Overview - Many films from the 1970s allow even the most gripping narratives to flow with the consequences of real life. CHINATOWN is a classic film whose intrigues and adventures culminate in life-changing moments for its protagonist, Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson).  Read more...


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More About Chinatown -

Many films from the 1970s allow even the most gripping narratives to flow with the consequences of real life. CHINATOWN is a classic film whose intrigues and adventures culminate in life-changing moments for its protagonist, Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson). Director Roman Polanski's classic neo-noir detective story is set during a heat wave in 1930s Los Angeles, where residents suffer from a water shortage due to an ongoing drought. With stellar contributions from composer Jerry Goldsmith and screenwriter Robert Towne, whose script recalls the hard-boiled cynicism of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, CHINATOWN is a complex and superbly crafted period drama that has become Polanski's most critically acclaimed film. Private investigator Gittes runs a sleazy detective agency. When a client (Diane Ladd) hires him to spy on her "husband," who is rumored to be having an affair with a younger woman, Jake uncovers a plot against the man--but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Still to emerge are a sex scandal implicating the real wife (Faye Dunaway), with whom Jake is destined to become more closely acquainted, and a real estate swindle of tremendous proportions devised by her tycoon father (John Huston), backed up by a vast network of corrupt city officials and landowners who make life hell for the private eye. This story crystallizes the impact of a chance meeting with the romantic ideals of the early 1970s, when the American urban landscape and economic power structures were in flux.

1974 - Academy Awards - Best Original Screenplay Winner

Cast List

Richard Sylbert - Production designer, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF
Richard Bakalyan
Jerry Fujikawa
Roy Jenson - American Supporting Actor
Robert Evans - Producer/Actor/Executive
Bob Evans - Producer/Actor/Executive
John Huston - Oscar winning American director/writer/actor
Joe Mantell - Supporting Actor
James Hong - Actor/"Blade Runner"
Faye Dunaway - Oscar winning american actress, NETWORK
Rance Howard - Screenwriter/Ron's Dad
John Hillerman - American Actor
Noble Willingham - Supporting Actor
Roman Polanski - Director/Screenwriter/Actor
Jerry Goldsmith - Film composer
Jerrald K. Goldsmith - Film composer
Jerrald Goldsmith - Film composer
Michael Hennagin - Film composer
Sam O'Steen - American Editor/Director, THE GRADUATE (1967)
Diane Ladd - American actress/Mother of Laura Dern
Rose Diane Ladner - American actress/Mother of Laura Dern
Robert Towne
Beulah Quo - Character Actress
Perry Lopez - American Actor
Darrell Zwerling - American Actor/70s
John A. Alonzo - American Director of Photography
Anthea Sylbert
Jack Nicholson - American actor, producer, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
Roy Roberts - American Character Actor
Bruce Glover - American Actor
Burt Young - American Character Actor

Movie Reviews

More Details

Theatrical release: June 21, 1974 Filmed in Los Angeles, California. CHINATOWN is number 19 on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Greatest Movies. CHINATOWN was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991. Director Roman Polanski makes a rather conspicuous cameo appearance as a thug. Screenwriter Robert Towne had originally conceived of an alternate, happier ending to the film, but it was rejected by Polanski. Polanski went to painstaking lengths to have the film very authentically capture 1930s Los Angeles because the story is based on actual events from the city's history. CHINATOWN, which was produced in 1974, was Polanski's first American film since 1968's ROSEMARY'S BABY. In 1990, Jack Nicholson went on to direct and star in the film's sequel, THE TWO JAKES, set in 1948 Los Angeles. The later film also starred Harvey Keitel and Meg Tilly and featured cameo performances by some actors who had parts in the original film, among them Faye Dunaway, James Hong, and Perry Lopez. Robert Towne wrote the screenplays for both films.

"...[Polanski] handles the mechanics of the plot with a ruthless brilliance that is immediately involving..." - 09/01/1974 Sight and Sound, p.243

"...Incomparable..." - 05/29/1998 Entertainment Weekly, p.83

"...Like most noir stories, CHINATOWN ends in a flurry of revelation....For Nicholson, the role had enormous importance..." - 02/06/2000 Chicago Sun-Times, p.5

"...A film noir masterpiece that never stops screwing with your head..." - 07/01/2000 Total Film, p.102

"Faye Dunaway quivers, John Huston looms, but Nicholson's Gittes seems untouchable inside..." - 04/01/2004 Premiere, p.65-6

"[T]he director's dark wit questions the conventions of noir, and exhales stylish seediness." - 09/01/2004 Uncut, p.135

5 stars out of 5 -- "Jack Nicholson lends J.J. Gittes nervy sharpness, and John Huston fills villainous Noah Cross with menace..." - 12/01/2007 Empire, p.224

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