Jaws was released on this day in 1975, and the summer tradition of going for a swim would never be the same.
According to The Telegraph, Jaws is considered Hollywood’s original blockbuster film. The classic tale of man versus shark was the first movie in cinematic history to gross more than $100 million at the box office.
These days, films are “planned” as blockbuster releases, particularly for summertime audiences. However, back in 1975, no one anticipated that Jaws would become an iconic (or even successful) film, as the production was wrought with risk, uncertainty, and a myriad of problems.
When production on Jaws was given the green light, the novel it is based on had not even been released…not to mention the author, Peter Benchley, had no previous track record of literary success.
The film’s director, Steven Spielberg, is now known as a huge name in the industry, but in the summer of ’75, he was a young, unproven commodity who had yet to release his first feature film.
In retrospect, most fans and critics feel that this served to make Jaws an even better film, and Steven Spielberg has expressed that same sentiment in recent years.
The next issue facing Jaws was the budget. Movie Pilot reports that the studio begrudgingly agreed to a $4 million budget for the film. As technical problems (and production costs) mounted, Universal Pictures nearly ceased production on Jaws, but decided to take a chance by sinking $9 million into Richard Zanuck and David Brown’s production. This was a very large sum of money in 1975, and Universal was nervous that their investment was going to, well, drown in the water.
There were no “big names” cast in Jaws, but the actors who played the main roles were talented performers who helped make this film a classic. Roy Scheider portrayed local police chief Martin Brody, and Robert Shaw was cast in the role of Quint, the crusty boat captain/shark hunter. A young Richard Dreyfuss, who would go on to have a long, successful career in Hollywood, won the role of shark-obsessed oceanographer Matt Hooper.
After a lengthy, expensive and tedious film shoot, Jaws was finally released to the public on June 20, 1975. Once filmgoers got a look at Steven Spielberg’s film, the movie industry would be changed forever.
The public came out in droves to see Jaws, and repeated viewings of the film were very common as people could not get enough of Brody, Quint, and Hooper battling the shark who became affectionately known as “Bruce.”
Everything about this film seemed to capture the public’s imagination…the storyline, the script, the characters, the mechanical shark — even the music. The great John Williams composed the score, and the main theme has become ingrained in popular culture ever since (never have two musical notes been so terrifying).
In addition to achieving tremendous box office success, Jaws was also held in high regard by movie critics. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1976 and won three.
Jaws was groundbreaking in so many ways: it was the industry’s first summer blockbuster, it made stars of its cast and production team (particularly Steven Spielberg), it was ahead of its time in terms of technology and special effects, and the theme music will forever haunt moviegoers. And, movie fans will always remember that Jaws was responsible for making an entire generation “afraid to go back in the water.”
[Image via Universal Pictures]