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You knew there was a shark out there!

Finding a bug in my favourite film

Like many teenagers growing up in the 70's - seeing Jaws for the first time not only frightened the living daylights out of me, it left a lasting but rather unnecessary unease when swimming in the sea. The film has become my favourite, it's like an old friend and I never tire of watching it, with some of its themes as relevant today as they were in 1975.

During the pandemic lockdown I watched it again with my daughter Jess, and spotted for the first time a yellow Beetle tucked away in the emotional scene between Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and the recently bereaved Mrs Kintner (Lee Fierro). I can't believe after all the years of Beetle spotting in films that I've never seen it before!

The scene

This powerful confrontation is pivotal to the character of Chief Brody in the film, imbuing in him a sense of guilt and responsibility to make the island safe from the marauding shark. Steven Speilberg offered the role to a local woman, Lee Fierro, one of many Martha's Vineyard residents who took part in the filming, and it became one of the film's most memorable scenes. Perhaps the acting was so good - that's why I missed the parked Beetle all this time!

The actress

Lee Fierro asked Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottleib to rewrite the scene; refusing the offer to play the part if she had to swear. Lee sadly passed away, aged 91 in 2020. She was a drama teacher at the Island Theatre Workshop, mentoring hundreds of aspiring actors. She spent more than 25 years there as the artistic director, and continued helping out well into her 80s.

Many years later, Lee visited a seafood restaurant and noticed that the menu had an "Alex Kintner Sandwich". She commented that she had played his mother decades earlier. The owner of the restaurant turned out to be Jeffrey Voorhees, who had played her ill-fated son. They hadn't seen each other since the original film shoot.

The Beetle

I think the same yellow beetle, presumably owned by a local resident, can be seen in Matt Taylor's excellent book about the making of the seminal film, 'Jaws - Memories from Martha's Vineyard'. In these 2 stills it can be seen parked in an alleyway which was turned into a bike rental shop owned by Harry 'that's one bad hat' Keisel (Al Wilde), and back in the Edgartown harbour area behind the famous 'ORCA' boat - which turned out not to have been big enough for the job in hand!


In 2017 I finally got to visit Martha's Vineyard, and naturally went in search of the filming locations including Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Menemsha, and State Beach. I even went for a swim at Sengekontacket Pond - where it's impossible not to think of what could be in the water with you!

The trip was made complete in Edgartown where we purchased tickets, popcorn and soda and settled back to watch the film again - in the very spot it was made 43 years ago!


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