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A Look Back: ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Montauk Pioneer’

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws celebrates 40 years this summer. Though filmed in Martha’s Vineyard, there are deep connections between Jaws and the Hamptons, links that go beyond the director’s place of residence.

A book of the same name, which the movie was modeled after, took place on Long Island. But most notably, the character of Quint is very likely based on Montauk big game fisherman Frank Mundus. Mundus backed up the claim on his website, where he stated, “Jaws was modeled after my shark fishing career and colorful, crazy exploits.” Mundus also wrote an autobiography, titled Fifty Years a Hooker, in which he recounts his life as a shark fisherman and the parallels between his story and that of Jaws.

Later in life, however, Mundus transitioned into more of a shark conservationist, supporting the use of circle hooks, which increase a shark’s chance of survival if it escapes after being captured; and he helped to begin a shark tagging program.

In the 1960s, The Montauk Pioneer ran two advertisements referencing Mundus. His boat, Cricket II, was featured in a 1963 edition of The Montauk Pioneer that advertised the fishing fleet of Montauk. But perhaps what is most convincing that Mundus was indeed Quint is Mundus’s capture of an estimated 4,500-pound shark in 1964. A 1966 ad in The Pioneer notes that the shark is on display at Salivar’s on West Lake Drive in Montauk. Mundus gave then proprietor Pete Chimpoukchis the shark’s head. Though ownership has since changed, the iconic Montauk establishment is still serving clams and chowder under the gaze of the Great White Shark today.

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