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Susan Backlinie, Iconic Star of Jaws Beach Scene, Dies at 77

May 13, 2024 8:20 am in by
PARSIPPANY, NJ - APRIL 21: Susan Backlinie attends Chiller Theatre Expo Spring 2017 at Hilton Parsippany on April 21, 2017 in Parsippany, New Jersey. (Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

Susan Backlinie, whose portrayal of a terrified swimmer in the opening scene of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” became one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history, has passed away at the age of 77.

Born on September 1, 1946, in Ventura, California, Backlinie’s career in Hollywood spanned several decades, but it was her role as Chrissie Watkins in the 1975 blockbuster “Jaws” that etched her name into film history. In the film’s unforgettable opening sequence, Backlinie portrayed a young woman who becomes the first victim of the great white shark terrorizing the fictional Amity Island. Her visceral performance, coupled with John Williams’ haunting score and Spielberg’s masterful direction, set the tone for one of the most suspenseful and enduring films of all time.

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Though Backlinie’s screen time in “Jaws” was relatively brief, her contribution to the film’s success was immeasurable. The scene in which her character is violently dragged underwater by the unseen predator remains one of the most chilling moments in cinema, eliciting fear and suspense in audiences around the world.

Following her role in “Jaws,” Backlinie continued to work in film and television, appearing in projects such as “1941,” another Spielberg-directed film, and the television series “The Great American Traffic Jam.” However, it was her portrayal of Chrissie Watkins that would forever define her legacy as an actress.

Beyond her work in entertainment, Backlinie was also an accomplished stuntwoman and animal rights activist. She performed stunts in numerous films, showcasing her fearlessness and athleticism on screen.

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News of Backlinie’s passing has prompted an outpouring of tributes from fans and colleagues alike, with many fondly remembering her contributions to cinema and her unforgettable performance in “Jaws.” Though she may be gone, her legacy as the face of one of the most iconic scenes in film history will continue to endure for generations to come.

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