Since so many of my friends are either at the beach now or will be soon, it’s only fitting that we remind them about the movie that kept Americans out of the ocean during the summer of 1975. Jaws was not only a popular success, but it created a whole new sub-genre of films: the summer blockbuster.
The film’s producers selected Steven Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009) to direct Jaws before his first movie (Sugarland Express) was released. Turned out to be a very smart decision. Spielberg streamlined the plot line from the source novel by Peter Benchley, made smart casting choices, and overcame a host of technical problems during filming. The movie came in over budget, but acquitted itself quite well, becoming the first picture to gross more than $100 million.
The linchpin character is shark hunter Quint, played by the brilliant Robert Shaw. His obsession with great white sharks helps drive the film. Other memorable performances were turned in by Richard Dreyfuss as marine biologist Matt Hooper, Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, and Murray Hamilton as the timorous mayor of the island town Amity. And of course, Jaws wouldn’t have been Jaws without the memorable score of John Williams (Great American Things, May 26, 2010).
Before this, studios usually premiered their films in a few cities, and then allowed word of mouth response to build an audience as more theaters started showing the movie. Jaws was released simultaneously to hundreds of theaters, and became more than a hit – it became a cultural phenomenon. Following its success, studios shifted their big-budget action movies to the summer where they could capitalize on the added leisure time that the season affords.
Jaws was number 48 on the American Film Institute’s original 100 Years…100 Movies countdown. It came in at number two on 100 Years…100 Thrills, and its score was chosen number six on 100 Years of Film Scores.
I featured this video in the post honoring Spielberg, but it’s so great that I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it again…