Robert Shaw: English actor and novelist (1927 - 1978) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Robert Shaw
English actor and novelist

Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro English actor and novelist
A.K.A. Robert Archibald Shaw
Was Actor Writer Novelist Playwright Screenwriter Stage actor Film actor
From United Kingdom
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature
Gender male
Birth 9 August 1927, Westhoughton
Death 28 August 1978, Toormakeady (aged 51 years)
Star sign Leo
Spouse: Mary Ure
Robert Shaw
The details (from wikipedia)



Robert Archibald Shaw (9 August 1927 – 28 August 1978) was an English actor, novelist, and playwright. He was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his role as Henry VIII in the drama film A Man for All Seasons (1966). He played the conned mobster Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting (1973), and portrayed the shark hunter Quint in Jaws (1975).

Shaw's other notable film roles include From Russia with Love (1963), Battle of Britain (1969), Young Winston (1972), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Robin and Marian (1976) and Black Sunday (1977).

Early life

Robert Archibald Shaw was born on 9 August 1927 at 51 King Street in Westhoughton, Lancashire, the son of former nurse Doreen Nora (née Avery), who was born in Piggs Peak, Swaziland, and Thomas Archibald Shaw, a doctor of Scottish descent. He had three sisters named Elisabeth, Joanna, and Wendy, and one brother named Alexander. When he was seven years old, the family moved to Scotland, settling in Stromness, Orkney. When Shaw was 12, his alcoholic father killed himself. The family then moved to Cornwall, where Shaw attended the independent Truro School. For a brief period, he was a teacher at Glenhow Preparatory School in Saltburn-by-the-Sea in the North Riding of Yorkshire, before attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He also served in the Royal Air Force.

Acting career

Early career

Robert Shaw

Shaw in The Buccaneers (1957)

Shaw began his acting career in theatre, appearing in regional theatre throughout England. He played Angus in a RSC production of Macbeth at Stratford in 1946.

In 1947, he appeared in The Cherry Orchard on British TV; also for that medium, he performed scenes from Twelfth Night and Macbeth. He played at Stratford for two seasons.

He had a small part in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), playing a police laboratory technician towards the end of the film; the following year he made his London debut, in the West End, at the Embassy Theatre in Caro William. That year he appeared on TV in A Time to Be Born (1952). He returned to Stratford in 1953.

Shaw had small roles in The Dam Busters (1955), a TV version of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1956), the films Doublecross (1956) and A Hill in Korea (1956) (alongside other young actors like Michael Caine), and a TV version of Hindle Wakes (1957).

The Buccaneers

Shaw became a TV star in England when he starred as Captain Dan Tempest in The Buccaneers (1956-57) which ran for 39 episodes.

He was by this time a TV leading man, having lead roles in TV films such as Success (1957) and a TV version of Rupert of Hentzau (1957). He had a big stage success with The Long and the Short and the Tall in 1959, directed by Lindsay Anderson, a performance which was filmed for television (though Shaw did not appear in the feature film version).

Shaw had small roles in Sea Fury (1958) and Libel (1959) and guest-starred on William Tell, ITV Television Playhouse, The Four Just Men, and Danger Man. He was also appearing in TV plays like The Dark Man, Misfire and The Train Set.

In 1961, he appeared in a Broadway production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker alongside Donald Pleasence and Alan Bates. Shaw replaced Peter Woodthorpe, who had performed with the others on stage in London. It ran for 165 performances. He had good roles in The Valiant, a war film, and Tomorrow at Ten (both 1962), a thriller. Shaw played the leads in TV versions of The Winter's Tale and The Father (both 1962). He, Pleasence, and Bates reprised their performances in a film version of The Caretaker (1963); Shaw was part of the consortium who helped finance the latter.


Shaw's first novel, The Hiding Place, published in 1960, received positive reviews. His second novel The Sun Doctor (1961), was awarded the Hawthornden Prize in 1962.

Film fame

Shaw became well known as a film actor when cast as assassin Donavan Grant in the second James Bond film, From Russia with Love (1963). For TV he adapted and appeared in a production of A Florentine Tragedy (1963), and was Claudius in Hamlet at Elsinore (1964) with Christopher Plummer. He played the title role in The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964), shot in Canada alongside Mary Ure, who became his second wife. He had a role in Carol for Another Christmas (1964). Shaw later said of his early career, "I could have been a straight leading man but that struck me as a boring life."

In 1964, Shaw returned to Broadway in a production of The Physicists directed by Peter Brook but it only ran for 55 performances. "I want very much to avoid doing bad commercial pictures for lots of money", he said. "It's difficult to avoid with six kids and two wives." Shaw then embarked on a trilogy of novels – The Flag (1965), The Man in the Glass Booth (1967) and A Card from Morocco (1969). He also adapted The Hiding Place into a screenplay for the film Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious starring Sir Alec Guinness.

Shaw was the relentless panzer German Army officer Colonel Hessler in Battle of the Bulge (1965), produced by Philip Yordan; a young Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons (1966), which earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; General George Armstrong Custer in Custer of the West (1967), again for Yordan; Martin Luther in Luther (1968); and top billed in another film version of Pinter, The Birthday Party (1968), directed by William Friedkin.

The Man in the Glass Booth

His play The Man in the Glass Booth was a success in London in 1967. It transferred to Broadway the following year and was a hit, running for 264 performances. His adaptation for the stage of The Man in the Glass Booth 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 UK and the US, some critics praising Shaw's "sly, deft and complex examination of the moral issues of nationality and identity", others sharply critical of Shaw's treatment of such a sensitive subject.

Shaw was one of many stars in Battle of Britain (1969), with the role of Sailor Malan written specifically for him. He had the lead in The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969) and Figures in a Landscape (1970); his fee for the latter was reportedly $500,000.

In 1970, Shaw returned to Broadway playing the title role in Gantry, a musical adaptation of Elmer Gantry which ran for just one performance, despite co-starring Rita Moreno.

His play Cato Street, about the 1820 Cato Street Conspiracy, was produced for the first time in 1971 in London. He did Old Times on Broadway in 1971.

As an actor he appeared in A Town Called Bastard (1971), a spaghetti Western; Young Winston (1972), as Lord Randolph Churchill; A Reflection of Fear (1972); The Hireling (1973); had a cameo in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973); played mobster Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting (1973), a huge hit; was the subway-hijacker and hostage-taker "Mr. Blue" in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). "Most of the time about 50 times larger than the part," he later said.

He made his final appearance on Broadway, in a production of Dance of Death, in 1974.

The Man in the Glass Booth was further developed for the screen, but Shaw disapproved of the resulting screenplay and had his name removed from the credits. However, Shaw viewed the completed film before its release and asked to have his name reinstated. In 2002, director Arthur Hiller related Shaw's initial objection to the screenplay and his subsequent change of heart:

"When we decided that we needed more emotions in the film and leaned it towards that, we tried, obviously, to be honest to Robert Shaw, to keep that intellectual game-playing, but to create more of an emotional environment. And Robert Shaw became very disturbed. He did not like the idea and indeed, if you will watch the film, you will see that his name does not appear in the credits, nor does it even say, 'based on the play, The Man in the Glass Booth' because he wouldn’t let us do it. He just didn't like the idea until he saw the film. Then he phoned Eddie Anhalt, the screenwriter, and congratulated him because he thought it was—just kept the tone he wanted and did it so well. And he phoned Mort Abrahams the Executive Producer to see if he could get his name put on the final credits. But it was too late to restore his name, all the prints were all made."

Film stardom

Shaw achieved his greatest film stardom to date after playing the shark-obsessed fisherman Quint in Jaws (1975).

He followed this with End of the Game (1975); Diamonds (1975), because "I wanted to play a wonderfully elegant Englishman"; Robin and Marian (1976); Swashbuckler (1976); playing the lighthouse keeper and treasure-hunter Romer Treece in The Deep (1977), for which his fee was $650,000; and as Israeli Mossad agent David Kabakov in Black Sunday (1977).

During filming Force 10 from Navarone (1978) Shaw said "I'm seriously thinking that this might be my last film... I no longer have anything real to say. I'm appalled at some of the lines... I'm not at ease in film. I can't remember the last film I enjoyed making." He made one more movie, Avalanche Express (1979). He said he would use this to pay off his taxes, then focus on writing and making the "occasional small film".

Personal life

Shaw was married three times and had 10 children, two of whom were adopted. His first wife was Jennifer Bourke from 1952 to 1963, with whom he had four daughters. His second wife was actress Mary Ure from 1963 to 1975, with whom he had four children, including daughters Elizabeth (born 1963) and Hannah (born 1966). He adopted son Colin (born 1961) from his wife's previous marriage to filmmaker and actor John Osborne; according to an interview with Colin, he was Shaw's son born during an affair while Ure was still married to Osborne. Shaw's son Ian (born 1969) also became an actor. This marriage ended with Ure's death from an overdose. His third and final wife was Virginia Jansen from 1976 until his death in 1978, with whom he had one son, Thomas, and adopted her son, Charles, from a previous relationship. Shaw's grandson (via his daughter Deborah and film producer Evzen Kolar) is American musician and composer Rob Kolar.

For the last seven years of his life, Shaw lived at Drimbawn House in Tourmakeady, County Mayo, Ireland. Like his father, Shaw was an alcoholic for most of his life.


Shaw died in Ireland at the age of 51 from a heart attack on 28 August 1978, while driving from Castlebar, County Mayo, to his home in Tourmakeady. He suddenly became ill, stopped the car, stepped out, and then collapsed and died on the roadside. He was rushed to Castlebar General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He had just completed acting in the film Avalanche Express. His body was cremated and its ashes scattered near his home in Tourmakeady. A stone memorial to him was unveiled there in his honour in August 2008.

Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw memorial in Tourmakeady, County Mayo, Ireland, near the location where he died

Robert Shaw

Closeup of the text

Robert Shaw

View of the pier at the site


Shaw has a pub named after him in his birthplace of Westhoughton.

Villain Sebastian Shaw from the X-Men comics is named and modelled after Shaw.





He became the second actor to be nominated to the 39th Academy Awards for playing Henry VIII of England in the film A Man for All Seasons (1966). He was also nominated to the 24th Golden Globe Awards for the same role.


1965The Incredible World of James BondTV Movie documentaryJack Haley Jr.Ian FlemingJack Haley Jr.Alexander ScourbySean ConneryUrsula Andress
1979A Little RomanceuncreditedGeorge Roy HillAllan BurnsPatrick CauvinLaurence OlivierDiane LaneThelonious Bernard
1981Years of LightningTV Series documentary   
1983Bonds Are ForeverVideo documentary  Maud AdamsWoody AllenUrsula Andress
2000Terence Young: Bond VivantVideo documentary shortJohn Cork Richard GraydonMichael G. WilsonUrsula Andress
2000Inside 'From Russia with Love'Video documentary shortJohn Cork Ken AdamPedro Armendáriz Jr.John Barry (composer)
2002E! True Hollywood StoryTV Series documentary  Chip BolcikBeng Spies
2002ArenaTV Series documentary  Gavin MillarKenneth Tynan
2002Life and TimesTV Series documentary  Ann-Marie MacDonaldNorman Jewison
2002Best Ever BondTV Movie documentary  Roger MooreKen AdamMichael Apted
2005MythBustersTV Series documentary  Jamie HynemanAdam Savage
2005From Russia with LoveVideo Game Bruce FeirsteinIan FlemingSean ConneryNatasha BedingfieldJ. B. Blanc
2006Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs and BlockbustersDocumentaryBill CouturiéPeter BartPeter BartPeter BogdanovichPierce BrosnanDavid Brown (producer)
2006World of Robin HoodTV Movie documentary  Jonathan RossSimon FowlerJonas Armstrong
2007Ocean of FearTV Movie documentary  Richard Dreyfuss
2007Cinemassacre's Monster MadnessTV Series documentary  James RolfeMichael Reid McKay
2009Rove LiveTV Series  Rove McManusPeter HelliarCorinne Grant
2010Jaws: The Inside StoryTV Movie documentary  Richard DreyfussSteven Spielberg
201020 to 1TV Series documentary  Bert NewtonSami LukisRichard Wilkins
2011Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood RebelDocumentary  Roger CormanMartin ScorseseQuentin Tarantino
2011Edición Especial ColeccionistaTV Series  David Díaz
2013Don't Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Story of Richard D. ZanuckDocumentaryLaurent Bouzereau Richard D. ZanuckDarryl F. ZanuckVirginia Fox
2015Robert Shaw: Jaws, Deoch & DeoraDocumentaryBrian Reddin Michael Feeney CallanSarah Miles
1955Yorkshire SandsDocumentary short   
1957HolidayDocumentary shortJohn Taylor (documentary filmmaker)  
1962North to the DalesDocumentary short   
1963This Week in BritainTV Series documentary  Tommy Nutter
1965The Les Crane ShowTV Series  Les CraneOrson Bean
1966Kee and LevinTV Series  Robert Kee
1967The 32nd Annual New York Film Critics Circle AwardsTV Special  Lauren BacallMarlon BrandoCeleste Holm
1969The 23rd Annual Tony AwardsTV Special  Diahann CarrollAlan KingJack Albertson
1969The Battle for The Battle of BritainTV Movie documentary  Michael CaineWinston ChurchillHarry Saltzman
1970OmnibusTV Series documentary  Humphrey BurtonDavid CollingsMichael Hordern
1971ParkinsonTV Series  Michael ParkinsonBilly Connolly
1969-1971The David Frost ShowTV Series  David FrostTiny Tim (musician)
1972Film NightTV Series  Sheridan MorleyTony Bilbow
1971-1972The Dick Cavett ShowTV Series  Dick CavettBobby RosengardenFred Foy
1967-1975The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonTV Series  Johnny CarsonEd McMahon
1972-1975The Mike Douglas ShowTV Series  Mike Douglas
1975Dinah!TV Series  Dinah ShoreCharles Nelson ReillyBetty White
1976The 48th Annual Academy AwardsTV SpecialMarty PasettaHal KanterBuz KohanGoldie HawnGene KellyWalter Matthau
1976A Pirate Ship Sails Again! The Making of SwashbucklerDocumentary short  Marvin Miller (actor)Geneviève Bujold
1976A New Look at the Legend of Robin Hood and Maid MarianDocumentary short  Sean ConneryAudrey Hepburn
1977The Making of 'The Deep'TV Movie documentaryChuck Workman Jacqueline BissetNick Nolte
1995Behind the Scenes with 'Thunderball'Video documentaryJohn Cork Ken AdamUrsula AndressClaudine Auger
1956Doublecrossdialect adviserAnthony SquireAnthony SquireDonald HoustonFay ComptonAnton Diffring
1967Custer of the Westlyrics: "FOLLOW CUSTER"Robert SiodmakBernard Gordon (writer)Mary UreTy Hardin
1975Jawsperformer: "Show Me The Way To Go Home", "Spanish Ladies" - uncreditedSteven SpielbergPeter BenchleyCarl GottliebRoy ScheiderRichard Dreyfuss
1955Highway PatrolTV Series  Broderick CrawfordArt GilmoreWilliam Boyett
1960Playhouse 90TV Series  Dick JoyCharles BickfordKim Hunter
1960ITV Play of the WeekTV Series  Alfred BurkeDerek Francis
1964FestivalTV Series  Cyril CusackJohn Wood
1965Situation Hopeless -- But Not Seriousnovel "The Hiding Place"Gottfried ReinhardtJan LustigAlec GuinnessMike ConnorsRobert Redford
1968European EyeTV MovieLamont Johnson Mark Miller (actor)Michael RennieBarry Foster (actor)
1970Figures in a LandscapescreenplayJoseph Losey Malcolm McDowellHenry Woolf
1975The Man in the Glass Boothplay - uncreditedArthur Hiller Maximilian SchellLois NettletonLawrence Pressman
1947The Cherry OrchardTV Movie  Patricia Hilliard (actress)
1948Scenes from Twelfth Night and Macbeth/IITV MovieMichael Barry (television producer)Robert AtkinsRobert AtkinsRobert AtkinsPatricia Neal
1948Scenes from Twelfth Night and MacbethTV MovieMichael Barry (television producer)Robert AtkinsWilliam ShakespeareRobert AtkinsPatricia Neal
1951The Lavender Hill MobuncreditedCharles Crichton Alec GuinnessStanley HollowaySid James
1952A Time to Be BornTV Movie  Lyndon BrookGeorge Coulouris
1955The Dam BustersMovieMichael AndersonPaul BrickhillRichard ToddMichael RedgraveUrsula Jeans
1955BBC Sunday-Night TheatreTV Series  Richard CaldicotGeorge Woodbridge (actor)Robert Brown (British actor)
1956The Scarlet PimpernelTV Series  Marius GoringAnthony Newlands
1956DoublecrossMovieAnthony SquireAnthony SquireDonald HoustonFay ComptonAnton Diffring
1956Hell in KoreaMovieJulian Charles Becket AmyesMax CattoIan DalrympleStephen BoydRonald LewisGeorge Baker
1957Hindle WakesTV Movie  Edward Chapman (actor)
1956-1957The BuccaneersTV Series  Paul HansardBrian Rawlinson
1957SuccessTV Movie  Geraldine McEwanLana Morris
1957Rupert of HentzauTV Movie  Sarah LawsonJohn Westbrook (actor)
1958White HunterTV Series  Rhodes ReasonHarry Baird (actor)
1958Sea FuryMovieCy EndfieldJohn KruseCy EndfieldStanley BakerVictor McLaglenLuciana Paluzzi
1958Dial 999TV Series  Robert BeattyJohn WittyMichael Collins (English actor)
1959William TellTV Series  Conrad PhillipsWilloughby GoddardJennifer Jayne
1959Theatre NightTV Series  Cicely CourtneidgeEvelyn LayeDora Bryan
1959LibelMovieAnthony AsquithAnatole de GrunwaldKarl TunbergDirk BogardeOlivia de HavillandPaul Massie
1960Armchair TheatreTV Series  Harry H. CorbettBillie WhitelawNeil McCallum (actor)
1960The Four Just MenTV Series  Richard ConteDan DaileyJack Hawkins
1957-1960ITV Television PlayhouseTV Series  Campbell SingerThomas HeathcoteDinsdale Landen
1960Danger ManTV Series  Patrick McGoohanRichard WattisLionel Murton
1960The Dark ManTV MovieDon Taylor Earl Cameron (actor)Barbara Clegg
1961The Train SetTV MovieDon Taylor Roy Holder
1962The ValiantMovieRoy Ward BakerGiorgio CapitaniJohn MillsEttore ManniRoberto Risso
1962The Winter's TaleTV MovieDon Taylor Rosalie CrutchleyPatrick Macnee
1962Thirty Minute TheatreTV Series   
1962The FatherTV Movie August StrindbergDaphne SlaterDenis Quilley
1963Tomorrow at TenMovieLance Comfort John GregsonAlec Clunes
1963The GuestMovieClive Donner Alan BatesDonald Pleasence
1963Temple HoustonTV Series  Jeffrey HunterJack ElamFrank Ferguson
1963From Russia with LoveMovieTerence YoungRichard MaibaumJohanna HarwoodSean ConneryLotte Lenya
1964FestivalTV Series  Cyril CusackJohn Wood
1964Hamlet at ElsinoreTV MoviePhilip Saville Christopher PlummerAlec Clunes
1964The Luck of Ginger CoffeyMovieIrvin KershnerBrian Moore (novelist)Brian Moore (novelist)Mary UreLiam Redmond
1964Carol for Another ChristmasTV MovieJoseph L. Mankiewicz Percy RodriguezSterling HaydenBen Gazzara
1965Battle of the BulgeMovieKen AnnakinPhilip YordanMilton SperlingHenry FondaRobert Ryan
1966A Man for All SeasonsMovieFred ZinnemannRobert BoltRobert BoltPaul ScofieldWendy Hiller
1967Custer of the WestMovieRobert SiodmakBernard Gordon (writer)Mary UreTy Hardin
1968LutherTV MovieStuart BurgeJohn OsborneRobert MorleyMax Adrian
1968The Birthday PartyMovieWilliam Friedkin Patrick Magee (actor)Sydney Tafler
1969Battle of BritainMovieGuy HamiltonJames KennawayWilfred GreatorexMichael CaineTrevor HowardHarry Andrews
1969The Royal Hunt of the SunMovieIrving LernerPeter ShafferPhilip YordanChristopher PlummerNigel Davenport
1970Figures in a LandscapeMovieJoseph Losey Malcolm McDowellHenry Woolf
1971A Town Called HellMovie  Telly SavalasStella Stevens
1972Young WinstonMovieRichard AttenboroughWinston ChurchillCarl ForemanSimon WardAnne Bancroft
1972A Reflection of FearMovieWilliam A. FrakerEdward HumeLewis John CarlinoSally KellermanMary Ure
1973The HirelingMovieAlan BridgesWolf MankowitzL. P. HartleySarah MilesPeter Egan
1973The Golden Voyage of SinbaduncreditedGordon HesslerBrian ClemensBrian ClemensJohn Phillip LawCaroline MunroTom Baker
1973The StingMovieGeorge Roy Hill Paul NewmanRobert Redford
1960-1974ITV Play of the WeekTV Series  Alfred BurkeDerek Francis
1974The Wide World of MysteryTV Series  John KarlenJoel FabianiPhilip Carey
1974The Taking of Pelham One Two ThreeMovieJoseph SargentMorton FreedgoodPeter StoneWalter MatthauMartin Balsam
1975JawsMovieSteven SpielbergPeter BenchleyCarl GottliebRoy ScheiderRichard Dreyfuss
1975Murder on the BridgeMovieMaximilian SchellFriedrich DürrenmattMaximilian SchellJon VoightJacqueline BissetMartin Ritt
1975DiamondsMovieMenahem GolanMenahem GolanDavid PaulsenRichard RoundtreeBarbara Hershey
1976Robin and MarianMovieRichard Lester Sean ConneryAudrey Hepburn
1976SwashbucklerMovieJames GoldstoneJeffrey BloomJames Earl JonesPeter Boyle
1977Black SundayMovieJohn FrankenheimerThomas HarrisErnest LehmanBruce DernMarthe Keller
1977The DeepMoviePeter YatesPeter BenchleyPeter BenchleyJacqueline BissetNick NolteDick Anthony Williams
1978Force 10 from NavaroneMovieGuy HamiltonAlistair MacLeanRobin ChapmanHarrison FordEdward Fox
1979Avalanche ExpressMovie Abraham PolonskyRaymond Harold SawkinsLee MarvinLinda Evans
2000Jaws: Deleted ScenesVideo shortSteven SpielbergPeter BenchleyCarl GottliebRoy Scheider
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 24 Jul 2019. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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