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Screenplays and Adaptations

Robert was often used as a script doctor, most famously on Jaws, but from time to time he adapted novels for the screen and had his work adapted by others. Let's take a look...

"Bloody Shaw's just read me his book and I just think to myself, why can't I write like that?" - Philip Broadley


1964 BBC production of A Florentine Tragedy by Oscar Wilde.

Date of transmission: Wednesday 11 March 1964

Time: 9.25-10.20pm

Director: Herbert Wise

Producer: Peter Luke

Playwright: Oscar Wilde

Writer: Thomas Sturge Moore (1870-1944) (wrote the opening scene for this unfinished play)

Adapted for Television by: Robert Shaw

Musician: Julian Bream 

Sets / Settings: Marilyn Taylor

Costume Designer: Olive Harris

Make-up Supervisor: Lilias Munro

Fight Arranger: William Hobbs

Story Editor: Harry Moore


Ann Beach - Maria

Alex Davion - Guido Bardi

Robert Shaw - Simone

Mary Ure - Bianca


A Florentine Tragedy

Robert and Mary rehearsing on the set.


Theatrical Trailer


The option agreement Robert signed for his novel "The Hiding Place" to be used as the basis for the screenplay.

Situation hopless...but not serious

1965 Adapted Screenplay by Jan Lustig & Sylvia Reinhardt from the novel "The Hiding Place" by Robert Shaw

In World War II, two American fliers, Captain Hank Wilson and Sergeant Lucky Finder, are forced to bail out over Germany. They encounter Wilhelm Frick, who hides them from the authorities in his cellar. He enjoys their company so much that he does not inform them when the war ends.


Instead, he maintains a masquerade to convince his "guests" that Germany is still fighting. Eventually, after seven years, they escape into a peaceful West Germany and find out the truth.


Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious is a 1965 comedy film directed by Gottfried Reinhardt and starring Alec GuinnessMike Connors and Robert Redford. It is based on the novel The Hiding Place by Robert Shaw.

The title is a variation of an old Viennese saying; "The situation is desperate but not serious."


Figures in a Landscape was Barry England's first novel. Published by Jonathan Cape in the summer of 1968, it was hailed by critics as an exemplary addition to the literature of escape. Two professional soldiers, Ansell and MacConnachie, have escaped from a column of POWs in an unnamed country in the tropics. Safety across the border lies 400 miles away; in the meantime, they must make their way through alien territory, battling the climate and the terrain as well as the enemy's soldiers and helicopters. The Times called the book "a fiercely masochistic accomplishment" and concluded another review as follows:

"Barry England's prose has the tough, spare elegance of steel scaffolding. His vocabulary is wide, and used with arresting precision. The speed of the narrative is impeccably controlled - long slogs over country, moments of blind panic, passages of demoralizing inactivity, hair-raising evasions, all building up to a central set-piece in a burning field. On all levels, Figures in a Landscape is a brilliant achievement." -- Roger Baker in the Times, June 08, 1968.

Figures in a Landscape was nominated for the inaugural Booker Prize (losing out to PH Newby's Something to Answer For) but won the Author's Club First Novel Award

Robert Shaw as well as starring in the film adapted the novel and wrote the screenplay.

"Throughout their ordeal, the men come to know each other better though Shaw's screenplay, perhaps not coincidentally, gives his character far meatier material than McDowell gets to work with. Shaw is at his best in the quiet sequences, reminiscing about his beloved wife who waits for his return home." - The Guardian


1975 Adapted screenplay by Edward Anhalt from the novel and play by Robert Shaw


The Man in the Glass Booth is a 1975 American drama film directed by Arthur Hiller. The film was produced and released as part of the American Film Theatre, which adapted theatrical works for a subscription cinema series.


The screenplay was adapted from Robert Shaw's 1967 novel and 1968 stage play, both of the same name. The novel was the second in a trilogy of novels, preceded by The Flag (1965), and followed by A Card from Morocco (1969).

The plot was inspired by the kidnap and trial of the German Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonelAdolf Eichmann, who was one of the major organisers of the Holocaust.

Full Length Version of the film.

As The Man in the Glass Booth was developed for the screen, Shaw disapproved of the screenplay and had his name removed from the credits. Shaw viewed the completed film before its release and asked to have his name reinstated. In 2002, director Arthur Hiller related Shaw's objection to the screenplay and his 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."


Robert Shaw is probably the main reason for Jaws being one of my favourite films of all time, mainly of course for a scene that is three and half minutes of near-perfection. Shaw steals the scene effortlessly, aided by a few whiskeys of course. the famous Indianapolis scene of rich dialogue without a cut is quite special and yet tragic to think that Robert Shaw died of a heart attack only 3 years after this magnificent performance as Quint.

There has been so much mythology surrounding this scene; about authorship, what was improvised, what was scripted but an interview with Spielberg on Ain’t It Cool News is quite enlightening.

Steven Spielberg advised that Howard Sackler, who was an uncredited writer, didn’t want a credit and didn’t arbitrate for one, but he’s the guy that broke the back of the script before we ever got to Martha’s Vineyard to shoot the movie.

Howard one day said, “Quint needs some motivation to show all of us what made him the way he is and I think it’s this Indianapolis incident.” I said, “Howard, what’s that?” And he explained the whole incident of the Indianapolis and the Atomic Bomb being delivered and on its way back it was sunk by a submarine and sharks surrounded the helpless sailors who had been cast adrift and it was just a horrendous piece of World War II history. Howard didn’t write a long speech, he probably wrote about three-quarters of a page.

But then, when I showed the script to my friend John Milius, John said “Can I take a crack at this speech?” and John wrote a 10 page monologue, that was absolutely brilliant, but out-sized for the Jaws I was making! But it was brilliant and then Robert Shaw took the speech and Robert did the cut down. Robert himself was a fine writer, who had written the play The Man in the Glass Booth. Robert took a crack at the speech and he brought it down to five pages. So, that was sort of the evolution just of that speech.

the u.s.s. indianapolis speech


“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.

Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’ by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and sometimes that shark he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away.

Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.

You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist.

At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol’ fat PBY come down and started 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 into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

jaws co-writer carl gottlieb explains how it was robert who crafted one of the most famous speeches in movie history.

robert's legendary performance is brought further to life with this amazing visualisation.

"We owe Robert Shaw a great debt for writing that speech."

- Surviving USS Indianapolis Crewman

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