We've just lost another great performer as actress Lee Fierro, widely known for her role as Mrs. Kintner in the 1975 horror classic Jaws, has passed away. Reportedly, Fierro died at the assisted living facility where she's been living in Ohio for the past few years due to complications from the coronavirus. She was 91 years old.
In addition to appearing in one of cinema's all-time greatest movies, Fierro also spent many years working with the Island Theatre Workshop program at Martha's Vineyard, helping more than a thousand young students to begin their acting careers. "The one word I would think of when I think of Lee is dedication. I've watched her as a performer, director and business woman and then we became friends. She was my teacher and mentor," says Kevin Ryan, the program's artistic director and board president. Other former students have since commented on her passing as well, with one saying of Fierro, "She's the reason I followed my dreams."
Though she worked as a drama teacher, Fierro had no formal screen training before she appeared in a pivotal scene in the movie Jaws. Prior to the scene, Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees), a young boy, is killed by the shark while rafting out in the water on a busy beach day. This leads to the introduction of Fierro's Mrs. Kintner, who grows furious with Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) when she learns the beach stayed open after the death of another person the week before. "You knew it was dangerous, but you let those people go swimming anyway," Mrs. Kintner says through her tears, giving Brody a slap across the face to really get her point across.
"I really want to make sure people remember there was more to Lee Fierro than that one scene, though she really did steal that scene from a lot of big actors," Ryan also says of Fierro's iconic Jaws role, noting she did so much more for young actors working their way into the industry than what most of us saw on the movie screen. "I want people to remember that she helped to build a community company that after 52 years is still here. As they're closing around the country, we're still here and that's because of Lee Fierro's dedication."
Fierro later reprised the role of Mrs. Kintner for a cameo appearance in Jaws: The Revenge, and though the movie is not without its flaws, Fierro's cameo is certainly a highlight. More recently, she returned to the screen when she appeared in the 2016 drama The Mistover Tale alongside Gail D. Dodge and Harry Tappen Heher. Proud of her role in the Jaws franchise, Fierro has also made several appearances in various Jaws making-of documentaries over the years, including Rob Goldberg's 2010 television doc Jaws: The Inside Story.
After spending more than 25 years working as the artistic director at the Island Theatre Workshop, Fierro moved to Ohio in 2017 to be closer with her family. Her survivors include her five children: Melanie Stephens, Anthony Stephens, Doug Keeler, Dinah Hodgson, and Ethan Fierro; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. "She really loved us. I think we'd all agree," Melanie said after Fierro's passing. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. May she rest in peace. This news comes to us from The Martha's Vineyard Times.