February 26, 2012

JAWS filming locations, part 3 - North and East: Brody's house, State Beach



Concluding this three-part photo-tour of Martha's Vineyard, an informal look for the filming locations for Jaws (1975).



VINEYARD HAVEN

At the end of Part 2, we were at the far west point of the island at Gay Head Cliffs, an area also called Aquinnah. We drove back across the island heading north to Vineyard Haven, a small town on the west side of a large natural harbour.


This was a far smaller town than it sounded in the guide book, but it's one of the busiest places on the island, with two docks for the huge car ferries from the mainland. Therefore, this is the most likely location for the 'tourists on the menu' montage in Jaws.




EAST CHOP

East Chop lighthouse
Driving to the other side of the harbour, in search of the Brody house on East Chop Drive, we had a look at East Chop lighthouse, one of five on the island.

Next door to the Brody house
This house isn't in the film, but it's between the lighthouse and the house used as the Brody family house in Jaws. I'm guessing that the location scout first suggested these houses because they were close to the picturesque lighthouse. 

The Brody house
Just down the hill from the lighthouse, the 'Brody house' has now been reclad, and the garage has been converted into a separate dwelling. 

Rear veranda just visible (which has a view of their jetty)
But the veranda at the back and their own little dock are still visible from the street. This end of the veranda was where Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) freaks out while looking at a book of shark attacks...

Other end of the veranda, and their private jetty (the far one)
It's a private residence, the owner didn't even want it used again for filming Jaws 2. So we didn't spend too long lurking outside, and certainly didn't trespass on any private land to get a better angle.

The jetty closest to the house is in a state of disrepair -
this should be where Michael Brody's birthday present was moored 



STATE BEACH

Taking the coast road south from East Chop to Edgartown takes you along a long sandbar which needs two bridges to complete it as a roadway. The larger of the two bridges (the more southern of the two) was made famous in the film, where the shark enters 'the pond' while a false alarm distracts the police patrols.

This beach and the bay are the reason Jaws was filmed here on Martha's Vineyard, as the water is very shallow for a long way out. Meaning that the huge tracking mechanism for the shark could be easily laid in shallow water, for both the beach and 'at sea' scenes. The huge wide bay was relatively sheltered from crosswinds and currents, but the horizon could still be clear of land, to maintain the illusion that they were filming far out at sea.

State Beach, looking north -
land curves round the horizon, sheltering the bay
This beach was used in two major scenes. The shark attack witnessed by Chief Brody while he's relaxing with his wife, and the crowded beach  scenes set on July 4th. The bandstand and the brightly colour-striped cabanas were all built for the film, but all there is to see now is sand and sea. Who knows exactly where Spielberg filmed his electrifying reverse-zoom close-up of Roy Scheider. 

Guessing where Scheider had his back rub
Reverse angle - this sea saw a lot of action
Behind most of the length of the beach is a long stretch of water called Sengekontacket Pond. The action in 'the pond' is easier to pinpoint, where Brody's son meets the shark while sailing with two friends, and the policeman's desperate run to try and help him after being distracted by the stampede. Brody runs along the bridge and jumps over the side onto a much smaller beach by the entrance to the pond.

The rocky breakwaters, the bridge and the channel into the pond have recently been remodelled though. I was disappointed that the distinctive wooden supports for the bridge are now concrete pillars.

The bridge leading to the pond -
the beach with the woman artist is at top left, "Sh... sh... shark!"

The bridge supports are no longer wooden -
dense trees surround the pond at the rear

Brody runs down along here to get to the pond -
I've no idea why I'm leaning like that
Looking south across the channel
at the 'artist's beach' and beyond

The artist's beach - the bridge is at right -
note how the bay stretches round the horizon

On the bridge, looking south - pond is on the right
On the bridge, looking at State Beach,
guessing where the bandstand stood
The beach seems much deeper than it was in the film

View from the artist's beach, looking across the channel
On the artist's beach, the pond can be seen at top
I wanted a shot of me standing here, blocking one of the most chilling angles in the film, when the shark submerges in this channel to go under the bridge and into the pond. To learn how they shot that, you'll need to read Memories from Martha's Vineyard.


Chief Brody can't have read this

The pond side of the bridge, recently remodelled
Reverse view, a small beach looking over the pond -
I thought this might be where the girl bathers see the boys in trouble



OAK BLUFFS

On our final morning, we left the island on a small ferry from Oak Bluffs. I don't think this town was seen in the film, but it's the largest town on Martha's Vineyard, with the prettiest buildings on the island, making it the most usual tourist destination for daytrippers. 


Oak Bluffs car ferry dock



As you can see above, this dock at Oak Bluffs can't be the one seen in the car ferry montage in Jaws. Every time I saw these ships, I could hear John Williams music.

Best Jaws souvenir shop on the island! (Closed on Mondays)
Just down from the harbour, on Spring Street, this shop makes a point of selling the best Jaws souvenirs. Of course, it was shut the day we were there. I suppose that gives us an excuse to go back!




Compared to some other of our 'location tours', we often had to use our imaginations. I spent a few moments at each spot, staring out to sea aimlessly wondering if that patch of water had seen any action. How desperate! For all I knew, we could have been in the wrong place at various parts of this tour. But I think we saw most of the locations that are still identifiable.


My main regret is that we couldn't find out where the closing shot (frame grab above) was filmed.  A stretch of deserted beach with a lighthouse in the distance. From what I'd read, I'd assumed it was the lighthouse at the top of Chappaquiddick, but we didn't have time to see that. I'm now thinking it looks more like the beach at Aquinnah with the Gay Head lighthouse top right. We also couldn't find any building that resembled the gutting shed where Brody and Hooper search the shark's stomach.

But this trip has further cemented my love for Jaws, appreciating how much was made out of so little. Some films use spectacular locations for impressive imagery. Making a spectacular film full of unforgettable images in a quiet seaside town takes special talent.

Again, it was weird to visit a place for the first time that was already so familiar. Thankfully, no teenage impressions have been smashed - the visit didn't reveal any outrageous 'cheating' or disappointments. Just a wider view of a place I first saw through a letterbox.


Jaws tour - part 1: Edgartown - the heart of Amity Island

Jaws tour - part 2: bonfire beach, Katama Bay, Quint's dock

The making of Jaws - a look at the books and documentaries

My notes on the film
( All photographs in this post are copyright of Mark Hodgson and David Tarrington © 2011 )

13 comments:

  1. Mark, a fantastic trilogy of posts, I really enjoyed the text and images (well shot I might add), and what a wonderful way to revisit the film - which like most people reading this, I've seen at least 30 times... Movie location scouting is something I'd like to do more of. My wife is not a film nerd like me so it's hard to make a detour to some far flung location, but I've always wanted to visit that incredible flight of steps in The Exorcist, or some of the locations Tarkovsky filmed Stalker, in and around Tallinn in Estonia.

    By the way you mentioned Moby Dick in one of your Jaws posts - John Huston filmed some parts of the film in my hometome Cork, at the seaside town of Youghal (pronounced Yawl). Of course there's a pub in the town called Moby Dick's...

    Anyway, fantastic stuff Mark, I really enjoyed it.

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  2. Thank you Wes. Glad you enjoyed these. Yeah, taking chunks out of your holidays for mad quests isn't for everyone.

    I think John Huston dragged writer Ray Bradbury over to Ireland for the filming of MOBY DICK. Any idea why they didn't shoot in the US?

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  3. I'm not entirely sure why Huston shot that short segment of the film in Ireland - the sequence itself could have been shot anywhere, but he did have some affinity for the country and the people, returing to Ireland in 1987 to make The Dead, his final film which by all accounts was shot from his death bed. Ray Bradbury too had some fondness for the Irish, and wrote a number of short stories set in Ireland, as well as the short story collection Green Shadows, White Whale, a fictionalized account of his time spent in Ireland on the Moby Dick production.

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  4. I was planning to do something like this for filming locations in Arizona. Now I'm inspired to do it! These are great.

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  5. Go for it! Um, I'm assuming Arizona was mostly westerns...?

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  6. Actually Az has been used in a bunch of sci fi movies. Star Wars, for example, shot in the desert of Yuma. Bill and Ted shot in a bowling alley. It's just hard to track down the shooting locations. Any tips?

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  7. Always on the lookout for books written about locations, and especially about my favourite films. Scouring the internet can give clues. But. The best research comes from scrutinising the movies themselves.

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  8. I believe Menemsha's harbor was used only once as a location previous to Jaws: a silent low-budget obsurity called Anabelle Lee(1922) available from Grapevine video. Why and how the producer got to this remote, beautiful, old harbor is a mystery.

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  9. It's underused as a location!

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  10. Just an FYI - the original Brody house is gone. I was the architect involved in building its replacement. We tore the original house down to the first floor (Conservation rules for waterfront construction wouldn't allow us to tear it all down) and built the new house on the old foundations and floor framing. I saved the front door from the original house with the Owner's blessing. The garage was converted to a guest cottage, but the structure is essentially the same as the original garage.

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  11. I knew about the garage building, but hadn't compared the main house to the movie yet. Thank you for letting us know!

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  12. Thanks for sharing these photos. Jaws fans all love the movie for different reasons. For me, its not the shark, its the relationship between Hooper, Brody and Quint. The movie really doesn't start for me until Brody is storming away from his meeting with the mayor with a signed contract to hire Quint. I will visit these places one day. Hopefully the Jaws tour and the souvneir shop will still be open. Your breakdowns and photos are alot of fun to look at. Thanks again.

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  13. These photos are really fun to look at. Thanks so much. Jaws fans all love the movie for different reasons. For me, its the relationship between Hooper, Brody and Quint. And Williams music. Thanks for an up to date viewing of the locations. Too bad the Orca has been moved. I heard one of them was in a back lot at Universal in Ca., and when it was moved, it was so rotted it fell apart. What a shame.
    Thanks again.

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