It's time to throw down, Hamptonites. Martha's Vineyard has been boasting about Jaws for 40 years now, with their Jawsfests and fancy maps, and it's time to set the story straight. Jaws was set in the Hamptons, no matter where it was actually filmed.
The novel establishes the fictional town of Amity on Long Island. Author Peter Benchley became fascinated by sharks in the 1960s, especially after reading about a 4500 pound great white was caught by Montauk shark hunter Frank Mundus. As a freelance journalist, he was assigned to write a piece about Southampton. He thought to himself, "My God, if that kind of thing can happen around the beaches of Long Island, and I know Southampton, why not put the two together." Of course, the Quint character was based on Mundus and the fishing boat Orca in the movie was almost identical to Mundus's boat, the Cricket II.
So why film on Martha's Vineyard, not the Hamptons? The Vineyard was chosen because it was "a vacation area that was lower middle class enough so that an appearance of a shark would destroy the tourist business." And according to Dan Rattiner, who asked back then why the movie hadn't been filmed in the Hamptons, "The explanation I got was that they needed the resort to be one that appeared to be very, very isolated, so it could fill theatregoers with dread. Martha's Vineyard filled the bill. The Hamptons were too 'busy.'" (This writer remembers Montauk in 1974. It was not busy in any sense of the word.)
The movie scared a certain ten year old girl more than any other movie before or since. She spent her summers on a blow up raft at either Gin Beach or Ditch Plains, and she didn't want to be eaten like little Alex Kintner. To this day, when swimming, she still makes sure there are other people farther out in the water than she is so the shark can eat them first.
Jaws is an excellent movie—the first summer blockbuster and an all time classic. But let's get it straight: it was set in the Hamptons. Sorry, Vineyard.
· The Ultimate Jaws Filming Location Map of Martha's Vineyard [CCC]
· The Failed Battle to Get Jaws Filmed in the Hamptons [Dan's]