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Chinatown Details

FULL SYNOPSIS

"You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't," warns water baron Noah Cross (John Huston), when smooth cop-turned-private eye J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) starts nosing around Cross's water diversion scheme. That proves to be the ominous lesson of Chinatown, Roman Polanski's critically lauded 1974 revision of 1940s film noir detective movies. In 1930s Los Angeles, "matrimonial work" specialist Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to tail her husband, Water Department engineer Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling). Gittes photographs him in the company of a young blonde and figures the case is closed, only to discover that the real Mrs. Mulwray had nothing to do with hiring Gittes in the first place. When Hollis turns up dead, Gittes decides to investigate further, encountering a shady old-age home, corrupt bureaucrats, angry orange farmers, and a nostril-slicing thug (Polanski) along the way. By the time he confronts Cross, Evelyn's father and Mulwray's former business partner, Jake thinks he knows everything, but an even more sordid truth awaits him. When circumstances force Jake to return to his old beat in Chinatown, he realizes just how impotent he is against the wealthy, depraved Cross. "Forget it, Jake," his old partner tells him. "It's Chinatown." Reworking the somber underpinnings of detective noir along more pessimistic lines, Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne convey a '70s-inflected critique of capitalist and bureaucratic malevolence in a carefully detailed period piece harkening back to the genre's roots in the 1930s and '40s. Gittes always has a smart comeback like Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, but the corruption Gittes finds is too deep for one man to stop. Other noir revisions, such as Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) and Arthur Penn's Arthur Penn (1975), also centered on the detective's inefficacy in an uncertain '70s world, but Chinatown's period sheen renders this dilemma at once contemporary and timeless, pointing to larger implications about the effects of corporate rapaciousness on individuals. Polanski and Towne clashed over Chinatown's ending; Polanski won the fight, but Towne won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. Chinatown was nominated for ten other Oscars, including Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes, and Score. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

  • Release date:June 20, 1974

Awards

Awarded by
Nominee
Category
Year
Status
British Academy of Film and Television Arts Jack Nicholson Best Actor 1974 Winner
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Jack Nicholson Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama 1974 Winner
National Society of Film Critics Jack Nicholson Best Actor 1974 Winner
New York Film Critics Circle Jack Nicholson Best Actor 1974 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Jack Nicholson Best Actor 1974 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Anthea Sylbert Best Costume Design 1974 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Faye Dunaway Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama 1974 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Faye Dunaway Best Actress 1974 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association John Huston Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture 1974 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Jerry Goldsmith Best Original Score 1974 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Jerry Goldsmith Best Original Dramatic Score 1974 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Richard Sylbert Best Art Direction 1974 Nominee
British Academy of Film and Television Arts Robert Towne Best Screenplay 1974 Winner
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Robert Towne Best Screenplay 1974 Winner
Edgar Allan Poe Awards Robert Towne Best Screenplay 1974 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Robert Towne Best Original Screenplay 1974 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Robert Evans Best Picture 1974 Nominee
British Academy of Film and Television Arts Roman Polanski Best Director 1974 Winner
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Roman Polanski Best Director 1974 Winner
British Academy of Film and Television Arts Roman Polanski Best Picture 1974 Nominee
Directors Guild of America Roman Polanski Best Director 1974 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Roman Polanski Best Director 1974 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences John A. Alonzo Best Cinematography 1974 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Charles Grenzbach Best Sound 1974 Nominee

Cast

Jack Nicholson
as J.J. Gittes
Faye Dunaway
as Evelyn Mulwray
John Huston
as Noah Cross
Perry Lopez
as Escobar
John Hillerman
as Yelburton
Diane Ladd
as Ida Sessions
Darrell Zwerling
as Hollis Mulwray
Burt Young
as Curly
Frederico Roberto
as Cross's Butler
George Justin
as Barber
Rance Howard
as Irate Farmer
Doc Erickson
as Customer
Fritzi Burr
as Mulwray's Secretary
Charles Knapp
as Mortician
Allan Warnick
as Clerk
John Holland
as Farmer in the Valley
Jesse Vint
as Farmer in the Valley
Denny Arnold
as Farmer in the Valley
Elizabeth Harding
as Curly's Wife
Cecil Elliott
as Emma Dill
Paul Jenkins
as Policeman
Lee de Broux
as Policeman
Jim Burk
as Farmer in the Valley
Roman Polanski
as Man With Knife
Joe Mantell
as Walsh
Bruce Glover
as Duffy
Nandu Hinds
as Sophie
James Hong
as Evelyn's Butler
Beulah Quo
as Maid
Belinda Palmer
as Katherine
Noble Willingham
as Councilman
Roy Roberts
as Mayor Bagby
Roy Jenson
as Claude Mulvihill
Elliott Montgomery
as Councilmen
Paul Jenkins
as Policeman
Roy Roberts
as Mayor Bagby
Fritzi Burr
as Mulwray's Secretary
Elliott Montgomery
as Councilmen
Frederico Roberto
as Cross's Butler
Jesse Vint
as Farmer in the Valley
Nandu Hinds
as Sophie
Charles Knapp
as Mortician
Joe Mantell
as Walsh
Jim Burk
as Farmer in the Valley
John Holland
as Farmer in the Valley
Beulah Quo
as Maid
Roy Jenson
as Claude Mulvihill
Roman Polanski
as Man With Knife
Rance Howard
as Irate Farmer
Noble Willingham
as Councilman
George Justin
as Barber
Lee de Broux
as Policeman
Allan Warnick
as Clerk
Elizabeth Harding
as Curly's Wife
Belinda Palmer
as Katherine
Denny Arnold
as Farmer in the Valley
Bruce Glover
as Duffy
Cecil Elliott
as Emma Dill
Doc Erickson
as Customer
James Hong
as Evelyn's Butler

Crew

Roman Polanski
Director
Robert Evans
Producer
Robert Towne
Screenwriter
John A. Alonzo
Cinematographer
Brian Hooker
Songwriter
Ira Gershwin
Featured Music
Jerry Goldsmith
Composer (Music Score)
Jerome Kern
Featured Music
Vernon Duke
Featured Music
Ralph Rainger
Featured Music
Leo Robin
Songwriter
Rudolf Friml
Featured Music
Richard Sylbert
Production Designer
C.O. Erickson
Associate Producer
Robert Resh
Set Designer
Gabe Resh
Set Designer
Richard Bruno
Costume Designer
Anthea Sylbert
Costume Designer
Charles Grenzbach
Sound/Sound Designer
Howard W. Koch
First Assistant Director
Mike Fenton
Casting
Jane Feinberg
Casting
Hank Edds
Makeup
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