Written by Matt Taylor and featuring photographs compiled by Taylor and Jim Beller, “Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard” is an irresistible treasure trove of knowledge, a must-own for film buffs.
Director Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 thriller “Jaws” marked the birth of the modern blockbuster, and tales of its production are legendary — such as the difficulties of getting the prop sharks to work are nearly as well-known as the film itself. But for “Jaws” nuts and Spielberg superfans, “Memories” is something refreshingly new: a history of the film’s production told through the stories and photos of residents of Martha’s Vineyard, the charming Massachusetts vacation destination where the film was shot.
Among the priceless stories that fill nearly every one of the book’s 296 pages is the fact that the production was nearly dealt a fatal blow by something far more dangerous than any shark: zoning regulations. Production designer Joe Alves points out: “There wasn’t any place on the island zoned for set building because there had never been a movie made there before.”
But, it turns out “Jaws” and Martha’s Vineyard needed each other: Spielberg needed authentic local flavor, and the production gave a much-needed boost to the area’s economy.
“The banks were clamping down on everybody because of the recession, and the Islanders were having a hell of a time,” local hotel owner Bob Carroll recalls. “Universal Studios came just in time and really gave the island a shot in the arm.”
“Memories” is a book about the film, of course, but more than that, it’s about a community and its hard-working residents. Thanks to Taylor and Beller, proper credit finally can be given to folks like Craig Kingsbury. A South Orange native who was raised in Short Hills before making his way to Martha’s Vineyard, Kingsbury played doomed fisherman Ben Gardner in the film and helped acclaimed actor Robert Shaw craft the iconic role of Captain Quint.
In his foreword to the book, Spielberg describes “Memories” as “an astonishing behind-the-scenes anthology of pictures, recollections and anecdotes from the people who supported the making of ‘Jaws’ and who, in so many ways, were invisible to me until now, 37 years later.”
With “Memories From Martha’s Vineyard,” Spielberg and his fans can finally salute the locals who helped him make film history.