Quint wishes Jaws a Happy 35th Birthday! A look back at a classic plus tons of behind the scenes photos!
Published at: June 21, 2010, 1:56 a.m. CST by headgeek
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Today is not only Father’s Day, it is also the birthday of one of the best films ever committed to celluloid and personal favorite movie of all time.
On June 20th, 1975 Jaws was unleashed onto screens across the country in the first ever “wide-release.” Back in those days even giant films were opened regionally, much like today’s “limited releases.”
It’s fairly fitting that the 35th anniversary of this film falls on Father’s Day because Jaws is the father of the modern day blockbuster. It was the first film to open in hundreds of theaters simultaneously, it was a giant event picture and ended up becoming the most successful picture of all time. Until Star Wars two years later.
But without Jaws there would be no Star Wars. Without the success of a young film student, would Alan Ladd have ever taken a chance on another one, George Lucas? Would Star Wars have had the impact it did on pop culture without the wide-release platform established by Jaws?
Of course, like anybody of my generation, I grew up a Star Wars kid. But I was the weird kid that held Jaws in equal esteem… and I had no idea about the business implications, the roads that Jaws opened for Lucas. To me Jaws touched me in very much the same way as Star Wars. Instead of a cantina full of aliens, I was dropped into a completely foreign New England world filled with equally colorful characters. Ben Gardner’s rant as he goes shark hunting, old Harry with his bad hat, every local given a line all added to the wonderful color of this world.
Every kid wanted to be Luke Skywalker, but I think most of us wanted Martin Brody to be our dad. He’s a little high-strung, but he’s a good man with the right priorities. I loved seeing an adult given so much character. You see his fear of the ocean. You see his love for his family. We are given time to really explore these emotions before the second half of the film, which takes our characters out of the realm of safety and into the lion’s den, as it were.
Brody’s our anchor and one of best leading characters ever put to film precisely for his flaws.
Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper and Robert Shaw’s Quint are perfect opposites. One studies fish, one kills them. One is an intellect, one is a working man and they are constantly at odds, which an off-screen rivalry between Shaw and Dreyfuss actually helped send home on screen. The reason why this triangle works so well is because Brody is constantly the middle of a see-saw… he’s us, the audience. He grounds the world.
We follow him out to sea. We get to know Quint and Hooper through his friendship and when we see them bond over shared scars and old fishing stories it feels genuine… and inclusive. All the best films draw you into the world. When Quint delivers his famous Indianapolis speech I felt like I was there, at the table. I felt like Quint was telling ME that story. That’s when the movie fully has me as a viewer. That’s when I suddenly feel scared for our characters, when I feel the gravity of the situation.
Through adversity and chaos came a brilliant picture. Spielberg has called the shooting of Jaws his Vietnam. It was so tough on him that when he had recurring nightmares that he was still shooting the picture. Due to the sea and the mechanical shark there were days where they wouldn’t get one shot.
But Spielberg used that for the film’s benefit. If you’ve read any of the early drafts of Jaws you see just how saved they were by circumstances forcing them to explore character and suspense over spectacle. There have been stories of Spielberg and Gottlieb spending whole dinners with the actors talking over their characters, problem-solving around the stupid mechanical shark not working.
The results are 100 times better than anything they planned to do. Can you imagine how seeing the shark lunge out of the water with Chrissie, the skinny-dipper, clamped in its jaws in the opening minutes would have undermined the entire feeling of dread and the shocking violence that we ended up with?
Everything came together on this one. Steven Spielberg was firing on all cylinders, operating with the drive of a young man trying to make his mark. John Williams gave the film the perfect heartbeat. Verna Fields gave it the perfect pace. Bill Butler gave it the perfect, real-world look. Every single actor was perfectly cast.
Jaws is lightning in a bottle. Spielberg couldn’t make that same movie today even if he still had Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw and Verna Fields. It’s a product of its time that is, in its own way, timeless. It’s entertainment with brains, a summer blockbuster that is anything but hollow. In short, it’s a classic and will live long past its makers.
So, with my gushing over, let’s get into some fun stuff.
First, check out Quint's original introduction. I love this scene, although I have no idea how Spielberg time-traveled and cast his 10 year old self as the recipient of Quint's taunts...
Over the years I’ve scoured the internet for Jaws stuff. In that time I’ve compiled a ton of behind the scenes images and production stills. After a little recent digging specifically for this article I’ve rounded out that collection and figured I’d just run a ton of nifty Jaws pics. Some of them are really sharp quality, some of them not so much. But if you’re a fan of the movie I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of the below.
I’d like to point out a few pages that were crucial in compiling the images… First off, the Jaws Movie Archive has a TON of great stuff. You’ll see some of their watermarked pics below, but those are really just the tip of the iceberg. I also found a ton of stuff at this classic monster forum. Also check out Reel Distraction for a ton of opening day Jaws adverts.
Let’s get going!
This is my current computer background:
This one was sent to me a while back from someone on the island when they were shooting. He took this personal picture of the Orca: