CHARLOTTE, N.C. On June 20, 1975, 27-year old Steven Spielberg scared millions of Americans away from going to the beach with the opening of his classic horror-adventure film “Jaws.” Much as Alfred Hitchcock had frightened people from ever taking a shower again when Janet Leigh was stabbed to death in “Psycho,” the story of “Jaws” still resonates with movie-goers 43-years after its release.
Nominated for Best Picture of 1975, “Jaws” became the highest grossing film in history until it was surpassed by “Star Wars” in 1977. Oddly enough, despite its success, “Jaws” is one of only a few movies to be nominated for Best Picture but not for Best Director.
With that background in mind, today’s trivia explores some of the other little known details about the most famous great white shark in the world.
That unforgettable “Jaws” theme
Among the other categories for which “Jaws” received an Academy Award Nomination was Best Original Score. Significantly, it was composed by movie music king, John Williams. At first, Spielberg thought Williams was joking when he played the score for him.
“That’s funny, John,” laughed the director, “but what did you really have in mind for the theme of ‘Jaws’?”
Eventually Spielberg realized that Williams “nailed it” with his musical score, claiming the film would only have been half as successful without the now famous music which is recognized throughout the world.
The American Film Institute ranked the score for “Jaws” as sixth among their list of the 25 Greastest Film Scores.
Apparently Spielberg came around to the idea himself by playing first clarinet during one of the beach scenes.
Horror awards and Bruce, the not-so-almighty
Only six “horror” films have ever been nominated for Best Picture and “Jaws” is one of those pictures. The other are:
- “The Exorcist” (1973)
- “Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
- “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
- “Black Swan” (2010)
- “Get Out” (2017)
- Spielberg said that when he first read Peter Benchley’s novel, he found the human characters to be so unlikable that he was actually pulling for the shark.
For the actual production of “Jaws,” the filmmakers createdthree mechanical sharks, each with a specialized function. In a lighthearted moment on set, Spielberg named his “villains” Bruce, after his personal attorney.
Each “Bruce” was constructed at a cost of approximately $250,000. But despite the cost, none of them were tested in the water at Martha’s Vineyard where shooting was taking place. The first water test proved disastrous as Bruce sank to the bottom of the ocean and had to be recovered by a team of divers.
As a result of the sinking and other complications with the giant mechanical fish, Spielberg came up with another nickname for his main character which became not so affectionately known as “the great white turd.”
The frightful art of scaring people
According to Spielberg after several previews of the film, the director said “Jaws” taught him that a movie can only have one major “scare” moment in the picture. After that Spielberg said audiences are on guard against the film for the rest of the movie.
Even though “Jaws” was an overnight success, it only opened on 409 screens around the country. Eighty-eight days later it was the highest grossing film of all time. However, even then, it was still showing on less than a thousand screens in the United States.
A “Jaws” family reunion?
Perhaps the most interesting of the many stories surrounding “Jaws” occurred several decades after the film’s release. While visiting a seafood restaurant in New England, actress Lee Fierro – who played Mrs. Kinter in the movie – noticed that one of the features on the menu was an “Alex Kinter Sandwich.”
As she was leaving, Fierro mentioned that she had played the role of that character’s mother back in 1975, which prompted the staff to call the owner. When the owner rushed to meet her, he turned out to be Jeffery Voorhees who played her son in the movie.
The reunion was a joyous occasion since they had not seen each other since filming concluded in the mid-1970s.
Who knows? Perhaps they reminisced and sank their “Jaws” into a shark sandwich…with white meat, of course. #
—Headline photo above: Screen capture, YouTube video of an original trailer from “Jaws” (1975, Universal Studios).
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.