The seventh of March, 2011: farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies

The happiness of the late-night channel-hopper, #1: Jaws (Spielberg, 1975). It was being shown not long before midnight on a godawful channel that I can’t bring myself to name, and I was too late for some of the best bits (the reverse dolly zoom shot, and the severed head) – but I was in time for the best bit. Quint’s monologue.

Sadly, copyright patrollers are cretins, and thanks to the dutiful copyright patrollers at NBC Universal, I can’t find any decent-quality clips online. Bah!

Still, here’s the monologue (thanks to Rick Tran at the excellent Monologue Blog):

Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. It was comin’ back, from the island of Tinian Delady, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know, you know that when you’re in the water, chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail.

Well, we didn’t know. `Cause our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it’s kinda like `ol squares in battle like a, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark nearest man and then he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.

Y’know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I don’t know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, bosun’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He’d a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again.

So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

Screenplay archaeologists at the similarly excellent Unwritten By blog chart the development of the piece: written by Benchley and/or Howard Sackler; expanded by Benchley, Carl Gottlieb and Apocalypse Now nutjob genius John Milius; refined to perfection (after, I gather, a fair few failed takes) by Robert Shaw – Quint himself.

This is the only part of Jaws where I’m not distracted by Shaw’s striking resemblance to Michael Palin in comedy whiskers.

Robert Shaw was a brilliant actor (while being, at the same time, a massive, massive ham – how did he do that?). I was surprised to learn that he was born on the outskirts of Bolton. I was less surprised to learn that he was a lifelong boozer (“Will you tell me one great actor who doesn’t drink?”). He also wrote novels, had nine children, and went off with John Osborne’s wife. Now that’s a movie star. Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women, indeed.

Quint’s story is, of course, a true story.

Addendum, half an hour later: was idly googling Quint’s song (and today’s title), Farewell and Adieu… and I happened upon this: it’s Roger (née Jim) McGuinn, out of The Byrds! Playing a lot of strange old folk songs! For free! With lyrics and chords! Including, of course, Farewell and Adieu Unto You, Spanish Ladies.


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