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LIFE Jaws

LIFE Jaws

LIFE Jaws

In 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws transformed the Hollywood landscape, sparked a cultural phenomenon and took a huge bite out of the collective psyche, with the public always wondering what lurked just beneath the surface of the water. The first true summer blockbuster was a masterpiece of the thriller genre, following the terrifying ordeal of a beach community under attack by a monstrous great white shark. This LIFE special issue celebrates the 45th anniversary of this iconic film (which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture) with an in-depth look at Spielberg's revolutionary filmmaking and storytelling techniques, the chaotic making of the movie and its lasting legacy, and why, 45 years later, it’s still scary.

Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Meredith Corporation
Frequency:
One-off
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in this issue

1 min.
masthead

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Kostya Kennedy EDITOR Rich Sands DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Christina Lieberman CREATIVE DIRECTOR Gary Stewart WRITER Richard Jerome COPY CHIEF Parlan McGaw COPY EDITOR Joel Van Liew PICTURE EDITOR Rachel Hatch WRITER-REPORTER Tresa McBee PHOTO ASSISTANT Steph Durante PRODUCTION DESIGN Sandra Jurevics PREMEDIA TRAFFICKING SUPERVISOR Greg Fairholm COLOR QUALITY ANALYST Jill M. Hundahl MEREDITH SPECIAL INTEREST MEDIA VICE PRESIDENT & GROUP PUBLISHER Scott Mortimer VICE PRESIDENT, GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Stephen Orr VICE PRESIDENT, MARKETING Jeremy Biloon EXECUTIVE ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Doug Stark DIRECTOR, BRAND MARKETING Jean Kennedy ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, BRAND MARKETING Bryan Christian SENIOR BRAND MANAGER Katherine Barnet CONSUMER MARKETING MANAGER Lynn Bolinger EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Kostya Kennedy CREATIVE DIRECTOR Gary Stewart DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Christina Lieberman EDITORIAL OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Jamie Roth Major MANAGER, EDITORIAL OPERATIONS Gina Scauzillo SPECIAL THANKS Brad Beatson, Samantha Lebofsky, Kate Roncinske, Laura Villano MEREDITH NATIONAL MEDIA GROUP PRESIDENT, MEREDITH MAGAZINES Doug Olson PRESIDENT, CONSUMER PRODUCTS Tom Witschi PRESIDENT, CHIEF DIGITAL OFFICER Catherine Levene CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER Michael Brownstein CHIEF…

6 min.
a monster success

Forty-five years ago, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws transformed the Hollywood landscape, sparked a cultural phenomenon, and took a huge bite out of the collective psyche. Visually compelling and augmented by an iconic musical score, the adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel about a great white shark terrorizing a beach resort was a masterpiece of the thriller genre. From the movie’s opening moments, when a young woman gets devoured while taking an evening skinny-dip, Spielberg—just 27 when he made the picture—grabs us and never lets go. “I went to the third public screening in Hollywood, and the whole audience jumped as one when the girl was yanked under by the shark,” recalls film historian and screenwriter Joseph McBride, author of Steven Spielberg, A Biography. “It was like a wave. The only comparable experience…

12 min.
from page to screen

Peter Bradford Benchley boasted an impressive literary pedigree. His grandfather Robert Benchley (1889–1945) was a noted humorist, one of the famed wits of the Algonquin Round Table, and also a Hollywood character player, known for his comic shorts—such as the Academy Award–winning How to Sleep (1935). His father, Nathaniel Benchley (1915–1981), was a novelist, whose work The Off Islanders was adapted for the screen as the hit 1966 comedy The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. As a youth, Peter Benchley spent his summers on Nantucket Island, off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, where he often went shark fishing with his father and brother, Nat. Indeed, he harbored something of a fascination for the marine predators and was particularly struck by a 1964 item in the New York Daily News about…

6 min.
behind the scenes of a blockbuster

New York City native Carl Gottlieb came up through the showbiz ranks in comedy. A graduate of Syracuse University, he joined The Committee, a San Francisco improvisation group, in the 1960s and found success as a television writer in Hollywood. In 1969, Gottlieb won an Emmy Award for his work on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour; he also wrote for hit sitcoms, including The Odd Couple, The Bob Newhart Show, and All in the Family. Between writing assignments, Gottlieb snagged some small acting parts in films such as Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H. It was as an actor that he signed onto Jaws, but Gottlieb’s main contribution was in crafting the shooting script, adding humor and humanity to what were rather stolid, cardboard characters. Post-Jaws, he wrote the scripts for the first…

3 min.
roy scheider

He was an ideal figure for gritty 1970s cinema, lean and raw-boned, with a soulful, world-weary gaze and prominent nose broken in an amateur boxing match. Raised in Orange, New Jersey, Roy Scheider attended Rutgers University and then Franklin & Marshall College, where he graduated with a history degree and the intention of going to law school. But he joined the Air Force first, serving three years and attaining the rank of first lieutenant. By the time of his discharge, Scheider had decided to become an actor; in 1961 he made his professional stage debut as Mercutio in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Romeo and Juliet. For the next seven years, he worked in the theater, netting an Obie Award (off-Broadway’s version of a Tony) for his performance in…

27 min.
the shoot from hell

After considerable drama, the script for Jaws had finally come together. The narrative went as follows: It’s an early-summer dusk on the New England island of Amity, a quaint, upscale resort with sand-lined streets and clapboard Colonial homes. A young woman named Chrissie Watkins (played by Susan Backlinie) is partying with friends on the beach. She clicks with one of the guys, Tom Cassidy (Jonathan Filley), and asks him if he wants to take a swim. Cassidy, however, passes out drunk, so Chrissie goes by herself for a skinny-dip. While she treads water, we see her jerk, then jerk again—and then she disappears under the surface. Popping back up, the young woman thrashes for her life, screams bloody murder—then vanishes for good. The next day, police discover Chrissie’s partial remains along the…