The Jaws Log Carl Gottlieb

Review by C.J. Bunce

A feat of Carl Gottlieb’s contemporary, firsthand account of the making of the movie Jaws, called The Jaws Log, is that the author had not planned on writing the book during the production and yet his resulting work is a modern classic.  After all, how could he have known the movie he was writing the screenplay for would be the kind of success to warrant a “making of” chronicle?  Yet after production, with the buy-in of director Steven Spielberg, Gottlieb, who also played the newspaperman in the film, played a real-life journalist, amassing enough notes and anecdotes to pull the book together.  Along with extensive interviews from the film crew and town locals at the shooting location in Martha’s Vineyard, the result was a step-by-step look at filmmaking, considered by many as one of the best “making of” books ever produced–originally published in 1975 just after the blockbuster was born.  Forty years later the account holds up well.  X-Men series director Bryan Singer has called The Jaws Log “like a little movie director bible.”

If The Jaws Log is your first foray into the making of the movie Jaws, you’re likely to have the same response.  It’s no surprise Gottlieb was a successful screenwriter:  Gottlieb is a superb storyteller.  And if you’re wondering about the source for all the laughs that separate the tension in the film, you’ve Gottlieb to thank for much of that.  Again, no surprise, as Gottlieb also wrote for The Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family, and The Odd Couple, as well as the screenplay a few years later for Steve Martin’s The Jerk. 

From The Jaws Log

We can also thank Gottlieb for gutting so much of author Peter Benchley’s novel that didn’t work (we recounted the elements earlier this summer in our Retro Review of the novel here at borg.com).  The success of the movie, coupled with the absolute silence from critics for cutting and re-writing so much of the source work, is Gottlieb’s true legacy.

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