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The Nostalgic Attic: The JAWS Log by Carl Gottlieb

3 June 2014

The JAWS Log by Carl Gottlieb


The summer has definitely arrived, and it's time for me to take a break from the kindle and enjoy catching up on the ever-increasing stack of paperbacks I have here. There's just no better feeling than catching a cool breeze in the shade while dipping in and out of a book. Wes M over at Plutonium Shores  is diving head first into film documentaries currently, and inspired me with his break downs to get back into this book that I started a few weeks back.Besides, if there ever was a film or novel that truly feels like 'summer', then surely it's Jaws?


Anyone who has even a passing interest in the film (that's about 80% of the world) knows that the film had a troubled production. If you've ever dug deeper than just anecdotal stories in film magazines and watched the documentaries on the DVD releases, then you have a pretty good idea of what happened, and how a bright young director managed to salvage a shoot and create one of the most iconic films of all time. We've heard it all at this point: how the shark wouldn't function when it was needed, how Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss just didn't get on, even down to how Stephen Spielberg begged the studio to give him cash to re-shoot the moment when Ben Gardner's head pops out of the sunken boat. The documentary, The Shark is Still Working is as exhausting as you could ever want it to be on the subject, and if you haven't seen it, get to it. However, I feel sometimes that when these guys get in front of the camera after 30 years of telling a story, it starts to feel just like that - a well told story.


Carl Gottlieb looks to dispel the rumours and here say with this book, and even though it was written shortly after the film wrapped, he has gone back and made amendments to those rumours that still go around about the film to this day. Being in on the production from early on as screenwriter and actor, he does a great job of showing the process of getting the rights to the novel and getting it to the point of where they were ready to roll a camera. For anyone who works in the film industry, it really is a fascinating look into how films were getting made in the early 70's. Things have definitely changed. We find out all sorts of great little details on behind-the-scenes of how the production worked, down to info on who was sharing the house with Spielberg, and the meals they were eating every evening. We even get details on who was dating the guy who was too drunk to get in the water in the opening scene.

It's not all just titbit's of info that you get here. You get a really good sense of the scale of a production like Jaws. The logistics that it takes to get accommodation for the huge crew,shooting permits and then even ferrying cast and crew out to filming spots is all documented here. One moment I loved was when the production manager began building the set for Quint's shack on the waterfront, after obtaining the appropriate permit. He was then told that, as the structure had a support beam in the water, that he would need a separate permit, and would have to pull the structure down. Despairing, the production manager asked how long it would take the judge to put the paperwork through for the structure to be pulled down. He was told, '6 weeks', at which he said fuck it, as they were going to be finished filming in a week anyway. On a shoot, you really have to think on your feet...


Other humorous moments included a story involving Murray Hamilton mistaking a skunk for a dog, or how Richard Dreyfuss would spend his evenings chasing tail in the local bars. A lot of the information is quite candid, though I'm sure the passing of time has lessened the impact it would have on the lives of those involved. One big rumour that Gottlieb stomps on is the involvement of John Milius in the script, and especially in the famous 'USS Indianapolis' speech, made by Shaw. Legend has it that Milius wrote it, and was uncredited for it. Gottlieb claims that Milius' sole contribution to the script is 'I'll find him for three, and I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten'. The one who wrote that legendary monologue? Shaw himself. Gottlieb was in charge of the script, and came away with the drafts in which all the notes were made from, so he seems like a reliable source...

If you are a Jaws fanatic, then you need to read this book. This might all sound like unnecessary padding by my description, but it all feels so natural when you are reading it. You can imagine everyone in their cut-off, faded shorts, bearded, soaking in the sun on Martha's Vineyard, having an absolute blast. Because, you know, they were making a movie. And that's what you want to get from it; you want to be there, with them, step-by-step. It's the kind of book that will get you excited about films again, especially if you work in the industry. Much like the shark itself, which seemed like an impossibility, the filmmakers managed to make a film that they were told that couldn't be done. The Jaws Log is a perfect testament to the power of movie magic.


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13 Comments:

At 3 June 2014 at 11:31 , Blogger Wes M said...

Great post John, and great pics... I'm just leafing thru my copy of the Jaws Log now, which I picked up back in 2007 at the Strand bookstore in Union Square, NYC. The film section was so huge you spend several days there without ever coming up from air... I reread the book just last summer and your post brings back memories of a great week visiting Martha's Vineyard with a hard workin' blue collar film crew, a hip but untested young director and some wily locals who were gonna make the most of the circus visiting town. I love the anecdote of Spielberg's carefully planned getaway following the last shot of the schedule, right before the crew carried out their plan to chuck him into the sea. As you mentioned in your post Carl Gottlieb has done Robert Shaw a great service by correctly attributing him with the Indianapolis speech, a wonderful tour de force of writing and acting ("You know the thing about a shark, he's got lifeless eyes...black eyes... like a doll's eyes"). As a window into the film making process, the book really epitomizes what a huge gamble making a film is and even the most skilled writers, directors and technicians need a bit of luck from time to time. I'm not sure if could stand being out on the water all that long without going insane - I remember taking a boat trip to the Blaskets a few years ago and the 15min trip from the mainland was grueling. Thinking about all this now, I really should get Jaws on Blu and damn it I should have grabbed Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard coffee-table book when it was easily available...

I like very much the film memoir genre - I'm scanning thru my bookshelf and there are some great ones out there - Future Noir: The Making Of Blade Runner, Notes On The Making Of Apocalypse Now, The Devil's Candy: the Bonfire Of The Vanities Goes To Hollywood, Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists, 2001: Filming The Future, The Making Of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, And World War II, Inside The Wicker Man: How Not To Make A Cult Classic, Wes Craven's Last House On The Left - all fantastic, revelatory reads...

 
At 3 June 2014 at 12:25 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks Wes, glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did! Yeah, I think a lot of it really is a gamble - you can have all the best intentions in the world, with the best crew and script, but it is no guarantee that what comes out at the end is going to be a decent film, let alone one of the best of it's decade. I know what you mean in terms of being on boats, I don't have much in the way of sea legs myself, but I do love the feeling of the open sea and a boat. As to being stuck on one for months filming... that's a different story!

You really need to pick it up on Blu Ray, it's unsurprisingly a beautiful presentation. And yup, I was only looking at the Memories from Martha's Vineyard book earlier, it has gone up in price and availability.

Thanks a bunch for the recommendations! I spent ages earlier on amazon adding a slew of them to my wishlist, some of which you mentioned that I haven't read. The others are going on it now! I used to read a lot of film-related books when I was in my early twenties, but somehow got out of it. Reading The Jaws Log has put me back in the mood, so I think I'll be getting through a few of these over the next few months...

 
At 3 June 2014 at 20:25 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

It's a great book for sure. I got to attend a Jaws reunion panel with Carl Gottlieb, Joe Alves, Jeffrey Kramer, and Susan Backlinie last year - they gave a fantastic presentation. Afterwards I got my Jaws Log book signed by Carl Gottlieb - he was awesome to meet. They all were - Backlinie signed my Blu-Ray; Kramer signed my DVD of Hollywood Blvd (telling me I'd made his weekend bringing it in); and Joe Alves gave me a signed copy of one of his production sketches after signing my Jaws 3-D poster (with bonus Lea Thompson autograph the same weekend). This Jaws fan was in heaven, let me tell you!

 
At 4 June 2014 at 01:14 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

That's awesome, it's always great to hear about fans having a positive time with stars. Backlinie seems like a lovely lady in all the interviews she has done, and Gottlieb seems like a gent, too. that's great on Kramer doing your DVD, too! I guess they are so used to everyone bringing the same materials to get signed that it must be a nice surprise when something different pops up!

 
At 4 June 2014 at 01:53 , Blogger Wes M said...

Well, I didn't want to deflect any attention from John's post but my Jaws Log came with an A4 insert with marketing instructions for the book, and signed by...wait for it... the head of publicity of the publishing company ! I know !! Try to contain your excitement !

Seriously though Craig that is an incredible collection of Jaws paraphernalia, and I am sick with jealously here just reading about it. That's a great story about the signing of the Hollywood Boulevard DVD - I love that film ! Last year, a friend of mine was flying out of Dallas airport and rang me to say he was sitting opposite John Waters - and I begged him to go over and get an autograph ("Tell him Pink Flamingos is the greatest movie ever made!" I shouted down the phone well after midnight, much to the annoyance of my sleeping wife) but he never got the chance - Waters was in deep conversation with an elderly woman (?) the whole time and my friend who wouldn't know Pink Flamingos from Pretty In Pink didn't feel like intruding. Ah well, I might have chickened out of it as well – I missed out on getting Luigi Cozzi’s autograph on another occasion. I do have a nice glossy Beyond still signed by David Warbeck but that's about it for film stuff. We almost never get film conventions in Ireland…

 
At 4 June 2014 at 02:18 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Yup, mentioning that A4 insert would have ruined my day! Some guys have all the luck...

I'm actually racking my brain to think of any nice celebrities I've met... Colm Meaney? No autograph though, and I was the same as you with Cozzi. I met Danielle Harris at the premiere of her directorial debut, and she was genuinely lovely. John Waters is a nice chap, I didn't get an autograph but I did get to ask him a question during a live audience thing with him which was cool... Michael Palin signed my wifes books for her while I took a photo... I guess that counts! Oh, I have a signed poster for 2002 Maniacs by the director when I met him a few years back... but not sure that's something anyone would care about!

But yup, it isn't the easiest to meet these types in Ireland, though Dublin is definitely getting better.

 
At 4 June 2014 at 02:27 , Blogger Wes M said...

John, that's actually a pretty damn good roll call of personalities there. Colm Meany I would just bombard with questions about The Next Generation and Michael Palin is a God among men, not so much for the Pyton stuff (which I like), but I love his travel series and his two volumes of diaries are among my all-time favourite reads. What did you ask John Waters ? Do you remember ? I'm gonna kill my soon-to-be-ex-friend for not getting his autograph now !!!

 
At 4 June 2014 at 02:38 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Yeah, Palin is great, but I'm a massive Python fan, and only started reading his travel books after we met him (I'm enjoying them a lot, he has a lovely style of writing). I THINK I asked Waters about how he feels about pretenders to the shock throne, when Pink Flamingos will still send grown men running from the room 40 years after it released ( I obviously worded it better, it was much more conversational). He was very funny though, and he said he loves all the modern gore shocker stuff that comes out. It's cool that he still keeps up with trash cinema.

I know I've met a few others, but fuck, my brain is struggling to remember them!

 
At 4 June 2014 at 04:12 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

Well since you gentlemen are familiar with Hollywood Blvd, I'll go ahead and mention that the same show this year got me Dick Miller's signature on the same DVD...

 
At 4 June 2014 at 04:33 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

!!!!!! No words... How was the man? I can only assume he is an absolute gent?

 
At 4 June 2014 at 19:21 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

He was indeed very nice - and accomodating - as will be seen over at my blog just any day now...(his wife is awesome too!)

 
At 5 June 2014 at 08:19 , Blogger Maurice Mitchell said...

I had no idea it took so much work JP! Thanks for a valuable review, and I hope you have a beautiful Thursday buddy!

 
At 5 June 2014 at 09:44 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks for stopping by, Maurice! You too!

 

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