Gibbon, no less, when Fox had the rights to Iris Murdoch’s trenchant book - before Columbia made it so achingly dull.
  6. Freddie Jones, Antony and Cleopatra, 1972.    “He’d be excellent, of course,” felt Charlton Heston, “though [Pompey] is too small for his current eminence.” According to Dirk Bogarde, Shaw could only really do two things really well:   ”shout above wind and rain and stand with his feet apart.”
  7. John Philip Law, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, 1973.      For some odd reason, Shaw fought hard to play Sinbad but Columbia Pictures didn’t agree but kept the peace (as in we-may-need-him-later… and they did for The Deep, 1976) by making him The Oracle Of All Knowledge - anonymously with heaps of make-up, his voice electronically twisted and no credit! Universal did better - gviing him his own Swashbuckler in 1975. Because they wanted him back for Black Sunday, 1976.
  8. Richard Burton, Brief Encounter, 1974.     Thanks to The Sting, Shaw was hot. So what to do? Re-make the David Lean classic, Brief Encounter (but why?) with Sophia Loren (oh, that’s why) - or be the shark-hunter.Shaw thought the books was shit until instead of $50,000 for the re-hash, Universal promised $100,000 for four weeks. Given the vagaries of the sea and Bruce the mechanical shark, it proved an exceedingly long month… Burton rightly thought it impossible to “compete against the ghosts of the memorable performances” by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, 1945. Sophia Loren persuaded him “in that gentle imperious voice which turns my stomach into a bag of butterflies.” So, he dyed his hair, put on lifts and fought the ghosts. And lost.
  9. James Coburn, The Last Hard Man, 1976.  Charlton Heston felt it’d be a good film “especially if we can get Connery.”  They didn’t. It wasn’t.
  10. Alan Bates, The Mayor of Casterbridge, TV, 1978.     Seeing himself as the Lear-like Michael Henchard, Shaw ordered a script from ex-TV scenarist John Hopkins. And the brave British film industry rejected the Thomas Hardy classic - again. (Joseph Losey had tried to interest Rank in 1954). With a Dennis Potter script, BBC-TV made it a memorable seven-part serial.

  11. Richard Burton. The Wild Geese, 1978.      When Burton initially refused (not keen on glorifying mercenaries), Shaw was seen as the logical replacement.
  12. Richard Harris, The Wild Geese, 1978.     Shaw was with Michael Caine and Burt Lancaster in the mix for Janders, but too busy fighting another conflict in Force 10 From Navarone.
  13. Michael Caine, The Jigsaw Man, 1983.      Producer Benjamin Fisk's first choice as the KGB's top British spy, Kim Philby - thinly disguised as Sir Philip Kimberly in a film that took too long to start (Shaw was dead before shooting began in 1981) and even longer to complete due to low funds.
  14. Walter Matthau, Pirates, 1986.      Director Roman Polanski’s first replacement for Jack Nicholson in 1975, after Shaw had made Universal's Swashbuckler.  
  15. Alan Bates, A Prayer for the Dying, 1986.   The 70s’ plan was to shoot Jack Higgins’ book where it happened - in Leeds, UK. With Edward Dmytryk directing Lee Marvin or Robert Mitchum as IRA hitman Martin Fallon. Plus  Shaw as the priest who witnessed a murder.  “An almost obscene exploitation of the situation,”  said Chicago critic Roger Ebert.   "The plot is worthy of Batman.”
  16. Donal McCann, The Dead, 1987.     The final film of the great US director   John Huston: “James Joyce was and remains the most influential writer in my life.” Indeed, Shaw nearly made it in 1970, when Joseph Losey planned James Joyce's The Dubliners with Shaw and Trevor Howard.

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