Chinatown (1974) Poster



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The Chinatown (1974) screenplay is now regarded as being one of the most perfect screenplays and is now a main teaching point in screen writing seminars and classes everywhere.
At one point, Roman Polanski and Jack Nicholson got into such a heated argument that Polanski smashed Nicholson's portable TV with a mop. Nicholson used the TV to watch L.A. Lakers basketball games and kept stalling shooting.
At the time of filming, Jack Nicholson had just embarked on his longstanding relationship with Anjelica Huston. This made his scenes with her father, John Huston, rather uncomfortable, especially as the only time Anjelica was on set was the day they were filming the scene where Noah Cross interrogates Nicholson's character with "Mr Gittes...do you sleep with my daughter?"
The scene where Roman Polanski slits Jack Nicholson's nose was extremely complex to film, and the two men involved got so tired of explaining how it was done (by using a specially-constructed knife with a short hinge that would be safe as long as it was handled VERY carefully) that they began to claim Nicholson's nose was actually cut.
Writer Robert Towne was originally offered $125,000 to write a screenplay for The Great Gatsby (1974), but Towne felt he couldn't better the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and accepted $25,000 to write his own story, "Chinatown," instead.
After several takes that never looked quite right, Faye Dunaway told Jack Nicholson to actually slap her. He did, and the scene made it into the movie.
The last movie Roman Polanski filmed in the US.
Because this film was the first of a planned trilogy, Jack Nicholson turned down all detective roles he was offered so that the only detective he played would be Jake Gittes.
Faye Dunaway and Roman Polanski were notorious for their on-set arguments; during filming, Polanski pulled out some strands of Dunaway's hair.
Roman Polanski said that in staying true to the tradition of Raymond Chandler's detective stories, he shot the whole movie from the perspective of the main character.
Robert Towne wrote the screenplay with Jack Nicholson in mind.
Roman Polanski eliminated Jake Gittes' voiceover narration, which was written in the script, and filmed the movie so that the audience discovered the clues at the same time Gittes did.
The Van der Lip Dam disaster is a reference to the collapse of the St Francis Dam in 1928, 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, which had been designed by self-educated engineer William Mulholland. The consequent flooding killed at least 450 people, a loss of life that remains second only to that from the San Francisco earthquake and fire in California's history.
According to Roman Polanski's autobiography, he was outraged when he got the first batch of dailies back from the lab; due to the success of The Godfather (1972), producer Robert Evans had ordered the lab to give this movie a reddish look. Polanski demanded that the film be corrected.
Screenwriter Robert Towne based his famous exchange-Evelyn: "What did you do in Chinatown?" Jake:"As little as possible."-on a joke a LAPD officer friend told him. This was because there were so many different Chinese dialects floating around that an Anglo cop would only get himself into trouble by misinterpreting anything said by the Chinese residents.
Faye Dunaway's distinctive look was inspired by Roman Polanski's memories of his mother, who in the pre-WWII era would fashionably wear penciled-on eyebrows, and have her lipstick shaped in the form of a Cupid's bow.
Despite lobbying Robert Evans and Jack Nicholson for the chance to direct the film, when he finally landed the gig Roman Polanski started having second thoughts. The thought of returning to Los Angeles - where his wife Sharon Tate had been brutally murdered four years earlier - was too overwhelming for him.
Roman Polanski forced Robert Towne to sit and re-write the script with him. Towne was so opposed to this idea that he would argue with Polanski non-stop.
This was the first film of a planned trilogy about corruption in the development of Los Angeles. It was set in the 1930s and was about the water department. The second film, The Two Jakes (1990), was set in the 1940s and was about the gas company. The third film of the trilogy was about the building of the massive freeway system and was to be called "Cloverleaf", named after the famous interchange in downtown L.A., but it was never filmed. However, certain elements (like the building of a massive freeway by a corporation called "Cloverleaf") were eventually incorporated into Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), which took a fantasy/comedic view of this material but also functioned as a detective story.
Was voted the 4th greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
The role of Evelyn Mulwray was originally intended for the producer's wife, Ali MacGraw, but she lost the role when she divorced him for Steve McQueen.
Although he liked the idea of doing a cameo in the film as the hood who slits Jack Nicholson's nose, Roman Polanski was less thrilled about having to have his long hair cut off for his brief appearance in the film.
The movie's line "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." was voted as the #74 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
The enigmatic title stands for failure, bad luck and being out of your depth in something you don't understand.
Roman Polanski had been planning to make a film with Jack Nicholson but hadn't found the right property yet. He actively pursued the Chinatown (1974) script when he learned about it. As luck would have it, Polanski was also producer Robert Evans's first choice for director as he wanted a European vision of the United States which he felt would be darker and a little more cynical.
The first part of a planned trilogy written by Robert Towne about J.J. Gittes and L.A. The second part, The Two Jakes (1990), was directed by Jack Nicholson in 1990.
In the original script, no scenes took place in Chinatown at all.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #21 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Cinematographer Stanley Cortez was fired soon after production began because his classical style did not match the naturalistic style Polanski wanted for the film and proved too time consuming. Polanski had to find a replacement in only a few days and chose John A. Alonzo. As David Fincher and Robert Towne describe on their DVD commentary, two scenes shot by Cortez are in the film. The orange grove fight with the farmers (but not the following porch scene with Evelyn) and the drive back to Los Angeles at sunset are Cortez's work.
Although Los Angeles is given its modern pronunciation in the film ("an-je-les"), prior to the mid-1950s residents said the city's name with a hard G ("angle-es").
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Among the items in Ida Sessions' pocketbook, which Jake Gittes rummages through, are a $2 bill and a Screen Actors Guild membership card.
Phillip Lambro was originally hired to write the film's music score but it was rejected at the last minute by producer Robert Evans, leaving Jerry Goldsmith only ten days to write and record a new score. However, when it was time to put together a trailer for the film, the studio's marketing department decided that Goldsmith's new score wasn't suitable and asked Lambro to use cues from his original score instead. In exchange for allowing his music to be used for the trailer, Lambro asked to retain the publishing rights to his own score. Paramount agreed on the condition that if the music was ever released commercially, Lambro could not use the title "Chinatown". An album with Lambro's original rejected score was finally released in 2012 under the title "Los Angeles, 1937".
Roman Polanski wanted William A. Fraker as his cinematographer, having successfully collaborated with him on Rosemary's Baby (1968). This notion was blocked by producer Robert Evans as he felt that the pairing of the two would create too powerful a bond, making his life as a producer more difficult.
Robert Evans had recently vacated his post as head of Paramount. This was his first film as an actual hands-on producer.
The riverbed that's referred to in the movie is now where the Burbank and Pasadena freeway sit, leading into the more original neighborhoods of the town of Burbank.
The El Macondo Apartments are named after the imaginary city in Gabriel García Márquez's novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude".
The haunting trumpet solos are by respected Hollywood studio musician, Uan Rasey.
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For the first screening, Roman Polanski took his old friend, composer Bronislau Kaper. Producer Robert Evans afterwards asked Kaper what he thought of the picture to which Kaper replied "It's a great film, but you have to change the music."
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The name of Water and Power engineer Hollis Mulwray is likely a play on the real-life head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, William Mulholland (1855-1935). A man obsessed with an engineering challenge of epic proportions, Mulholland brought the Owens River to Los Angeles-which turned the previously lush Owens Valley into a virtual desert-through a combination of determination and deceit.
Ranked #2 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery" in June 2008
Jack Nicholson had the name "Jake Gittes" written on the shirts he used in the movie. Though this is not shown, it was done so Nicholson could enter in character more easily.
The orange grove scene was filmed at Triad Ranch, 3240 Sunset Valley Road, Moorpark, California 93021, the then-home of actor Walter Brennan, John Huston's friend.
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Rance Howard, who plays the role of an angry farmer at the council meeting, is the father of famed actor and director Ron Howard.
Noah Cross is a reference of course to the Biblical character of Noah with all the associated connotations about water.
After Ali MacGraw was discarded, producer Robert Evans wanted Jane Fonda for the part of Evelyn Mulwray while Roman Polanski insisted upon Julie Christie. When Christie passed on the script, they settled for Faye Dunaway.
With appearances by both John Huston and Roman Polanski, this is one of the very few films, perhaps the only one, which features significant acting performances by two Oscar-winning directors. Huston had won his Oscar over 25 years before Chinatown (1974), and Polanski would win his over 25 years later.
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There were many rumors circulating about Faye Dunaway's diva-like behavior during the making of the film. One such was that she refused to flush her own toilet and expected her assistants to do it for her.
When Gittes follows Hollis Mulray to the cliff top (where he leaves a watch under his tire) he passes a bar with an open door. One can hear "I Can't Get Started" by Bunny Berigan, the hit of August 1937.
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The movie's line "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown!" was voted as the #71 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
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Ralph Bellamy turned down the role of Noah Cross.
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Peter Bogdanovich turned down the chance to direct. He later regretted his decision.
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The original script was over 180 pages.
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Jake Gittes was named after Jack Nicholson's friend, producer Harry Gittes.
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The 15th biggest grossing film of 1974.
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Tough-guy hired-gun character Mulvihill in "Chinatown," was likely named after the associate producer of Nicholson's film the previous year, The Last Detail (1973), Charles Mulvehill.
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C.O. Erickson:  the film's executive producer plays the banker in the barbershop who starts an argument with Jake.

Director Cameo 

Roman Polanski:  the hood who slits Jake's nose.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Katherine Mulwray is raised believing that Evelyn Mulwray is her sister, but it is later revealed that Evelyn is her mother (or rather, both mother and sister). Shortly after the film was released, Jack Nicholson discovered that the woman he was raised to believe was his sister was, in fact, his mother.
Roman Polanski has said that the dark ending to the film was a result of his own despair following the murder of his wife, actress Sharon Tate.
Robert Towne originally intended to have a happy ending. However, during pre-production Roman Polanski and Towne argued over it, with Polanski insisting on a tragic ending. Polanski won the argument and, when the picture was re-released in 1999, Towne admitted that he had been wrong.
According to Faye Dunaway, Evelyn's eye wound was meant to parallel the story of Oedipus, who blinded himself after realizing his marriage was incestuous. Miss Dunaway had to fight to keep this in the film - when there was a problem getting the makeup/prosthetics, the filmmakers wanted to change where Evelyn would be shot.
Shortly after Hollis Mulwray's body is recovered, the original script included an omitted scene in which Lt. Escobar reveals to Gittes that he has limited sympathy for the victim, because a cousin of his was killed in the Van Der Lip dam disaster. From Faber and Faber script published UK 1998.
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