From the Vineyard Gazette edition of June 27, 1975:

It was a night for celebrating. The sky was clear, and the waxing moon was in competition with the stars of the sky, the stars of the screen, and the stars of the Island, and into this perfect setting (or set) went Islanders in best bib and tucker to see the premiere of their very own movie, Jaws.

It had to be a benefit, (these big things always turn into benefits) and it had to be for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital because that needs more money than other Island organizations.

So early Friday afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Hall turned over the Island Theatre in Oak Bluffs to committee women, songs, pictures, a piece of whale blubber (fake) and all the paraphernalia and remnants of Jaws which could be collected, and the theatre and ushers were decorated in appropriate manner.

It all happened under the direction of Mrs. D. Norman Brady who seemed to have more than she could cope with — yet she coped. People were up on ladders, sticking pretty bows on seats, chasing down thumbtacks, placing flowers, or wiring up the huge Universal sign made to change the Edgartown town offices into Amity Island town hall.

The sign was made from rather bad wood, and it was just a question of how long it would stay up there in the wind, before it crashed down on a lot of heads, but it stayed — long enough. Mrs. Robert W. Nevin had sequestered the Universal production office sign in her cellar, and this was hung over the ticket booth since it was no longer needed. The evening was a sellout.

Since the evening was divided into two performances — early and late — it’s hard to tell exactly how many of the actors were there for the opening. There certainly were a lot of them. The Warner-Lenssen family, who were all such enthusiastic extras, were there to help decorate, usher and have fun; Mrs. Nevin, production’s executive secretary, was there with her husband, Dr. Nevin, who showed up on the screen larger than life and on many occasions each time looking more worried, the way he usually does.

Peggy Scott showed up well as the speaking secretary as did Cyprien P. R. Dube as a shivering selectman. Janice Hull, who came to the late showing, could be seen capering through dock, beach and boat scenes, if one looked quickly, as could Carol Fligor. Director’s pet Al Wilde spoke well, but waved a wheel better, and another of the director’s pets, his own cocker spaniel, showed up nicely instead of Tre Morse’s Yorkie. As expected, Fanny Blair’s barrette got well displayed in the Menemsha scenes, while Ruth Brooks bounced about in the dock scenes as placid Daniel Poole ate his cereal. Craig Kingsbury, in the role of Ben Gardner was much in flood-lit evidence in the bow of his boat, but in the end he lost his head — it appears sharks don’t eat heads.

The Island’s gentle Lee Fierro had a real speaking part in which she was her sweet delicate self and very very good. Also Jeff Kramer played well and got his name up in lights.

Except for an opening moment (shortly after Christie’s screams) when police Chief Martin Brody stepped out of his East Chop house and was instantly in Gay Head and Berny Issokson said, “That was a quick trip!” the theatre was pin-drop still. The audience seemed afraid it would really miss something. It was really an unforgettable moment, and the electric excitement could quite literally be felt although not heard.

Quite different from later screenings when people yelled, “E-e-e, there’s Mabel,” or applauded when John Alley capered down the dock. Not that John Alley’s capering wasn’t worth applause, but it must have been irritating to those really interested in hearing what the movie was all about. Gone now is the hushed expectancy of opening night and it has been replaced with the chaos of a family outing on carnival day.

The consensus of the viewers that first night was that the film seemed jerky, with little continuity. Many admitted that this was because they had been busy looking for familiar faces, sites, scenes and themselves. Everyone agreed that the plot of the first half of the movie (summer economy versus lives) didn’t meld with the second half which was gung-ho, let’s catch a shark.

Often viewers did not realize that Stephen Potter’s Labrador retriever had been eaten by the shark, that Chief Brody was new on the job, that Quint was a character thoroughly hated as well as feared, (a money grubber) and that Rick Dreyfuss who played the oceanographer — to off-Islanders, and the man from Woods Hole to Islanders — had no character written for him, and had just clowned his way through.

But regardless of what Islanders feel, that movie is going to be playing to capacity crowds throughout the summer. Certainly everyone said it was good entertainment and everyone, absolutely everyone, is going to see it again — and again — and perhaps again. And Jaws is going to be part of the action just as long as the action is on Martha’s Vineyard.

Compiled by Hilary Wall