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Chinatown

Feb 2, 2021 - 11:12 AM

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  • Join in on watching and discussing this weeks movie Chinatown
    When Los Angeles private eye J.J. Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband's activities, he believes it's a routine infidelity case. Jake's investigation soon becomes anything but routine when he meets the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) and realizes he was hired by an imposter. Mr. Mulwray's sudden death sets Gittes on a tangled trail of corruption, deceit and sinister family secrets as Evelyn's father (John Huston) becomes a suspect in the case.

    Release date: June 20, 1974 (USA)
    Director: Roman Polański

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    Fun Facts
    Jake's name is a Hollywood reference. J.J. Gittes was named after Towne's friend, producer Harry Gittes.

    Huston couldn't say his lines right. He keeps calling Nicholson's character Mr. Gits. Although Polanski knew that was wrong, he liked it and kept it.

    The cameraman was replaced. One of the most gorgeously shot films of its time, Chinatown was started by cameraman Stanley Cortez. The look of it was wrong. He was replaced by John Alonzo. The rest is cinematic history.

    It was Towne's first time. Chinatown was the first produced screenplay by Towne, for which he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. An auspicious beginning.

    The third time never happened. Towne conceived of the film as the first part of a trilogy. The second was 1990's The Two Jakes and the third, never made, was going to be called Cloverleaf.

    Chinatown wasn't as successful as you think. The film cost a reasonable $6 million when it was made. According to IMDb, it made $12.4 million when first released in 1974. As of 2014, it's grossed $29.2 million. For a film nominated for 11 Oscars, not so much dough.

    Jane Fonda nearly got the role of Evelyn Mulray. Polanski wanted Dunaway. Case closed.

    It's preserved for posterity. In 1991 Chinatown was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for films that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

    Even the director loves it. Roman Polanksi, who'd already made Rosemary's Baby and Knife in the Water, considers it his greatest achievement.

    Polanski didn't want to do it at first. When Nicholson told Polanski about Towne's script, it meant Polanski's return to Los Angeles. His first instinct was Not to do this. Quite understandably. Four years earlier, Polanski's pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and several of his friends had been butchered in L.A. by the family of a notorious scumbag, still rotting away in prison.

    He didn't move the camera much. The story and characters were strong enough that Polanski didn't want to make the audience nauseous by circling around conversations and, generally, doing fancy moves.

    The director became the writer. According to Polanski, he wrote the final scene the night before it was shot, because he had a falling out with screenwriter Towne.

    The director says the writer now loves the ending. Polanski says that Towne has since said that the final approach was right for the film.

    ***Spolier
    They had to go to Chinatown. Polanski also insisted that there be at least one scene in Chinatown. In the original script, there wasn't one. Movie lovers are happy Polanski got his way. The film ends there, with one of cinema's most famous last lines: Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown. Clearly, Jake will never be able to forget what happened there. Neither will we.

    This post was edited Feb 2, 2021 11:20AM
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  • I'm excited to watch this. It's a classic. Jack Nicholson!!!!

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