Lorraine Gary is an American actress best known for her role as Sheriff Brody’s spouse Ellen in the film ‘Jaws’ and its sequels. She does not have a large body of work to her credit but her performance in the iconic blockbuster ‘Jaws’ is enough to ensure that she will never be forgotten. Her passion for acting goes back to her school days. She started acting when she was in primary school. She continued excelling as an actress and won the best actress award in an acting competition when she was in high school. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she got work in television shows doing guest appearances. Her big break in film came with ‘Jaws’ which catapulted her to fame. However, her career did not take off after this as expected. Films came few and far between. She also took a break to raise her two sons. She acted in two more ‘Jaws’ films before calling it quits. Gary was married to Sid Sheinberg, one of the most influential men in Hollywood. However, she says that her marriage sometimes acted against her favor. After retiring from films, Gary has been active in social causes like spreading awareness about AIDS, women’s empowerment and education for girls.
Lorraine Gary started her acting career in television in 1967. She did guest appearances in TV shows, such as ‘Dragnet’, ‘The Virginian’, ‘McCloud’ and ‘Night Gallery’. After working in TV shows for a few years, Gary was offered the role that was to make her famous. She was cast as the wife of police officer Brody in the 1975 film ‘Jaws,’ directed by Steven Spielberg. The part of Sheriff Brody, her husband in the film, was played by Roy Schneider (also spelled as “Scheider”). Their incredible onscreen chemistry and Gary’s empathetic portrayal of Ellen Brody made sure that her name was forever associated with this film and the sequels that followed.
After this film, she did minor roles in films like ‘Car Wash’ (1976) and ‘I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’ (1977). Soon, there were talks of a sequel to ‘Jaws’ and Gary reprised her role in the 1978 sequel and gave yet another memorable performance. Gary recalled in an interview that though ‘Jaws’ and ‘Jaws 2’ were both hits, they did nothing for her career. After ‘Jaws 2,’ she acted in two other films ‘Just You and Me, Kid’ (1979) and another Spielberg-directed film ‘1941’ that tanked at the box office.
It was nine years before Gary was seen on screen again. In the meanwhile, she worked as a literary agent and served as a volunteer. In 1987, the film ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ was released. It featured Lorraine Gary in the lead role of a now-widowed Ellen Brody. Though ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ was panned by the critics and hated by the audience as one of the worst sequels ever made, Gary’s portrayal of a 50-year-old widow in the film was appreciated by all.
Newspapers gossip columns also raised issues of nepotism. It was alleged that her husband, who was the head of Universal studios then, had written the original script. Amidst the terrible box office performance of the film and charges of nepotism, Gary decided that it was time to quit acting and retired from films for good.
Post her departure from films, Gary invested her time heavily in social causes. She has produced an educational video series for ‘Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Advisory Committee’. Lorraine Gary and her husband Sidney Sheinberg were awarded the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Humanitarian Award in 1995.
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Family & Personal Life
Lorraine Gary was born on August 16, 1937, at Forest Hills, Queens, New York. Her parents were Betty and George Gottfried. Her father was a manager in the entertainment industry. Her original name was Lorraine Gottfried but she changed her surname to “Gary” for her professional career.
Gary’s family moved to Los Angeles while she was quite young. She started acting when she was only eight. By 16, she had won the best actress award in an acting competition at the Pasadena Playhouse. Following her win, the Pasadena Playhouse gave her a scholarship but she chose to go to Columbia University instead.
Lorraine Gary met Sidney Sheinberg when she was a political science student at Columbia University and he was a struggling lawyer. She got married to him in her sophomore year at the age of 19. Motherhood followed soon and she gave birth to two sons, Bill and Jonathan. Like their parents, Bill and Jonathan also work in the film industry and are film producers. Her husband expired in 2019.