Return to Amity Island

In 1974, Steven Spielberg landed on Martha’s Vineyard to make Jaws, which soon became the highest-grossing film of its time. As the island’s annual Jawsfest kicks off this month, we present an annotated look at the filming of the legendary movie.

Amity Island Jaws

Map by Infomen

1. Dubbed “Shark City” by the cast and crew, an Oak Bluffs warehouse and workshop situated here once held the notoriously unreliable Jaws robots (nicknamed Bruce after Spielberg’s lawyer).

2. Roy Scheider, who starred as Chief Brody, spent so much time soaking up the sun at Joseph Sylvia State Beach that his varying skin hues created continuity problems within the film.

3. No one knows who flung the first tomato, but by the time the food fight at the Harbor View Hotel had ended, Scheider, Spielberg, and Richard Dreyfuss looked like a post-brunch salad bar. “Those three managed to make a real mess,” bartender and eyewitness George Gamble told the Vineyard Gazette in 1975. “It was a disgusting sight — seeing them covered in ravioli, cake, and diced fruit.”

4. The film’s final man-versus-shark scene was filmed in Katama Bay aboard an older ferry named City of Chappaquiddick, according to Tom Dunlop, author of The Chappy Ferry Book. The infamous half-submerged camera view? That came courtesy of the Vineyard’s working ferry, which doubled as a filming barge.

5. Brody’s fishing boat, the Orca 2, didn’t really sink. “My husband stored it on his private waterfront property at West Basin for many years, where Jaws fans picked the items to death,” says Susan Murphy, who helped tow the shark during filming.

6. The ring on Chrissie’s mangled hand in the film’s opening scene was purchased from C. B. Stark Jewelers. “A guy from Universal came in scouting for props,” says jewelry designer Cheryl Barbara Stark. “He said he needed nine rings. Later on, he came back with the arm to show us.”

7. Lee Fierro was an acting instructor and a member of the Island Theater Workshop when she was cast as Mrs. Kintner. She’d go on to deliver one of the most famous slaps in cinema history — one that required 17 takes. “She’s so great with fans,” says Mike Smith, president of Roy Scheider’s fan club. “She’ll pretend-slap them for photos if they ask. But she prefers hugs.”

—Madeleine Coleman

Scenes from the filming of “Jaws,” which used then-obscure actors, robotic sharks, and one very famous island to make everyone afraid of the ocean. (Photos by Neal Peters Collection)