Martha’s Vineyard: Tales of a Movie Shark

Destination: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, U.S.

Movie: Jaws, from the book by Peter Benchley

Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum the beat of the John Williams background music of the movie Jaws (1975) kept going through my head as the Martha’s Vinyard van driver edged along the beach road and pointed out scenes from the movie.

On the side with the wide beach, all the townspeople were gathered with their families on 4th of July.  Only the sheriff, played by Roy Scheider, knew of the danger lurking just off the shore. He took his family to the inlet side of the highway to a narrow strip of sand.

But wait! We’re approaching the bridge–the giant white swam right under the bridge and went for the sheriff’s son!  My blood pressure went up a little when I crossed that bridge on my recent visit, even though the scene on Martha’s Vineyard was perfectly peaceful the day we rode around the island.  Of course I had to ask our guide if any sharks were ever spotted near their beaches. “No,” our driver/guide Ira said. “Only some of those tiny sand sharks. Never knew of a Big White being seen around the Vineyard.

Along the beach road we were traveling from Vineyard Haven where the ferry arrived from Woods Hole, Massachusetts on the mainland, we spotted a small saltbox house right on the narrow beach.  Some foliage obscured the sign that identified this as the Jaws cottage.  A larger sign told us it was for sale.  We considered buying it, but given the price of houses near the water on the Vineyard  tend to start in “the low millions” as realtors like to say….we think we’ll watch a rerun of Jaws instead.

The movie Jaws may be old enough to be a classic, but people have been living on this island for longer than can currently be traced.  The first Europeans arrived before 1620, Ira told us. So there, Pilgrims!

The movie used the quaint downtown areas with their white clapboard 1800’s captain’s manses  and the gray shingle cottages. “They were all very nice. From Roy Scheider to the cameramen. Just as nice as could be,” Ira said. He remembered that they carried the mechanical shark around in an open-backed truck and people would go around a corner and suddenly see this massive set of teeth grinning at them.

Despite the scary nature of the movie–after seeing it numerous times it still has me hiding my eyes and squealing–I remember that the first time I saw it, how I loved the little village and the lovely beaches.  It is all there to see at Martha’s Vineyard, still.  Except, to the disappointment of no one, there is no Big White fishing for swimmers at the beaches.

So if you have not yet been to Martha’s Vineyard, take another look at the movie, Jaws, only this time, look at the scenery.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

8 thoughts on “Martha’s Vineyard: Tales of a Movie Shark

  1. Martha’s Vineyard is definitely on my ‘must visit one day’ list! Many of my ancestors hail from the island- would be interesting to go and visit.

  2. The Vineyard really is a special place to visit…charming towns, great beaches and of course the Jaws sites. There are some great restaurants named “Sharkys” that have big plaster sharks and photos. Try to visit if you can.

  3. Was in Marthas Vineyard October this year and specifically went because of the movie! Saw all the locations though so much has apparently changed in 35 years. The Vineyard is a magical place and i would love to go back. Oh, and we brought back a real estate brouchure and it has the “Brody House”, “Little Jaws” as it’s known, in it. “Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish Ladies ….”

    1. Yes, The Vineyard is a great place to visit. We drove by the Brody House on our van tour. Other than the fact that it is rather precariously located when winter storms come in–the only one along the road on the seaside–it is charming. I guess if I had a million dollars to spend, I wouldn’t worry about winter storms. 🙂

  4. laughing about the coming around the corner face to face with mechanical shark — many parts of Jaws2 were filmed in Navarre Beach in north Florida, not far from where I was living at the time. saw the mech shark go by on busy highway 90 through the Panhandle one day too, on the way to the shoot. a definite memory.

    I thought the book had its moments of being just as scary, in a slightly different way, as the movie. did you know Peter Benchley was the original screenwriter for the first Jaws? not his script which made to screen, though.
    .-= Kerry Dexter´s last blog ..remembering Woodstock, remembering Derry =-.

    1. Thanks for adding your info, Kerry. Ira told us that none of the follow up to the original were shot at Martha’s Vineyard. He also told us that President Obama was coming to play golf this month–and he’s there today, according to Twitter reports.

  5. Would love to visit Martha’s Vineyard one day. I hear it’s just lovely. About Jaws, haha, after many years of living in fear, I finally conquered my fear of sharks when I came face to face with them in Malaysia ( If you want to see the real Great Whites, head to South Africa. I saw loads of them (I was hanging on tightly to the boat’s railing) near Gans Bay in the Western Cape province. 🙂
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..Serengeti magic =-.

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