All over America in the mid-1970s, motels, YMCAs and community parks posted “Shark-Free Pool” signs. Was swimming really that dangerous 40 years ago? No, they were just cashing in on the JAWS phenomenon, which took the country by storm in the summer of ’75.
Neophyte director Steven Spielberg took Peter Benchley’s best-seller and turned it into a must-see blockbuster that terrified audiences everywhere. It’s the story of a snoozy resort town called Amity (played by Martha’s Vineyard) that finds itself plunged into a never-ending nightmare after a shark with a voracious appetite begins prowling the once-tranquil waters. It’s up to police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), oceanographer Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and veteran shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to save the town from this seemingly unstopppable predator.
JAWS inspired numerous sequels (and dozens of rip-offs) but nothing came close to topping Spielberg’s shocker. More than 40 years later, everyone still recognizes John Williams’ Oscar-winning score — and plenty of fans can still quote Quint’s signature toast, “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.”