Welcome to a special edition of The Silver Screen. Jaws ranks among the top blockbusters of all time, and when adjusted for inflation, ranks at number seven on the top ten list of all movies ever produced, grossing in today's dollars over $1 billion in domestic boxoffice alone (again, adjusted for inflation). That means that the number of tickets sold for the film has only six titles ahead of it. Jaws started the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster, which changed the film industry forever. It also introduced into the blockbuster arena a young director named Steven Spielberg (though he had directed before Jaws), who had Universal quite concerned as the film ran into so many problems on the set. Still, the team forged ahead to produce what is still one of the most terrifying terror/adventures of all time.
Universal has remastered, frame by frame, the entire film under the supervision of Steven Spielberg. The release promises to become one of the best selling Blu-rays of the year. Added are new extra features and a remastered soundtrack, with the music score taken directly from the 35mm music stems. For this column, I have a co-writer. His name is Mike Smith and has been a Jaws fanatic (and I mean that in the best way) since the film was released. He has also worked within the industry to help create the new documentary on the release, "The Shark is Still Working." Also of great help was renowned Jaws memorabilia collector Jim Beller, who owns what might be the largest collection of movie memorabilia for a single film. My heartfelt thanks to both of them for helping to make this column as good as I hope you will find it. So sit back, and take a trip down the Jaws memory lane. Don't forget, on many graphics you may left click to enlarge them and on selected graphics, a double left click will make very small print easy to read.
In early 1973, Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, brought home a manuscript of a soon to be published book that she was considering excerpting in an upcoming issue.. Her husband, film producer David Brown, saw the title "Jaws" and began to read. Within days, he and his partner, Richard Zanuck, began negotiations for the movie rights with author Peter Benchley. With the rights secured, Universal Pictures runs a full page ad in late 1973. Jaws is on its way.
Author Peter Benchley
The original paperback, paperback release after the movie's release.
Having secured the rights to the novel, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown sat down with Benchley to interview prospective directors. Brown is convinced that a "trained" shark can be used, which Benchley immediately points out is impossible. A director is hired. In his book, "Let Me Entertain You," Brown refuses to name the director because he doesn't want to embarrass him. (From what I've been able to glean from conversations with such Jaws insiders as production designer Joe Alves and co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, the director in question may or may not be Dick Richards ("The Culpepper Cattle Company," "Farewell My Lovely." He also earned an Oscar nomination as one of the producers of "Tootsie.")
In pre-production meetings, the director kept referring to the shark as "the whale," which drove Benchley crazy. With time running out to start filming before a possible Screen Actor's Guild strike, Zanuck and Brown turned to 26-year-old Steven Spielberg. They had just produced his first feature film, "The Sugarland Express," and were very comfortable in working with him. Spielberg seems to "get" the idea of the film and Benchley is generally pleased with his hiring.
Promotion from Universal
With a director hired, it was now time to find the cast. Universal suggested Charlton Heston for.the role of Police Chief Martin Brody. However, having recently saved an airplane in "Airport '75" and the entire city of Los Angeles in "Earthquake," Spielberg passed. He felt that having Heston in the role would signal to moviegoers that the shark had no chance. Spielberg wanted Robert Duvall. After reading the script, Duvall indicated that he would like to play Quint. However, with other actors in mind for that role, Spielberg told him no. The previous year Spielberg had been introduced to Roy Scheider at a Christmas party. Scheider recalled that he overheard Spielberg talking to screenwriter Tracey Keenan Wynn about a film he was going to do. When he heard about a giant shark leaping out of the water and crashing onto a boat he just shook his head, thinking "good luck, guys."
Spielberg recalled Scheider's Oscar nominated work in "The French Connection" and decided that the cop Scheider played in that film would be just the kind of cop to leave New York City and become Chief of Police on Amity Island. Universal was wary and only cast Scheider after he agreed to sign a three picture deal, thereby having him available for future sequels if necessary. More on what what happened with that contract later.
With Roy Scheider signed to play Brody, director Spielberg turned his attention to filling the role of oceanographer Matt Hooper. In the novel, Hooper was not only an expert on sharks, he also had his way with the ladies, including an affair with Chief Brody's wife. Thankfully, that part of the story was completely tossed out.
Spielberg's first choice was Richard Dreyfuss, who had just made a splash in George Lucas's "American Graffiti." Dreyfuss turned down the part. Twice. Thinking Dreyfuss was out of the picture, Spielberg held talks with such up and coming actors as Joel Grey, Jon Voight and Jeff Bridges. Hot off of "Graffiti," Dreyfuss had recently completed his first starring role in the Canadian film "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravatz." When "Duddy" premiered in Montreal, Dreyfuss saw the film for the first time and was convinced that he was so terrible he would never work again. According to Dreyfuss, he called Spielberg in a panic and "begged for the part in Jaws. because I knew I better have a job when this film came out." Of course, Dreyfuss was praised for his work in "Duddy" and his casting in Jaws was seen as a stroke of genius. With two parts cast, it was time to find Captain Quint.
Universal City News announcing its schedule
Spielberg contacted Sterling Hayden, his first choice for the role of Captain Quint. Best known as the crooked police captain shot by Al Pacino in "The Godfather," Hayden, living in Paris and writing novels, explains that, due to tax problems, he is unable to accept the role. Due to past problems with the IRS, any income Hayden earned from acting was subject to being grabbed by the government. However, as an author his book royalties were untouchable. Spielberg toys with the idea of "buying" a novel from Hayden and having him act for free but soon figures out that the IRS would figure it out. He then turns to gruff actor Lee Marvin. Marvin tells him that he would rather hunt for sharks then make a movie with them. Shot down by his two dream choices, Spielberg consults with producers Zanuck and Brown. Brown suggests an actor they just finished working with in the Oscar-winning best picture of 1973, "The Sting."
Czeck Republic poster
As Doyle Lonnegan, the mobster who gets "stung," Robert Shaw showed a quiet power that would fit the role of Quint well. Oscar nominated for his work in "A Man for All Seasons," Shaw also was known for portraying villain Red Grant in "From Russia With Love." and had just completed "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." He was also an accomplished playwright. Among his works is "The Man in the Glass Booth." Being a British citizen, Shaw too would be under the watchful eye of the IRS. He is offered the role and accepts only after it is agreed that, any day he wasn't needed on the set, he could go to Montreal or the Bahamas, thereby not being in America and drawing a penalty against his work visa. Now that the leads have been cast, Spielberg turns to casting the rest of the film. Incidentally, Peter Benchley also had ideas on who he wanted cast. Sadly, we'll never know how Brody, Hooper and Quint would have fared if played by Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen.
Jaws made headlines around the world
With the three lead roles cast, director Spielberg turned to filling out the rest of the cast. Producer Richard Zanuck had offered the role of Ellen Brody to his wife, Linda Harrison, unaware that "Universal Studios president Sid Shienberg had offered the part to HIS wife, actress Lorraine Gary. According to Mr. Zanuck, to smooth things out, Shienberg picked up the telephone and called the producer of the upcoming film Airport 1975, William Fryer. "Bill," Shienberg said, "you've got another passenger on your airplane." Tony-nominated stage actor Murray Hamilton, whose limited film work included "The Way We Were" and "The Graduate" (he was Mr. Robinson) was hired to portray Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn. The rest of the cast was filled by mostly newcomers and local talent. Jeffrey C. Kramer was hired to play deputy Hendricks, stunt woman Susan Backlinie, who spent several days being towed back and forth, played Christie Watkins, the first victim of the shark. Local boys Chris Rebello and Jay Mello were hired to play the Brody children while Lee Fierro was chosen to play the grieving Mrs. Kintner. Local fisherman Craig Kingsbury not only got the plum role of fisherman Ben Gardner, but he was a sounding board for Robert Shaw, who based his Quint performance in part on Kingsbury. A lot of Quint also came from local captain Lynn Murphy.
Jaws was even featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
With a cast and director in place, all that was needed was a completed script. Book author Benchley submitted a draft but, like most screenplays submitted by novelists, it was too "literal" in its story. In Hollywood, "literal" means BORING. Enter Carl Gottlieb. A member of the famed San Francisco comedy troupe "The Committee," Gottlieb had won a writing Emmy Award for his work on the Smothers Brothers television show. Gottlieb was also an actor, having appeared on various television shows as well as the film "M*A*S*H." Originally hired to play Ben Meadows, the editor of the Amity Gazette, on April 22 1974 he officially became the "script doctor," often working up scenes with Spielberg and writing them overnight for the next day.
An autographed copy of the script.
Though he and Benchley shared screenplay credit on the film, he never collaborated with him. "I never sat in the same room with Peter Benchley," he told an interviewer once. The pace that Spielberg set was grueling. On more than one occasion a member of the crew would ask him, "You guys are making this up as you go along, aren't you?" As a final piece of irony, Gottlieb noticed that as he tightened up the script his character, who was a major player in the novel, kept having less and less to do. Fans of Jaws trivia know that, as originally shot, Meadows accompanied Brody and Hooper out to sea when they discovered Ben Gardner's mangled boat. To make it more suspenseful, Spielberg re-set the scene to a nighttime setting and re-shot it later with just the two main characters, but not before Mr. Gottlieb suffered the indignity of falling overboard.
At the end of April, 1974, the cast and crew arrived on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Best known at the time of being the home of the bridge Ted Kennedy drove off of, the town had no idea of what was about to take place. On May 2, filming began. The first scenes shot were of Police Chief Brody and a young man searching the beach for his missing girlfriend. Playing the young man was Jonathan Filley, a local boy who had auditioned and charmed his way into the part. Several different takes were filmed as the two men discussed everything from college to the cost of renting a house on the island. A longer version of the scene in the film can be found in the out takes section of the Jaws laser disc boxed set and special edition DVD. While Jaws marked the beginning and end of Filley's on screen career, he remained in the business and is a well respected production assistant. 30 years after they first worked together Filley and Spielberg reunited when Jonathan was hired as the head production assistant on the film, "War of the Worlds."
With filming beginning in earnest the biggest obstacle facing the production was the upcoming summer season. Like the fictional town of Amity, Martha's Vineyard generates most of its business from the tourists that flock there to enjoy a little fun in the Massachusetts sun. Many sets, like Quint's shack, had to be up, filmed and torn down as quickly as possible, lest the offending structures draw a fine from the local governments. With such celebrities as Ruth Gordon, Carly Simon, James Taylor and others living there, the film company didn't seem that exciting to most of the islanders. In fact, Ruth Gordon turned down an offer to cameo in the film as a woman whose valet carries her out to the water for her swim. Many of the islands inhabitants found a way to earn extra money by appearing as background extras. Of the many locals that appeared in the film, one stands out: Craig Kingsbury, who was so much like Quint that Robert Shaw based his performance on him. According to Carl Gottlieb, when Kingsbury's wife Gertrude heard that the production was looking for "a filthy, nasty, foulmouthed fisherman" she told her husband "you have it made." Mr. Kingsbury died in 2002 at the age of 89.
Lobby Card set.
With filming underway, many on the set waited anxiously for the film's "star" to arrive. Having been convinced that, a.) 25 foot long great white sharks were hard to come by and, b.) that even if you found one, they wouldn't be very easy to train, the production ordered the construction of a mechanical shark. It was up to production designer Joe Alves to design the ultimate man eater. According to author Nigel Andrews, there are a series of drawings in the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that have never been released to the public. Alves idea was to create a monster...a Moby Dick with teeth. Among the sketches is a shark's eye view of an attack, as seen from inside the shark, looking out through the teeth. Alves used this effect to some success when he directed the 3-D film, "Jaws 3."
Robert Mattey, who had designed and built the giant squid seen in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," was commissioned to do the same for the shark. Three sharks, nicknamed "Bruce" after Spielberg's lawyer, Bruce Ramer, were built. They each measured 25 feet long. Two of the sharks were "side" sharks. Basically a left side shark and a right side shark. These could be used when only one side of the shark needed to be visible. The third shark was complete. When he wasn't needed on the set, Bruce was kept hidden under a veil of secrecy.
Spielberg was furious when a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor took a couple of unauthorized photos of the shark and security was beefed up so that the mystery of the shark was maintained. Of course, with every good idea a few bad things must befall you. The constant submersion in salt water wreaked havoc with the pneumatic tubing used to control the shark and, as Richard Dreyfuss likes to relate when he talks about the film, the air was often filled with the crackle of radios proclaiming, "The Shark is not working." However, these problems proved to be a plus to the production, with director Spielberg having to convey the fear and anxiety of the shark without having it in the scene. A true confirmation of the statement "less is more."
The comic magazines all featured Jaws, some more than once.
Back to filming, we come upon the production of the opening scene. As written in the script, beautiful Christine "Chrissie" Watkins leads her new friend on a run along the beach before stripping off her clothes and running into the ocean for a swim. Her friend much too drunk to follow her, she swims out alone and is attacked. Stunt woman Susan Backlinie was chosen for the part and she certainly fit Chrissie's description. After bravely stripping off her clothes and running into the ocean naked in front of the film crew (director Spielberg shot the scene "day for night," meaning that while it looks like it's night time on screen it was actually broad daylight when the scene was shot) Backlinie was then put into a harness that had a rope on either side. Those ropes were handled off camera by a group of assistants who, on cue, would literally conduct a "tug of war" by pulling Backlinie from one side to the other, seemingly simulating the shark's attack. In a homage' to himself, Spielberg featured Backlinie in the opening scene of "1941" where the actress was again attacked in the water, this time by a submarine. In 1976, Backlinie was again the first victim to be attacked when she appeared in one of the Jaws inspired (see: rip off) films, "Grizzly."
More on-set photographs.
As May turned into June, Spielberg worked as best he could. With the sharks still not working properly he did his best to film as much of the "land" scenes as he could. However, things were not going well on land either. One night, after a night of drinking, Murray Hamilton was stumbling home through an alley when he came across a kitty cat. It was only after he'd bent down to pet it did he learn, the hard way, that he had just made the acquaintance of a skunk. The locals were also getting tired of Hollywood amongst their midst. One night, in protest, a dead shark was left in front of the films production office. As June slipped into July Spielberg realized he would never complete the film in the 55 days he was allotted. Fearing he would be fired, Spielberg decided to beat the studio to the punch and quit. Word got back to Dick Zanuck in California, who immediately flew east and surprised Spielberg on set dressed in a Jaws crew t-shirt. Zanuck's upbeat appearance invigorated Spielberg and he went back to work. For another three and a half months! Finally, in September 1974, Steven Spielberg yelled "cut" for the final time, boarded a crew boat for shore and vowed he would never return to Martha's Vineyard again. He hasn't.
Roy Scheider was born in Orange, New Jersey. Heavy as a child due to a battle with rheumatic fever, when he was well enough he through himself into the ocean and swam off the extra weight. He also took up boxing, competing in the local Golden Gloves competition. After studying drama at Franklin and Marshall College, he joined the US Air Force. Upon his discharge, he headed to New York City, where he was soon appearing in productions of the New York Shakespeare Festival. He soon won an Obie (off Broadway) award for his performance in the play, "Steven D." In 1962 he made his film debut in the horror film, "Curse of the Living Corpse." He worked successfully through the 60s in both film and television.
Roy Scheider publicity still
In 1971 he earned the rare distinction of supporting both Best Actor and Actress Oscar winners with roles in "The French Connection" and "Klute." For his work in "The French Connection" Scheider received his first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. After losing the role of Father Karras in "The Exorcist" to Jason Miller, Scheider appeared in "The Seven Ups." His next role would make him a household name overnight. As Chief of Police Martin Brody in Jaws, Scheider was the character audiences most identified with - the everyman who must rise above his own fears for the good of others. After "Jaws," Scheider appeared in "Marathon Man" and then reunited with "French Connection" director William Friedkin for "Sorcerer." Scheider was next cast as Michael in Michael Cimino's "The Deer Hunter." However, due to "creative differences" he left the project. In order to fulfill his contract with Universal, Scheider agreed to star in the sequel, "Jaws 2."
Special poster created for the Castro Theater in San Francisco by David O'Daniel
He followed the shark sequel with "Last Embrace" and then got the role of his life when he replaced Richard Dreyfuss in director Bob Fosse's "All That Jazz." In the role of Joe Gideon, loosely based on Fosse himself, Scheider played a Broadway director/choreographer who also makes movies and has an obsession with death. For his efforts Roy was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, though he lost to Dustin Hoffman. He followed "Jazz" with the Robert Benton thriller, "Still of the Night." In 1983 he starred in the Disney Channel's first original film, "Tiger Town," playing an aging baseball player. He then starred with Liv Ullman in the television film, "Jacabo Timerman: Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number." He returned to the big screen with back to back hits "Blue Thunder" and "2010." In 1993 he returned to television as Captain Nathan Bridger in the Steven Spielberg produced series, "SeaQuest DSV." Scheider died on February 10, 2008 at age 75.
Born in Westhoughton, England in August 1927, Robert Shaw first gained fame as a writer. At the age of 20 he was hired to write for the "Kraft Television Theater." He later wrote for the series "Highway Patrol." While writing for the small screen, he made a few appearances on various shows. In 1951 he made his film debut in "The Lavender Hill Mob," but didn't come to prominence until he played assassin Red Grant in "From Russia With Love" alongside James Bond himself, Sean Connery. He followed "Russia" with roles in "Battle of the Bulge," "Custer of the West" and "Royal Hunt of the Sun." In 1967 he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for "A Man For All Seasons." Returning to his writing, Shaw received a Tony nomination for "Best Play" for his "The Man in the Glass Booth." In the early 70s he appeared in "The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three" and then found himself swindled by Paul Newman and Robert Redford in "The Sting."
Robert Shaw on the set
When "Jaws" producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown started casting the role of Quint they remembered Shaw, who had worked with the team on "The Sting." Not only did Shaw gain a legion of fans with "Jaws," but he is often credited with writing the majority of the "Indianapolis" monologue. Following "Jaws," he again antagonized Connery when he played the Sheriff of Nottingham alongside Connery's aged Robin Hood in "Robin and Marian." His other films include "Black Sunday," "The Deep," and "Force 10 From Navarone." His final film, which co-starred him alongside Steven Spielberg's original choice for Quint, Lee Marvin, was "Avalance Express." Sadly, Shaw died during production on the film and the majority of his scenes were re-dubbed because of his illness. On August 28, 1978, Shaw died of a heart attack while driving with his third wife. He was survived by nine children and one stepson. His son, Ian, is a successful actor in England. In his hometown of Westhoughton there is a pub named "The Robert Shaw."
Universal "Shark Facts" poster (left click to enlarge)
Dreyfuss was born on October 29, 1947 in Brooklyn, NY. His family moved to California where he attended Hollywood High. After graduation he began appearing on such television shows as "Ben Casey," "Gidget" and "Bewitched." In 1967 he made his film debut in "The Graduate." Though he auditioned for the title role, which he lost to Dustin Hoffman, Dreyfuss did get to utter a line as one of Hoffman's frat brothers. More television work led to an early stand out role as Baby Face Nelson in "Dillinger." That same year, 1973, he starred as the idealistic Curt Henderson in "American Graffiti." He followed that film with his first starring role in the Canadian produced "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz." It was after he wrapped this film that he was offered the part in "Jaws." Telling director Spielberg that the film sounded like one he would rather see then appear in, he turned down the role. However, convinced after seeing a screening of "Duddy" that he was terrible in it, he changed his mind and accepted the part. Of course he was praised for the film and Universal looked like geniuses for casting him in "Jaws."
Richard Dreyfuss on the set
He followed "Jaws" with an appearance in one of the rare mainstream X rated films, "Inserts," then re-teamed with Spielberg for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Then even better fortune struck. Robert DeNiro had dropped out of the Neil Simon written production "Bogart Slept Here." The film was to chronicle the adventures of actor Elliot Garfield in Hollywood. With DeNiro gone, Simon rewrote the story to show how Garfield's career began and Dreyfuss was cast in the new story, now called "The Goodbye Girl." For his work in the film, 30 year old Dreyfuss became, at the time, the youngest winner of the Best Actor Oscar, an honor he held until 29 year old Adrien Brody won the award in 2003. Seemingly on top of the world, the next few years would bring personal problems and bad film choices Dreyfuss' way, beginning when he was forced to drop out of Bob Fosse's "All That Jazz" due to the strenuous physical demands the role required A much publicized car accident, with Dreyfuss admittedly under the influence of drugs, kept him off the screen for some time.
Poster from Thailand
Finally, director Paul Mazursky took a chance and cast him alongside Bette Midler and Nick Nolte in "Down and Out in Beverly Hills." The film was a smash and Dreyfuss followed it with acclaimed work in "Tin Men" and "Stake Out." He continued to concentrate on comedies in the early 90's and had another hit when he starred with Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" In 1995 he portrayed a composer turned high school music teacher in "Mr. Holland's Opus," which earned him his second Best Actor Academy Award nomination. In recent years he has appeared in more supporting roles, including Rob Reiner's "The American President." Dreyfuss had previously appeared as the uncredited narrator of Reiner's 1986 film, "Stand by Me." Last year he was scheduled to appear on London's West End in the musical "The Producers," but had to drop out due to a back injury. In the recent remake of "Piranha," Dreyfuss parodied his "Jaws" character, Matt Hooper, sitting in a row boat and singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home." Dreyfuss has been married twice and is the father of three.
This poster from India was much more graphic (best quality available).
Making her film debut as Ellen Brody was 37 year old Lorraine Gary. Born in New York City in August 1937, Gary began acting on television shortly after she finished high school. Early work on such shows as "The Virginian," "Dragnet" and "Night Gallery" led to roles on many early television movies. In 1973 she gained fame in the pilot film for the series, "KOJAK," entitled "The Marcus Nelson Murders." In 1975 she was cast in "Jaws," and later appeared in "Car Wash," "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" and then reprised her role as Ellen in "Jaws 2." After working with George Burns in "Just You and Me, Kid" and re teaming with Spielberg for "1941," Gary retired from acting. In 1987 she returned to the big screen in "Jaws: The Revenge." Gary has been married for almost 50 years to film producer and former head of Universal Pictures, Sid Sheinberg. As a tribute, in 1985, writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale named Marty McFly's mother "Lorraine" in "Back to the Future."
Lorraine Gary publicity still
Amity mayor Larry Vaughn was played by distinguished North Carolina native Murray Hamilton. Hamilton's career started in the early days of television with appearances on such distinguished shows as "Philco Television Playhouse," "Kraft Television Theater" and "Playhouse 90." With his looks and slight accent, he was cast either as a cowboy in "Have Gun Will Travel" and "Gunsmoke" or as a lawman in "The F.B.I.," "Barnaby Jones" and "The Streets of San Francisco." He began his film career in the mid 1950s, appearing in such major features as "The Spirit of St. Louis," "Houseboat" and "The Hustler." In 1967 he starred as Mr. Robinson in "The Graduate" and appeared with Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in "The Way We Were."
Murray Hamilton on-set
A gifted stage actor he was nominated in 1965 for the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Featured Role for the play, "Absence of a Cello." After "Jaws" he did some television work then was asked to return as Mayor Vaughn in "Jaws 2." During production he learned that his wife, Teri, was suffering from cancer and asked to be let off the film so that he could be with her. Rather then recast the role, producer David Brown had the schedule reworked so that all of the scenes Hamilton was to appear in were shot first. This gave him time to complete the film and then be with his wife. In 1979 he appeared in "1941" then worked again with Redford in 1980s "Brubaker." Hamilton worked periodically through 1986, his final role being in the television film, 'The Last Days of Patton." On September 1, 1986 Hamilton died of cancer in his hometown of Washington, North Carolina.
Another reason for the film's great memorability relates to its excellent score by composer John Williams, who had worked with Spielberg on Sugarland Express. When Williams first talked to the director at his studio and played on a piano the two-note theme he had composed to represent the great white shark, Spielberg responded by saying something along the lines of "you're kidding, right?" Fortunately, Williams wasn't kidding, and born was a film music and silver screen legend. Williams was already an Academy Award winner and the composer of choice for large-scale disaster films. He would go on to earn Academy Award wins for both Jaws and Star Wars within a two year span, bringing with them the status of the top composer of the 1970's. On the piano, the 2 note phrase sounded silly, but when performed by the large string section of an orchestra, both men were surprised by the intense thematic creation they had stumbled upon. Part of the film's dominant success was due, directly, to its relatively deceptive use of music, however.
John Williams receives his Academy Award for the Jaws score..
Many people mistakenly believe that the theme was intended to reflect the horror level of the audience. In fact, the idea represents the internalized zeal of the shark itself, a flow that Williams and Spielberg allowed the audience to listen in on. The theme increases its pace as the shark gets excited, and it is absent from scenes in which the shark isn't anywhere near the present locale (most notably in the false alarm scenes of mistaken identity). The shark's primitive and brutal hunting instincts make the structurally simplistic two-note theme into the embodiment of the shark that Spielberg had struggled to obtain with the actual, physical shark that he had built for the film.
Advertisement for the soundtrack album.
The original soundtrack for Jaws was released by MCA in 1975, and as a CD in 1992, including roughly a half hour of music that John Williams redid for the album. In 2000, two versions of the score were released: one in a re-recording of the entire Jaws score by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely, and another to coincide with the release of the 25th anniversary DVD by Decca/Universal, featuring the entire 51 minutes of the original score. The score Won an Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score.
John Williams and only a few of the CD and LP releases of Jaws music.
Jaws was filmed in 35mm Eastman 100T 5254 stock in the Panavision process with an aspect ratio of 2:35:1. The film opened on 409 screens on June 20, 1975 and took in almost $7 million opening weekend. That's 7 Million Dollars at a top ticket price of $2.50. That averages out to almost $18,000 per screen. As an example, "Batman Begins" opened on 3838 screens and barely averaged $12,000 per screen. At it's popularity height, "Jaws" maxed out at 675 screens. It made almost $70 million in it's first month and was the first film to hit the then impossible $100 million mark. These days popular films make that much in two weeks. After it's run "Jaws" ended up making $260 million dollars at the US box office and another $210 million around the world. When adjusted for inflation, Jaws today would have made $1 billion dollars (and that is just the domestic gross) and stands as the 7th highest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). The film was re-released on May 25, 1979.
Roger Ebert wrote, "Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" is a sensationally effective action picture_a scary thriller that works all the better because it's populated with characters that have been developed into human beings we get to know and care about. It's a film that's as frightening as "The Exorcist," and yet it's a nicer kind of fright, somehow more fun because we're being scared by an outdoor-adventure saga instead of by a brimstone-and-vomit devil. It's clean-cut adventure, without the gratuitous violence of so many action pictures. It has the necessary amount of blood and guts to work -- but none extra. And it's one hell of a good story, brilliantly told."
Variety noted, "Getting right to the point, "Jaws" is an artistic and commercial smash. Producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, and director Steven Spielberg, have the satisfaction of a production problem-plagued film turning out beautifully. Peter Benchley's bestseller about a killer shark and a tourist beach town has become a film of consummate suspense, tension and terror. The Universal release looks like a torrid moneymaker everywhere." The New York times wrote, "Mr. Scheider, Mr. Shaw and Mr. Dreyfuss come across with wit and easy self-assurance. Mr. Spielberg has so effectively spaced out the shocks that by the time we reach the spectacular final confrontation between the three men and the great white shark, we totally accept the make believe on its own entertaining terms.
Jaws brochure citing critical acclaim (left click to enlarge).
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, three of which it won: Best Sound (Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Heman Jr., Earl Madery, John R. Carter), Best Film Editing (Verna Fields), Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (John Williams (and a nomination for Best Picture). The film also won the Outstanding Film Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, fantasy & Horror Films; the Eddie Award for editing from the American Cinema Editors USA; Best Score (John Williams) from the BAFTA (plus 6 other nominations);a Directors Guild of America nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Steven Spielberg); won a Golden Globe for best Score and received three other Golden Globe nominations; won a Grammy Award for best score; and was added to the National Film Preservation list in 2001.
Academy screening trade ad
After the success of "Jaws," the studio begged Zanuck and Brown for a sequel. The producers agreed to make one and while "Jaws" was still in theaters Universal announced that "Jaws 2" would open on June 16, 1978. Director Steven Spielberg and star Richard Dreyfuss expressed interest in the project. Both were currently working in Alabama on "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and, when production was extended, had to drop out. Z/B then hired John Hancock to direct. Hancock, who up to then had made a few films, including "Let's Scare Jessica To Death" and "Bang the Drum Slowly," was married to actress/screenwriter Dorothy Tristan, who was hired to write the script with playwright Howard Sackler, who had done some uncredited work on "Jaws." With Dreyfuss a no go the producers approached the other lead actors. Even though Robert Shaw's character died in "Jaws," he was approached with two ideas. The first was a retelling of the tragedy that occurred when the USS Indianapolis sank (described chillingly by Shaw in "Jaws.) The second was a film that would feature a younger Quint as he learns his trade and takes out his revenge on the sharks. Neither appealed to Shaw so the producers approached Roy Scheider. At the time, Scheider was committed to playing Michael in Universal's Vietnam epic, "The Deer Hunter." After a few weeks on the picture, Scheider left the project, citing creative differences over the story line.
SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN "THE DEER HUNTER" SKIP DOWN TO "BACK TO THE STORY" -------- In the original script for "The Deer Hunter," Michael is the one who stays behind in Vietnam, playing Russian Roulette for money. His best friend, Nick, goes back to bring him home and arrives too late as Michael loses his last game. For reason's I've never seen discussed, directed Michael Cimino decided Nick should stay in Vietnam and that Michael should be the one to attempt to rescue him. In the film, Michael ends up buying his way into the game and, while across the table from Nick, watches in horror as Nick shoots himself in the head. Scheider argued that any friend that traveled half way around the world to save his friend wouldn't just sit there and let him shoot himself.
BACK TO THE STORY: After "Jaws" Scheider signed a three film deal with Universal and had already completed "Sorcerer." Universal informed Roy that if he were to do "Jaws 2" they would count it as two films and he would be released from the contract. After looking over the script, Roy agreed. However, early in the production Z and B were unhappy with Hancock's work and fired him. Of course his wife went with him, leaving the production with a script that still hadn't been finalized. "Jaws" co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb was brought in to complete the script. Gottlieb's greatest contributions included eliminating a mafia/crooked developer plot line and more concentration on the young cast. With new director Jeannot Szwarc on board, the film began production on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts before moving south to Navarre Beach, Florida. After five months the production wrapped up in December 1977. The film opened on June 16, 1978 on 640 screens, earning $9.8 million dollars in it's opening weekend. A very successful premiere considering that "Grease" opened on 862 screens the same day and grossed $8.9 million. "Jaws 2" went on to gross over $102 million in the US and an additional $108 million world wide.
Alternate poster art for Jaws 2 from Thailand
After the success of "Jaws 2," Universal began exploring the possibility of a third film. Capitalizing on the brief resurgence of the 3 D film process, the studio announced that "JAWS 3 D" would hit screens in the summer of 1983. Starring Dennis Quaid as Mike Brody and John Putch as his brother, Sean, "Jaws 3 D" was directed by production designer Joe Alves with a screenplay by Carl Gottlieb and author Richard Matheson. The film featured Lea Thompson, who was dating Quaid at the time, as a member of a water skiing team. The film received 5 Golden Raspberry nominations as one of the year's worst, with Gottlieb, Alves and the film earning "Worst" honors. Sadly, the Pia Zadora film, "The Lonely Lady," took home the trophies. Co-star Louis Gossett Jr became the first Oscar winner to follow his win (Best Supporting Actor for "An Officer and a Gentleman") with an appearance in a crappy "Jaws" sequel. Four years later Michael Caine would do the same. FYI: John Putch is the son of "All in the Family" star Jean Stapleton and her husband, Bill.
U.S. and Thailand posters for Jaws 3
With the moderate success of "Jaws 3 D," Universal went back to the already empty well one more time. Though Collin Wilcox told Roy Scheider that "shark don't take things personally" in "Jaws 2," the suits at the studio came up with the notion that a great white shark will not only seek revenge on the remaining members of the Brody family but that it would travel thousands of miles to do it. Luring Lorraine Gary out of retirement, the film company tried desperately to get Murray Hamilton to commit to an appearance. Sadly, Hamilton passed away before production began. The story: Sean Brody is now the police chief. One night he wanders to the docks, gets too close to the water and is eaten by a shark who has obviously been lurking in the water for years, waiting for Brody to get within jaws reach. Full of grief, Ellen Brody heads to the Bahamas to visit her son, Michael, and his family. Using either a great sense of direction or just following the GPS beacon emitting from Ellen Brody, the shark heads to the warm waters and white sandy beaches with her. After eating a few unsuspecting bathers and Mario Van Peebles (though if you see the film on home video Van Peebles' character lives) the shark lures Ellen out to sea for one last battle.
With Ellen having flashbacks of scenes from the original "Jaws" that she wasn't even involved in, she steers her boat towards the shark. Letting out a series of roars (no, that's not a misprint. The shark ROARS for God's sake!) As the two combatants get closer to each other, the shark apparently leaves the water and flies towards the boat, finally impaling itself on it. The End. While "Jaws the Revenge" found itself nominated for seven Golden Raspberry awards, including Worst Film, it only won the award for Worst Visual Effects. While on location, co-star Michael Caine found out that he had won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work on "Hannah and Her Sisters." Caine, who appeared in no less then 22 films in the 1980s, has stated that he has never seen "Jaws the Revenge." In fact, when asked by a reporter, Caine replied, ""I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."
The Impact of Jaws
Long recognized as the grandfather of the summer blockbuster, "Jaws" not only changed the way people go to the movies but also in how studios and theaters market them. For those not in the know, most films are given a predetermined advertising budget. That money goes for everything from the printing of posters to the amount of commercials run. Prior to "Jaws" most exhibitors only had to share in the newspaper advertising. Example: Film A is opening in a major city at ten theaters. The advertising budget for opening week is $10,000. The agency placing the ads increases the budget by half, and then divides the extra $5000 between the ten theaters, meaning each theatre contributes $500 towards the advertising. This continues each week until display ads are no longer needed.
Theater in Japan added Jaws to its movie wall.
Sensing they had something big, Universal decided that local exhibitors should also share in the cost of the local television advertising and made this requirement part of the contract to run the film. Now this is pretty standard but in 1975 it was basically unheard of. The success of "Jaws" also helped spawn the very successful ancillary business of toys, books, posters and the like. Seeing the success 20th Century Fox had the year before when it licensed everything from action figures to trash cans to capitalize on the reissue of the "Planet of the Apes" films, Universal authorized everything from belt buckles to gum ball rings. Rubber sharks, iron on patches (which were pretty popular in 1975) and shark tooth necklaces were only some of the many items available at your local store. For a much better peek at some of the items available, these web sites are fantastic and include everything "Jaws.": www.jawscollector.com or www.jawsmoviearchives.com.
Variety Boxoffice ad
The Shark is Still Working
There is a new documentary on the film entitled "The Shark is Still Working." Narrated by Roy Scheider, the film was the brainchild of four Jaws fans who decided to present the film's history not only from a technical side but from the side of the fans who embraced it! Along the way, they captured interviews with almost everyone associated with the film, from director Spielberg to stars like Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss to Percy Rodrigues, the ominous voice behind the film's trailer. They also caught the genuine love for the film that fans, including Michael, our Jaws expert, have held for the film almost four decades later.
Rare trade magazine advertisement from Spielberg to George Lucas
Universal Studios Tour
First opened on April 10th 1976 on the banks of the former Singapore Lake (see below), following the release of Steven Spielberg's 1975 smash-hit film, Jaws is still the signature attraction of Universal Studios Hollywood. It's a Disneyland-inspired animatronic attraction that originally featured very little of the shark (like in the movie) and a lot of the sets including the actual ORCA. Later visitors would be dropped off at the Visitor Entertainment Centre where they could take a picture with an exact replica of Bruce the shark. With the release of 'JAWS 2' in 1978, the attraction shark was changed to look like the new movie shark. This second shark lost it's carrot-like teeth and gained even more fake looking teeth. The head was widened and he eyes were made completely black. Since 1980 there have been numerous repaints and various dentures put in to replace the silly version that first appeared.
The original press release for the attraction:
With the appearance of the Universal Studios Tour's newest attraction, the Jaws special effect, opening April 10th, many visitors may anxiously wonder just what was the ending of this popular Universal film. Is it possible that the same deadly 24-foot shark of the screen has found its menacing way to Southern California and the back lot of Universal Studios? This disturbing question begins to materialize the moment the visitors' tram approaches what appears to be the town of Amity, its billboard announcing the town's annual July 4th celebration and regatta. The Eastern seaside resort community seems alive with tourist expectations, its bright orange-and-white striped cabanas, concession stands and quaint commercial shops glistening in the summer sun. As the tram approaches the calm waters of the bay, a fisherman is noticed off to the right, his dinghy afloat and fishing rod patiently awaiting the day's first catch. (Continued below photos.)
(Jaws press release con't). Suddenly, a huge dorsal fin heads in the boat's direction and begins circling. Before tram passengers have a chance to gasp, the fisherman's line is jerked backwards and he and his dinghy sink rapidly into the water, leaving only a circle of blood to tell its terrible tale. Not without horror, the tram quickly moves on, traversing a pier built decades before, along with the historic town. Again, unexpectedly and off in the distance, flotation barrels with shark bait lines tumble into the water, the line dragging them across the bay and under the water by some massive force. A fragment of the pier is towed out to sea, collapsing the main section under the tram and leaving all aboard dangerously approaching the water level. Out of the water lunges the Great White Shark! Its teeth deadly sharp and close, its size and intent horrifying! Luckily, the "jaws" are only threatening, not biting, and the unbelievable sea creature sinks back into the water. The tramload of would-be shark victims is saved and, as it limps off the pier, only memories of an incredible "Jaws" sea drama remain.
Posters for special Jaws screenings. One was held in Martha's Vineyard
The attraction has evolved over the years, including an addition to Universal Studios Florida on June 7, 1990, with the most noticeable differences being the design of the shark, and George the fisherman becoming George the diver. As the mechanisms have aged, some effects are less pronounced than before. In mid 2010, the hydraulic mechanism that tilts the tram towards the water (when the dock is 'dragged' by the shark) has finally been put out of service. The tram now stays rigidly upright and the entrance and exit to the tilting dock have now been sealed in concrete, so it's unlikely the tilting dock will return any time soon. On January 2, 2012, one of Universal Studios' most iconic rides is headed out to sea for the last time. In order to make room for a new attraction, Captain Jake's Amity Boat Tours closed.
Universal Studios tour
After the film wrapped, the studio sold off nearly everything from the film, as they had no faith it would turn a profit. The boat was purchased by a special-effects technician, who restored the boat and later used it for sword fishing up and down the California coast. After the film was released and became a huge box-office success, the studio approached the former tech and purchased the boat back from him for use at the Universal Studios Tour This is the original Orca, the boat used during all the major scenes requiring a moving, floating boat. The Orca was on display in the Amity lagoon for all to watch and admire as the tram pulled away from the JAWS attack. Over time, the boat was neglected and forgotten. The pond wasn't that deep and when the wood rotted the boat sank in the shallow water, which flooded the lower cabin where the bunks/head was and the engine room. In 1996 Universal apparently tried lifting the Orca out with a harness and the hull was so rotted that the boat simply broke in half.
Small lobby card set
Jaws the Musical
Jaws: The Musical was originally created as a childrens show for the Rhinelander Childrens Aid Society. It was performed in May 2009. A year later, a group of friends and NYC performers astounded audiences with their own version. It was performed in at The Creek and the Cave in June 2010. For the story, Martin Brody has just moved his family away from the dangerous New York City for a more relaxing life in the beach community of Amity Island. As their new Chief of Police, his mission to prove himself to the islanders becomes more difficult when a report of shark attacks start coming in. He orders the beaches to be closed but the greedy Mayor Vaughn wants them open as the Fourth of July is coming and Amity is a tourist town. Martin gets the aide of Matt Hooper, a young and quirky shark scientist from the mainland, to try to catch the beast before it kills again. At last, he realizes that he has to turn to the town's most rugged fisherman and shark hunter, Quint, if he is to stop the shark for good. But when he's required to accompany Hooper and Quint on the boat, he realizes that he must finally get over his biggest fear: the water.
The Jaws Collector
Jim Beller has been collecting Jaws movie memorabilia since shortly after he saw the movie at the age of nine in 1975. He has since amassed what has been reputed to be, the world's largest collection of memorabilia related to the classic film. Beller started his website, JAWScollector.com in 2004 as a way to share his collection with other fans and as a reference for other collectors. He receives correspondence from around the world from fans and collectors seeking his knowledge and expertise. Limited items from his collection have been exhibited at shows in the United States and Europe. Teaming up with author Matt Taylor, Beller created the book, "JAWS: Memories from Martha's Vineyard" which is an almost 300-page collection of photos and stories from Martha's Vineyarders who were part of the cast & crew on the island during the filming of the movie in 1974. Jim has made numerous public appearances related to the book and his collection and this month is leading tours and panels at JAWSfest The Tribute, a celebration of the 37th Anniversary of the film taking place on Martha's Vineyard. Visiting this site, I have never seen such a collection of materials from a single film on any web site. Be sure to check it out. We greatly appreciate all of Jim's help with this column.
The Turkish poster added a mouth-filled shark.
Our Jaws column Co-Author Mike Smith
Mike A. Smith served as the Film Critic for the Leavenworth (KS) Times from 2002-2011. He has also served as the film critic and a featured writer ("Mike's Rant") for Nolan's Pop Culture Review (www.crazedfanboy.com) for more then a decade. He is a weekly contributor to the RottenTomatoes web site and has recently had his reviews featured at www.moviehole.net. He served three terms as Vice President of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest professional film critics' association in the United States, and remains a long time member of the groups governing board. Smith resides in Lee's Summit, Missouri. He is featured in the critically acclaimed documentary, "The Shark Is Still Working."
Ad for the Colonial Theater and the Rolling Roadshow which was shwon at Martha's Vineyard
As far as Jaws is concerned, Mike told me, "I first saw "Jaws" on September 21, 1975. I had wanted to see "Dog Day Afternoon," intrigued by the television commercials. However, only being 15 I was too young. As I stood outside the box office wondering what else to see the cashier asked me if had seen "Jaws" yet. I hadn't. Two hours and four minutes later I was hooked. Since that day the film has played a huge part in my life, both personally and professionally. As a teenager I helped run Richard Dreyfuss' Official Fan Club and start Roy Scheider's Official Fan Club, which I ran until 1985. I have made many great friends in the "Jaws" world as well. I am proud to be a part of the fan documentary "The Shark is Still Working," and also the recent award winning book "Jaws: Memories From Martha's Vineyard." That the documentary is being included on the upcoming "Jaws" Blu-ray is something that's incomprehensible to me...that I'm actually going to be on the same DVD as the film I love!"
Only a small percentage of the massive Jaws merchandise
I have many great memories thanks to my association with other fans of the film over the years. One of my favorites occurred at the first JawsFEST in June 2005. It was here that seven of us rented and stayed in the very same cabin that Steven Spielberg lived in while shooting the film in 1974. We had a barbecue the night before the Fest started and among the guests were several people that had worked on the film, including co-screenwriter (and co-star) Carl Gottlieb and production designer Joe Alves. In one corner of the living room sat a small desk. We were amazed when Carl told us that it was the exact same desk his typewriter had sat on while he wrote the film! Sadly, none of us could figure out how to fit the desk in our suitcases when we left.
And so began the career of director Steven Spielberg who has directed some of the most beloved and respected films in film history, and years into the format, we now have available a high definition disc with lossless audio to enjoy over and over. The legacy of Jaws will never end.
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All materials in this and other Silver Screen columns are copyright their respective studios, Blu-ray.com and the collection of Robert Siegel, Jim Beller and Mike Smith . Many graphics on this page have been painstakingly corrected and cleaned, and are internet tracked. Special thanks to the Motion Picture Academy Library, Jim Beller and Mike Smith. Please ask for permission to use any graphic by emailing email@example.com and in this case I will contact the owner. This edition most artwork, publicity and production photos/drawings/logo copyright Universal Pictures.