His grandfather, Robert, was the revered Algonquin wit.
Having cut his teeth writing speeches for President Lyndon Johnson, Benchley became a freelance writer, hoarding two ideas for lunches with New York literary editors: a non-fiction book about pirates, and a novel about a 4,500 pound great white shark attacking swimmers off Long Island.
not only broke box office records, it would not look out of place in any top 50 movie list.
Benchley’s original would struggle to make most literary critics’ top 50,000 books.
The joyful climax, enhanced by Matt Hooper’s resurrection, offers little doubt who we should be rooting for.
The jokes were removed, and the rest was history, eventually.There is little to match Spielberg’s marriage of propulsive storytelling with visual innovation: the dolly zoom on Martin Brody after Alex Kintner is attacked on a lilo; the camera placed wave-high to enhance the vulnerability of unsuspecting bathers.Benchley’s prose is by turns functional (‘lacking the flotation bladder common to other fish…it survived only by moving’) and melodramatic to occasionally risible degrees: ‘He screamed, an ejaculation of hopelessness’. Estimated sales of 20 million books changed Benchley’s life forever, not to mention popular culture as we know it, helped of course by Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie released a year later in 1975. Commentators from Fidel Castro to Slavoj Zizek have had their say about Benchley’s great white.It has been a metaphor for dispassionate nature, international Communism, Watergate, the majesty of the ineffable and Fascism.