Tag Archives: Peter Benchley

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.