On September 21, 1975 my father dropped me off at the local cinema because I wanted to see “Dog Day Afternoon.” Being only 15, the girl in the box office told me I was too young to see an “R” rated film. As I stood dejectedly in front of her she asked me, “have you seen “JAWS” yet?” Two hours and four minutes of excitement later I was hooked. Since that date I’ve done my best to be the world’s greatest “JAWS” fan. As a teenager I ran Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss’ official fan clubs. I’ve sat in the fighting chair and held the fishing rod used by Robert Shaw in the film. I’ve had dinner with Carl Gottlieb, strolled through Lynn Murphy’s boat yard, stayed in the same cabin Steven Spielberg lived in while filming the movie and proposed to my wife on Martha’s Vineyard. Heck, I’ve even visited the grave of Pipit the dog. But thanks to the new book “JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard” I realize that there was a heck of a lot I DIDN’T know!
Skillfully written by Matt Taylor with photos gathered and assembled by Taylor and Jim Beller, “JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard” is an in depth telling of the making of the film through the eyes of the people of Martha’s Vineyard, many whom worked on the film doing everything from building sets to grabbing major screen time. In fact, a majority of the supporting players in the film were actual islanders who answered a casting call placed in the local paper. Some of them I was very familiar with, including Jeffrey C. Kramer, Lee Fiero and Jeffrey Voorhees, who recount their memories here. But Taylor and Beller have also tracked down the names of the people that played such beloved characters as “Bad Hat” Harry (Al Wilde) and police secretary Polly (Peggy Scott).
Coffee table sized and almost 300 pages in length, the book is chock full of more than 1,000 color and black and white photos, many never before seen, that were taken by residents who observed the making of the film on an almost daily basis. Also represented are many behind the scenes shots taken by Edith Blake, a photographer for the local Vineyard Gazette and author of the multi-million selling book “On Location…On Martha’s Vineyard: The Making of the Movie JAWS.” While that book featured many of Ms. Blake’s photographs, “JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard” features hundreds more being shared with “JAWS” fans for the first time. Other featured photographers include Robert Tobey, Andy Caulfield, Lynn and Susan Murphy, Carol Fligor and her son, Andy.
Also included are brand new interviews with many names familiar to “JAWS” fans, including the film’s co-screenwriter/co-star Carl Gottlieb (who’s own book, “The Jaws Log” told the story of the making of the film from a Hollywood point of view), production designer Joe Alves, Edith Blake, Carol Fligor, Bob Carroll and Lynn and Susan Murphy. Listening to Murphy describe his adventures with the folks from Hollywood, it’s easy to see where Robert Shaw picked up his pointers for the seafaring Quint and his stories are among the most entertaining.
The book also features reproduced articles from the Vineyard Gazette, the local newspaper that covered the film’s production from beginning to end. Among the stories featured is one lamenting the “ugly-vulgar-commercial” billboard that was erected for four days in Gay Head. The island has very strict zoning rules. In fact, the only commercial fast food place on the island is a Dairy Queen that somehow snuck into Edgartown some five decades ago. An interesting interview with special effects wizard Bob Mattey in June 1974 notes that, when filming is finished, the mechanical sharks would be heading to Universal Studios to take part in the tour. In a piece about the opening night of the film at the local bijou it was noted that many in attendance didn’t find the film to be that entertaining. Of course, those interviewed also admitted that they spent the majority of the first hour looking for themselves, or their friends, on screen.
Another interesting find is the production diary kept by Barbara Nevin, whose physician husband, Robert, played the town coroner. Among her observations: Richard Dreyfuss had trouble pronouncing Carcharodon carcharias, the scientific name of the great white. Another telling entry notes “Tension between Spielberg and Shaw – seasoned veteran vs. brilliant young man on the way up.” These are just a few of the many surprises that will delight fans.
Taylor, a 15-generation resident of the island, has managed to track down nearly everyone that had a role in the production. His prose is straightforward and the interviews are as casual as a talk with a good friend. In them Taylor learns that it was Jeffrey Kramer’s mother who contacted the casting director, noting that her actor son wouldn’t need a hotel room because “he can just stay at home.” Also revealed: the true inspiration for a certain heart breaker!
“JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard” is available in two versions. A special collector’s hardcover edition will include a 1″x1″ piece from the Orca II (the version of the Orca that was used for the scenes featuring the boat sinking) and a DVD of behind the scenes 8 millimeter footage taken by Carol Fligor on set. Ms. Fligor also provides the commentary for the DVD. This version is numbered and limited to 1,000 copies. There will also be a paperback version available.
37 years ago, Steven Spielberg left the island of Martha’s Vineyard, vowing to never return. Still, he writes in a foreword that he owes “nearly four decades of belated gratitude to all those who contributed so selflessly to making “JAWS” a huge success and we all owe Matt big congratulations for bringing them credit where credit was due.”
Who am I to argue with Steven Spielberg? “JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard” is by far the best behind the scenes book ever written.
Click on the link below to order your advance copy of “JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard”