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Chinatown (1974)

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A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.

Director:

Roman Polanski

Writer:

Robert Towne
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Popularity
1,559 ( 62)
Top Rated Movies #131 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 20 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Nicholson ... J.J. Gittes
Faye Dunaway ... Evelyn Mulwray
John Huston ... Noah Cross
Perry Lopez ... Escobar
John Hillerman ... Yelburton
Darrell Zwerling ... Hollis Mulwray
Diane Ladd ... Ida Sessions
Roy Jenson ... Mulvihill
Roman Polanski ... Man with Knife
Richard Bakalyan ... Loach (as Dick Bakalyan)
Joe Mantell ... Walsh
Bruce Glover ... Duffy
Nandu Hinds ... Sophie
James O'Rear James O'Rear ... Lawyer (as James O'Reare)
James Hong ... Evelyn's Butler
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Storyline

In 1937 Los Angeles, private investigator Jake 'J.J.' Gittes specializes in cheating-spouse cases. His current target is Hollis Mulwray, high-profile chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, whose wife suspects him of infidelity. In following Mulwray, Gittes witnesses some usual business dealings, such as a public meeting for construction of a new dam to create additional water supply for Los Angeles, as fresh water is vital to the growing community during the chronic drought; Mulwray opposes the dam. Eventually Gittes sees Mulwray meeting with an unknown young woman who isn't his wife. Once news of the supposed tryst between Mulwray and this woman hits the media, additional information comes to light that makes Gittes believe that Mulwray is being framed for something and that he himself is being set up. In his investigation of the issue behind Mulwray's framing and his own setup, Gittes is assisted by Mulwray's wife Evelyn, but he thinks she isn't being ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The most highly acclaimed film of 1974! See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Cantonese | Spanish

Release Date:

20 June 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Barrio Chino See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$29,200,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$30,000,000, 31 January 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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. See more »

Goofs

When Gittes first drives up to the Mulwray's home it's supposed to be lunchtime but the long shadows indicate this scene was shot in the early morning or very late afternoon. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jake Gittes: All right, Curly. Enough's enough. You can't eat the Venetian blinds. I just had them installed on Wednesday.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film opens with the 1940's Paramount logo. See more »

Alternate Versions

TV versions omit the "screwing like a chinaman" joke told by Jake. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Psych: The Movie (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Easy Living
Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
As coolly intense and exceptionally-staged as any detective story/film-noir of the 40's & 50's
17 December 2003 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

Chinatown is a tremendous collaborative effort that produced one of the most memorable Hollywood pictures of the 1970's. Director Roman Polanski (his last film in America, and the first he made in America after the murder of Sharon Tate), stars Jack Nicholson & Faye Dunaway, and writer Robert Towne, all come together to create a detective story classic. At times it slows its pace down so the viewer can think along with Nicholson's character, to take in the environment as well as the situation he's in (i.e. when he goes to the empty reservoir, when he visits Noah Crosses house the first time). And the script has the perfect sense of drawing us into a story, fueled by curiosity, grit, and cynicism, and engages the viewer by its realistic dialog between the characters.

J.J. Gittes (Nicholson, in one of his best 70's performances) is in Los Angeles circa 1933 in the line of private investigator, usually dealing with people who may or may not believe that their significant other is having an affair. Evelyn Mulwray feels this may be the case with her husband Hollis, and Gittes decides to take the case. However, this draws him into a deeper case involving the city's loss of water once Hollis- a major player in the water supply controversy in the city- is found murdered. This eventually leads him to Noah Cross (John Huston), a big businessman and who also happens to be Evelyn's father. Intrigue starts to develop, as Jake's own life begins to be at risk.

As a intricate, detailed detective story the film is an above-average work, with Towne's script containing the maturity, and wicked sense of humor, of a James M. Cain or Raymond Chandler novel. When the thrills come they come as being striking. And when humanity and compassion get thrown into the mix, the film reaches a whole other plane of intelligence. The last third of the film could turn off some of the audience (depending on one's own level of belief), but it holds strong thanks to the performances. Nicholson doesn't over-step his bounds in any scene, finding the right notes in suggestive conversations. Dunaway is better than expected (though I'm not sure if it's an great performance). And Huston's Noah Cross is one of the more disturbing villains of that period in movies. Add to it some good cameos (Burt Young as a driver, Polanski playing the little guy in the infamous 'knife' scene), and a smooth soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith, Chinatown comes out as strong piece of movie-making, and arguably one of the greatest in the crime/mystery genre.


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