On This Day – May 2, 1974

On this day in 1974, filming began on the Jaws movie, it would become a well known thriller around the world – and the reason many would be afraid to enter the water at beaches worldwide!

Jaws was directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name.  In the story, a giantman-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers on Amity Island, a fictional New England summer resort town, prompting the local police chief to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. The film stars Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Matt Hooper, Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Murray Hamilton as Larry Vaughn, the mayor of Amity Island, and Lorraine Gary as Brody’s wife, Ellen. The screenplay is credited to both Benchley, who wrote the first drafts, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, who rewrote the script during principal photography.

Shot mostly on location on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, the film had a troubled production, going over budget and past schedule. The shoot lasting for 120 days and costing 8 million dollars to make.  As the art department’s mechanical sharks suffered many malfunctions, Spielberg decided to mostly suggest the animal’s presence, employing an ominous, minimalistic theme created by composer John Williams to indicate the shark’s impending appearances. Spielberg and others have compared this suggestive approach to that of classic thriller director Alfred Hitchcock.Universal Pictures gave the film what was then an exceptionally wide release for a major studio picture, over 450 screens, accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign with a heavy emphasis on television spots and tie-in merchandise.

Now considered one of the greatest films ever made, Jaws became the highest-grossing film of all time until the release of Star Wars (1977).