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Chinatown

poster by Richard Amsel
Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced by Robert Evans
Written by Robert Towne
Starring Jack Nicholson
Faye Dunaway
John Huston
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography John A. Alonzo
Editing by Sam O'Steen
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) 1 January 1974 (US)[1]
Running time 131 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3,200,000
Gross revenue $29,200,000
Followed by The Two Jakes

Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film, directed by Roman Polanski. The film features many elements of the film noir genre, particularly a multi-layered story that is part mystery and part psychological drama. It stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston, and was released by Paramount Pictures.

The story, set in Los Angeles in 1937, was inspired by the historical disputes over land and water rights that had raged in southern California during the 1910s and 20s, in which William Mulholland acted on behalf of Los Angeles interests to secure water rights in the Owens Valley.

The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning in the category of Best Original Screenplay for Robert Towne. In 1991, Chinatown was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

A sequel, called The Two Jakes, was released in 1990, starring Jack Nicholson, who also directed it, with a screenplay by Robert Towne.

Contents

Plot

A woman hires private investigator J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) to perform surveillance on Hollis Mulwray, the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The woman (Diane Ladd) claims to be Mulwray's wife Evelyn, who suspects him of adultery.

Gittes tails Mulwray. In a public meeting about a proposed bond issue for new dam construction, Mr. Mulwray argues that the proposed dam will be physically unsound and opposes the bond issue, which eventually passes. Following Mulwray to several Water and Power-related sites, they discover the dumping of fresh water into the ocean in spite of the late summer drought. Gittes's associate photographs Mulwray arguing with an elderly man outside the Pig 'n Whistle eatery in Hollywood, and only overhears the words "apple core" over traffic noise (a corruption of the word "albacore").

Gittes's tail finally hits paydirt when he photographs Mulwray with his young mistress. When the photos hit the front page of the paper the next day, Gittes is confronted by the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), who serves him with a lawsuit. Gittes realizes he had been duped by a phony Mrs. Mulwray, and to repair his reputation, he must figure out who was behind the hiring, and why.

Gittes convinces Evelyn Mulwray that he was only unwittingly involved in her personal business and she agrees to dismiss her lawsuit. She nervously reveals that her maiden name was "Cross" and that Mulwray used to be her father's business partner. Visiting the Department of Water and Power, Gittes recognizes photographs of the same elderly man Mulwray was photographed quarreling with, and learns his name: Noah Cross (John Huston). Mulwray and Cross once privately owned the water department.

Gittes looks for Mulwray at the Oak Pass reservoir but finds police detectives there instead, including Lt. Lou Escobar (Perry Lopez), with whom Gittes used to work as an officer in Chinatown. Escobar and his men are investigating Mulwray's death by drowning and are recovering the body. At headquarters, Evelyn falsely tells Escobar that she did hire Gittes at the outset to put an end to rumors about Mulwray's adultery, expecting nothing to come of it. Gittes tells Evelyn that he suspects that Mulwray was murdered. Evelyn hires Gittes to investigate Mulwray's death.

Breaking into the reservoir's secured area that night, Gittes nearly drowns in water suddenly being dumped. Soaking wet, he is confronted by water department security chief Claude Mulvihill (a corrupt former county sheriff) with a short henchman (a cameo by director Roman Polanski) who sticks a knife blade up Gittes's nose and slashes through his nostril for being a "very nosy kitty cat." Back at his office, sporting a bandage, Gittes receives a call from Ida Sessions, identifying herself as the "working girl" who pretended to "hire" him as Mrs. Mulwray. She did not realize the seriousness of what she was involved in, she explains, but she is too afraid to identify her employer. Miss Sessions does provide a clue, though: that Gittes can find the name of one of "those people" in that day's obituary column.

Gittes joins Noah Cross, a member of the Albacore Club, at his estate for lunch. Cross also offers to hire Gittes to find Katherine, Mulwray's young mistress, who has been missing since Mulwray died. Cross refuses to discuss his argument with Mulwray outside the Pig 'n Whistle in any detail, and deflects Gittes's questions by explaining that the mistress might know how Mulwray was killed. "Just find the girl," he admonishes.

Gittes visits the hall of records, comparing recent land grantees with names of deceased persons in the obituary column. Then he drives to an orange grove in the northwest San Fernando Valley, and is shot at, caught, and beaten by the angry landowners. They explain that the water department has been demolishing their water tanks and poisoning wells, before they knock him out. When Gittes wakes up, Evelyn is there to pick him up. They leave and Gittes reviews the obituary column, noticing that a resident of the Mar Vista Inn, a retirement home, died two weeks ago, but "bought" acreage in the Valley only one week ago. "That's unusual," Gittes quips. Growers have been forced off their acreage by drought conditions and harassment by the water department, Gittes explains, depressing value. Unidentified persons are buying tens of thousands of acres "for peanuts" using the names of straw buyers. The public dam bond issue that Mulwray unsuccessfully opposed, Gittes explains, is a "con job" designed to irrigate the rural valley, not to conserve water for city taxpayers. Because he knew about this and other things, Gittes theorizes, Hollis Mulwray was murdered. Evelyn and Jake arrive at the Mar Vista Inn and confirm that its residents have no clue of their wealth; further, the Mar Vista Inn is affiliated with the Albacore Club as "sort of an unofficial charity." Mulvihill soon arrives to "escort" Jake out and they scuffle.

With Mulvihill's henchman firing at them, Gittes and Evelyn escape the Mar Vista in her car. Returning to her house, they passionately kiss and wind up in her bed. In intimate conversation, Jake tells Evelyn about his time as a beat cop in L.A.'s Chinatown, where he was instructed to do "as little as possible." Nothing was ever as it seemed, he explains. Gittes's attempt to protect a woman only ensured that she was hurt. Evelyn's phone rings and she quickly hangs up and says that she has to leave. Evelyn asks Jake to wait for her there and to trust her. She adds that Noah Cross owns the Albacore Club.

Gittes tails Evelyn to her butler's house; peering through a bedroom window he sees Evelyn comforting Katherine, Mulwray's distraught mistress. Evelyn, when Gittes presses, admits that Mulwray's mistress is her sister. Then Ida Sessions is found murdered in her house. Gittes receives a mysterious call from a homicide detective using Ms. Sessions's phone and arrives there. Escobar explains that the coroner found salt water in Mulwray's lungs, indicating that the body was moved, as it was recovered from a freshwater reservoir.

Gittes returns to Evelyn's mansion, where he discovers a pair of men's eyeglasses in her salt water garden pond. Presuming that Evelyn killed Mulwray and that the glasses had been his, Gittes confronts Evelyn. She denies guilt and, under questioning, wavers about whether Katherine is her sister, or her daughter. In a climactic scene, Gittes repeatedly smacks Evelyn on one side of the face, and the other, until Evelyn cries out "She's my sister and my daughter!" whom she bore to Noah Cross when she was 15. Evelyn says that the found eyeglasses could not have been Mulwray's because they are bifocals. Gittes decides to help Evelyn and Katherine escape from Cross and Escobar, who now suspects Evelyn of Mulwray's murder, and accuses Gittes of extortion and of acting as an accessory. Gittes arranges for the two women to flee to Mexico, through a fisherman client of his, and instructs Evelyn to meet him at her butler's home in Chinatown.

Evelyn leaves, and Lt. Escobar arrives. Escobar brings Jake along for his arrest of Evelyn. Jake gives the San Pedro address of the fisherman, which Jake pretends belongs to Evelyn's maid. Jake enters the house alone, slips out the back door, and asks his client to take Evelyn and Katherine to Mexico by boat.

At Mulwray's home, Gittes arranges for Mr. Cross to meet him, claiming that he's found Mulwray's mistress. After Gittes confronts him, Cross admits he intends to incorporate the Northwest Valley into the City of Los Angeles, which will be irrigated and developed. Gittes then broaches the topic of Cross's incest with Evelyn, and accuses him of Mulwray's drowning. Cross says most people never have to acknowledge that, given the right circumstances, they are "capable of anything." Gittes produces Cross's bifocals, the only physical evidence linking him to Mulwray's murder. Mulvihill appears, holding a gun on Gittes, forcing him to surrender Cross's glasses and to take them to Katherine. When Gittes reaches the hiding place in Chinatown, the police are already there and arrest Gittes for withholding evidence and extortion. Gittes protests that Cross murdered Mulwray, but Escobar orders one of his men to handcuff Gittes to a car.

Noah Cross approaches Katherine, explaining that he is her "grandfather." Evelyn backs him off with a small pistol, vowing to protect her daughter. Gittes scolds Evelyn to "Let the police handle this!" Evelyn fires back: "He owns the police!" Cross approaches Katherine again and Evelyn shoots him in the arm. As Evelyn speeds away with Katherine, the police open fire, killing Evelyn; her body falls onto the car horn, followed by Katherine's blood-curdling scream. Cross clutches Katherine and takes her away.

After being uncuffed, Gittes mutters to Escobar, "...as little as possible," reminding Escobar of their frustrating years policing corrupt Chinatown. Escobar angrily releases Gittes, confiding that he is doing Gittes "a favor," and ordering Gittes's associates to "Get him out of here!" Gittes is urged, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Cast

  • Bruce Glover as Duffy
  • Nandu Hinds as Sophie
  • James O'Rear as Lawyer
  • James Hong as Kahn
  • Beulah Quo as Mulwray's Maid
  • Jerry Fujikawa as Mulwray's Gardener
  • Belinda Palmer as Katherine Cross
  • Roy Roberts as Mayor Bagby
  • Noble Willingham as Councilman
  • Elliott Montgomery as Councilman
  • Burt Young as Curly
  • Elizabeth Harding as Curly's Wife

Production

Background

In 1971, producer Robert Evans originally offered Towne $175,000 to write a screenplay for The Great Gatsby (1974), but Towne felt he couldn't better the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Instead, Towne asked for $25,000 from Evans to write his own story, Chinatown, to which Evans agreed.[2][3]

Chinatown is set in 1937 and portrays the manipulation of a critical municipal resource — water — by a cadre of shadowy oligarchs. It was the first part of Towne's planned trilogy about the character J.J. Gittes, the foibles of the Los Angeles power structure, and the subjugation of public good by private greed.[4] The second part, The Two Jakes, was about another grab for a natural resource — oil — with a thicker-torsoed Gittes in the 1940s. It was directed by Jack Nicholson and released in 1990, however, the second film's commercial and critical failure scuttled plans to make Gittes vs. Gittes,[5] about the third finite resource — land — in Los Angeles, circa 1968.[4]

Origins

The characters Hollis Mulwray and Noah Cross are both references to the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, William Mulholland (1855-1935) — the name Hollis Mulwray is partially an anagram for Mulholland. The name Noah is a reference to a flood — to suggest the conflict between good and evil in Mulholland. Mulholland was the designer and engineer for the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which brought water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. Mulwray opposes the dam that Cross and the city want to build for reasons of engineering and safety. Mulwray says he will not make the same mistake as when he built a previous dam, which broke, resulting in the deaths of hundreds. This is a direct reference to the St. Francis Dam disaster. The dam was personally inspected by Mulholland himself before it catastrophically failed the next morning on March 12, 1928. More than 450 people, many of them school children, died that day and the town of Santa Paula was buried.[6] The incident effectively ended Mulholland's career and he died in 1935. Margaret Leslie Davis, in her 1993 book "Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles," says the sexually charged film is a metaphor for the "rape" of the Owens Valley. She notes that it fictionalizes Mulholland into a corrupt and sinister character while underplaying the strong public support for Southern California's controversial water projects.

Development

Robert Towne says he took the title, and the famous exchange, "What did you do in Chinatown?" / "As little as possible", from a Hungarian vice cop who had worked in Chinatown. The cop explained to Towne that the complicated array of dialects and gangs in Los Angeles's Chinatown made it impossible for the police to know whether their interventions in Chinatown were helping victims or furthering their exploitation by criminals. As a consequence, the police decided the best course of action was to do as little as possible.[3]

Polanski found out about the script through Nicholson, with whom he had been planning to make a film once they found the right property. Producer Robert Evans wanted Polanski to direct as well, because he wanted a European vision of the United States, which he thought would be darker and more cynical. Polanski, just a few years removed from the murder of his wife in Los Angeles, was initially reluctant to return, but was persuaded to accept the project based on the strength of the script.[3]

Towne wrote the screenplay with Nicholson in mind.[3] Evans, the producer, intended the screenplay to have a happy ending with Cross dying and Evelyn Mulwray surviving. Evans and Polanski argued over it, with Polanski insisting on a tragic end. The two parted ways due to the dispute and Polanski wrote the final scene just a few days before it was shot.[3]

The original script was over 180 pages. Polanski eliminated Gittes' voiceover narration, which was written in the script, and structured the movie so the audience discovered the clues at the same time Gittes did.

Polanski originally offered the cinematographer position to William A. Fraker, Paramount agreed and Fraker accepted. Paramount had previously hired Fraker to shoot for Polanski on Rosemary's Baby. When Robert Evans became aware of the hiring he insisted the offer be rescinded. Evans, who had also produced Rosemary's Baby, felt pairing Polanski and Fraker created a team with too much power on one side, and would thus complicate the production.

Characters and casting

  • "J.J. Gittes" was named after Nicholson's friend, producer Harry Gittes.
  • "Evelyn Mulwray" is, according to the screenwriter Towne, intended to initially seem to be the classic "black widow" character typical of lead female characters in film noir, yet is eventually revealed to be the only selfless character in the film. Jane Fonda was strongly considered for the role, but Polanski pushed for Dunaway.[3]
  • "Noah Cross": Towne says that Huston was, after Nicholson, the second best-cast actor in the film, and that he made the Cross character evil through his charming and courtly performance.[3]

Filming

Polanski appears in a cameo as the gangster who cuts Gittes' nose. The effect was accomplished with a special knife, which could have actually cut Nicholson's nose if Polanski had not held it correctly. In keeping with the tradition Polanski credits to Raymond Chandler, all of the events of the film are seen subjectively through Gittes's eyes, for example, when Gittes is knocked unconscious, the film fades to black and then fades back in when he awakens. Gittes appears in every scene of the film.[3]

Soundtrack

Chinatown
Film score by Jerry Goldsmith
Released 1996
Genre Jazz
Label Varese Sarabande
  1. "Love Theme from Chinatown (Main Title)"
  2. "Noah Cross"
  3. "Easy Living"
  4. "Jake and Evelyn"
  5. "I Can't Get Started"
  6. "The Last of Ida"
  7. "The Captive"
  8. "The Boy on a Horse"
  9. "The Way You Look Tonight"
  10. "The Wrong Clue"
  11. "J.J. Gittes"
  12. "Love Theme From Chinatown (End Title)"

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 10 days to write and record a new one. Parts of the original Lambro score can be heard in the original trailer for the movie. The haunting trumpet solos are by the Hollywood studio musician Uan Rasey. Goldsmith received an Academy Award nomination for his efforts. Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal [7] published an article 7/11/09 praising Jerry Goldsmith's music for the movie, crediting the success of the movie to the revised score.

Legacy

Evans says that the film cemented Jack Nicholson, then a rising star, as one of Hollywood's top leading men.[3]

This was the last movie Roman Polanski filmed in the U.S. He fled the US to France in 1977 to avoid being jailed for sexual contact with a minor.

Nicholson turned down every subsequent detective role offered to him so that Jake Gittes would be the only one associated with him.[8]

Robert Towne's screenplay for the film has become legendary among critics and filmmakers, often celebrated as one of the best ever written.[4][9][10]

Chinatown was also responsible for generating the image of the Los Angeles water supply as having been "stolen" from the Owens River Valley. However, contrary to film's portrayal, farmers in the Owens Valley received considerably more per acre for land sales to Los Angeles County than did neighboring counties for similar land sales (they received on average, $4.00 per acre foot of water).

Awards and honors

Academy Awards - 1974

The film won one Academy Award and was nominated in a further ten categories:[11]

Wins
Nominations

Golden Globes - 1974

Wins:

Nominations

Other awards

American Film Institute recognition

References

  1. ^ Variety - film information
  2. ^ * Thomson, David (2005). The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. ISBN 0375400168
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Robert Towne, Roman Polanksi and Robert Evans. (2007-11-04). Retrospective interview from Chinatown (Special Collector's Edition). [DVD]. Paramount. ASIN B000UAE7RW. 
  4. ^ a b c The Hollywood Interview. "Robert Towne: The Hollywood Interview". http://thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.com/2009/10/robert-towne-hollywood-interview.html. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  5. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/09/29/chinatown.towne.movie/index.html
  6. ^ * Reisner, Marc (1986). Cadillac Desert. ISBN 0670199273
  7. ^ http://online.wsj.com/services/article/SB10001424052970204261704574274152752739772-search.html?KEYWORDS=chinatown&COLLECTION=wsjie/6month
  8. ^ Skyjude. "Movie Legends - Chinatown". http://skyjude.users.btopenworld.com/chinatown.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  9. ^ Writers Guild of America, West. "101 Greatest Screenplays". http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1807. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  10. ^ Writers Store. "Chinatown & The Last Detail: 2 Screenplays". http://www.writersstore.com/product.php?products_id=134. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  11. ^ "NY Times: Chinatown". NY Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/9362/Chinatown/awards. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 

Bibliography

  • Easton, Michael (1998) Chinatown (B.F.I. Film Classics series). Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0-85170-532-4.
  • Towne, Robert (1997). Chinatown and the Last Detail: 2 Screenplays. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3401-7.
  • Tuska, Jon (1978). The Detective in Hollywood. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. ISBN 0-385-12093-1.
  • Thomson, David (2004). The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40016-8.

External links

Awards
Preceded by
The Exorcist
Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama
1975
Succeeded by
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Chinatown is a 1974 film about a private investigator (Nicholson) hired to expose an adultery case, but his investigation turns into a mystery of elements: murder, betrayal, and water.

Directed by Roman Polanski. Written by Robert Towne.

Contents

Jake Gittes

  • Listen, pal. I make an honest living. People only come to me when they're in a desperate situation. I help 'em out. I don't kick families out of their houses like you bums down at the bank do.
  • So there's this guy Walsh, do you understand? He's tired of screwin' his wife... So his friend says to him, "Hey, why don't you do it like the Chinese do?" So he says, "How do the Chinese do it?" And the guy says, "Well, the Chinese, first they screw a little bit, then they stop, then they go and read a little Confucius, come back, screw a little bit more, then they stop again, go and they screw a little bit... then they go back and they screw a little bit more and then they go out and they contemplate the moon or something like that. Makes it more exciting." So now, the guy goes home and he starts screwin' his own wife, see. So he screws her for a little bit and then he stops, and he goes out of the room and reads Life Magazine. Then he goes back in, he starts screwin' again. He says, "Excuse me for a minute, honey." He goes out and he smokes a cigarette. Now his wife is gettin' sore as hell. He comes back in the room, he starts screwin' again. He gets up to start to leave again to go look at the moon. She looks at him and says, "Hey, whats the matter with ya. You're screwin' just like a Chinaman!" [Laughs hysterically]
  • You're dumber than you think I think you are.
  • He passed away two weeks ago and one week ago he bought the land. That’s unusual.

Others

  • Morty: In the middle of a drought and the water commissioner drowns! Only in L.A.
  • Man with Knife: You're a very nosy fellow, kitty cat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows? Huh? No? Wanna guess? Huh? No? Okay. They lose their noses. [flicks knife, cutting open Jake's nostril] Next time you lose the whole thing. Cut it off and feed it to my goldfish. Understand? Understand!?

Dialogue

Mrs. Mulwray: I've never hired you to do anything, certainly not to spy on my husband. I see you like publicity, Mr. Gittes. Well, you're going to get it.
Gittes: Now wait a minute, Mrs. Mulwray. I think there's been some misunderstanding here. There's no point in getting tough with me. I'm just trying--
Mrs. Mulwray: I don't get tough with anyone, Mr. Gittes. My lawyer does.

Yelburton: After you've worked with a man a certain length of time, you come to know his habits, his values - you come to know him - and either he's the kind who chases after women or he isn't.
Gittes: Mulwray isn't?
Yelburton: He never even kids about it.
Gittes: Well, maybe he takes it very seriously.

Gittes: Mulvihill! What are you doing here?
Mulvihill: They shut my water off. What's it to you?
Gittes: How'd you find out about it? You don't drink it; you don't take a bath in it... They wrote you a letter. But then you have to be able to read.

Gittes: I'm not in business to be loved, but I am in business. And believe me, Mrs. Mulwray, whoever set your husband up set me up. LA's a small town, people talk. I'm just trying to make a living. I don't want to become a local joke.
Mrs. Mulwray: Mr. Gittes. You talked me into it. I'll drop the lawsuit.
Gittes: What?
Mrs. Mulwray: I said I'll drop the lawsuit. So let's just drop the whole thing.
Gittes: I don't want to drop it. I'd better talk to your husband about this.
Mrs. Mulwray: Why? What on earth for? Hollis seems to think you're an innocent man.
Gittes: Well, I've been accused of a lot of things before, Mrs. Mulwray, but never that. Look. Somebody's gone to a lot of trouble here and lawsuit or no lawsuit, I intend to find out. I'm not supposed to be the one who's caught with his pants down. So unless it's a problem, I'd like to talk to your husband.
Mrs. Mulwray: Why should it be a problem?
Gittes: May I speak frankly, Mrs. Mulwray?
Mrs. Mulwray: Only if you can, Mr. Gittes.
Gittes: Well, that little girlfriend. She was pretty in a cheap sort of a way, of course. She's disappeared. Maybe they disappeared together.
Mrs. Mulwray: Suppose they did. How does that affect you?
Gittes: It's nothing personal, Mrs. Mulwray.
Mrs. Mulwray: It's very personal. It couldn't be more personal. Is this a business or an obsession with you?

Escobar: So, tell me Gittes, how'd you get past the guard?
Gittes: Well, to tell you the truth, I lied a little.

Escobar: You look like you've done well by yourself.
Gittes: I get by.
Escobar: Well, sometimes it takes a while for a man to find himself. Maybe you have.
Loach: Yeah, goin' through other people's dirty linen.
Gittes: Yeah. Tell me. You still puttin' Chinamen in jail for spittin' in the laundry?
Escobar: You're a little behind the times, Jake. They use steam irons now. And I'm out of Chinatown.
Gittes: Since when?
Escobar: Since I made Lieutenant.
Gittes: Congratulations.

Escobar: [pointing to graffiti on the wall] Isn't that your phone number?
Gittes: Is it? I forget. I don't call myself that often.

Gittes: [on the phone] Hello, Miss Sessions. I don't believe we've had the pleasure."
Ida Sessions: Oh, yes we have. Are you alone?
Gittes: Isn't everybody?

Mrs. Mulwray: Tell me, Mr. Gittes: Does this often happen to you?
Gittes: What's that?
Mrs. Mulwray: Well, I'm judging only on the basis of one afternoon and an evening, but, uh, if this is how you go about your work, I'd say you'd be lucky to, uh, get through a whole day.
Gittes: Actually, this hasn't happened to me for a long time.
Mrs. Mulwray: When was the last time?
Gittes: Why?
Mrs. Mulwray: It's an innocent question.
Gittes: In Chinatown.
Mrs. Mulwray: What were you doing there?
Gittes: Working for the District Attorney.
Mrs. Mulwray: Doing what?
Gittes: As little as possible.
Mrs. Mulwray: The District Attorney gives his men advice like that?
Gittes: They do in Chinatown.

Gittes: Something else besides the death of your husband was bothering you. You were upset, but not that upset.
Mrs. Mulwray: Mr. Gittes. Don't tell me how I feel.
Gittes: Sorry. Look. You sue me. Your husband dies. You drop the lawsuit like a hot potato all of it quicker than the wind from a duck's ass. Excuse me, uh. Then you ask me to lie to the police.
Mrs. Mulwray: It wasn't much of a lie.
Gittes: If your husband was killed, it was. This could look like you paid me off to withhold evidence.
Mrs. Mulwray: But he wasn't killed.
Gittes: Mrs. Mulwray. I think you're hiding something.
Mrs. Mulwray: Well, I suppose I am. Actually, I knew about the affair.
Gittes: How did you find out?
Mrs. Mulwray: My husband.
Gittes: He told you? [She nods yes] And you weren't the least bit upset?
Mrs. Mulwray: I was grateful.
Gittes: Mrs. Mulwray, you'll have to explain that.
Mrs. Mulwray: Why?
Gittes: Look. I do matrimonial work. It's my métier. When a wife tells me that she's happy that her husband is cheating on her, it runs contrary to my experience.
Mrs. Mulwray: Unless what?
Gittes: She was cheating on him. Were you?
Mrs. Mulwray: I dislike the word cheat.
Gittes: Did you have affairs?
Mrs. Mulwray: Mr. Gittes.
Gittes: Did he know about it?
Mrs. Mulwray: Well, I wouldn't run home and tell him every time I went to bed with someone, if that's what you mean. Is there anything else you want to know about me?
Gittes: Where were you when your husband died?
Mrs. Mulwray: I can't tell you.
Gittes: You mean you don't know where you were?
Mrs. Mulwray: I mean I can't tell you.
Gittes: You were seeing someone too. For very long?
Mrs. Mulwray: I don't see anyone for very long, Mr. Gittes. It's difficult for me. Now, I think you know all you need know about me. I didn't want publicity. I didn't want to go into any of this then or now. Is that all?
Gittes: [After nodding yes, he remembers to ask one final question, holding up the envelope with initials "E C" for a return address] Oh, by the way, uh, what does this C stand for?
Mrs. Mulwray: Cr...Cross.
Gittes: That's your maiden name?
Mrs. Mulwray: Yes. Why?
Gittes: No reason.
Mrs. Mulwray: You must have had a reason to ask me that.
Gittes: No. I'm just a snoop.
...
Gittes: OK, go home, but in case you're interested, your husband was murdered. Somebody's been dumping thousands of tons of water from the city's reservoirs and we're supposed to be in the middle of a drought. He found out about it and he was killed. There's a waterlogged drunk in the morgue, involuntary manslaughter if anybody wants to take the trouble - which they don't. It seems like half the city is trying to cover it all up, which is fine by me. But Mrs. Mulwray, I goddamned near lost my nose. And I like it. I like breathing through it. And I still think that you're hiding something.

Yelburton: My goodness, what happened to your nose?
Gittes: Cut myself shavin'.
Yelburton: Oh, you ought to be more careful. That must really smart.
Gittes: Only when I breathe.

Cross: You've got a nasty reputation, Mr. Gits. I like that.
Gittes: Thanks.
Cross: If you were a bank president, that would be one thing. But in your business it's admirable and it's good advertising.
Gittes: It doesn't hurt.
Cross: It's, um, why you attracted a client like my daughter.
Gittes: Probably.
Cross: But I'm surprised you're still working for her - unless she's suddenly come up with another husband.
Gittes: No. She happens to think the last one was murdered.
Cross: Umm, how'd she get that idea?
Gittes: I think I gave it to her.
Cross: [about the fish served for lunch] I hope you don't mind. I believe they should be served with the head.
Gittes: Fine. As long as you don't serve the chicken that way.

Cross: Gittes. You're dealing with a disturbed woman who's just lost her husband. I don't want her taken advantage of. Sit down.
Gittes: What for?
Cross: You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't. [Gittes smiles] Why is that funny?
Gittes: It's what the district attorney used to tell me in Chinatown.
Cross: Yeah? Was he right? Exactly what do you know about me? Sit down.
Gittes: Mainly that you're rich, and too respectable to want your name in the newspapers.
Cross: 'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.

Loach: What happened to your nose, Gittes? Somebody slam a bedroom window on it?
Gittes: Nope, your wife got excited. She crossed her legs a little too quick. You understand what I mean, pal?

Gittes: A memorial service was held at the Mar Vista Inn today for Jasper Lamar Crabb. He passed away two weeks ago.
Mrs. Mulwray: Why is that unusual?
Gittes: He passed away two weeks ago and one week ago he bought the land. That's unusual.

Gittes: There's no time to be shocked by the truth. The coroner's report proves that he had salt water in his lungs when he was killed. Just take my word for it, all right? Now, I want to know how it happened, and I want to know why, and I want to know before Escobar gets here because I don't want to lose my license...I want to make it easy for ya. You were jealous. You had a fight. He fell. He hit his head. It was an accident but his girl is a witness. So you had to shut her up. You don't have the guts to harm her, but you got the money to keep her mouth shut. Who is she? And don't give me that crap about your sister because you don't have a sister.
Mrs. Mulwray: I'll tell you. I'll tell you the truth.
Gittes: Good. What's her name?
Mrs. Mulwray: Katherine.
Gittes: Katherine who?
Mrs. Mulwray: She's my daughter.
[Gittes slaps Mulwray.]
Gittes: I said I want the truth.
Mrs. Mulwray: She's my sister.
[He slaps her again.]
Mrs. Mulwray: She's my daughter.
[Another slap.]
Mrs. Mulwray: My sister, my daughter.
[Two more slaps.]
Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Mrs. Mulwray: She's my sister and my daughter!...My father and I - understand? Or is it too tough for you?
Jake: He raped you?

Cross: What does it mean?
Gittes: That you killed Hollis Mulwray - right here - in that pond. You drowned him, and you left these [the bifocals]. Coroner's report shows Mulwray had saltwater in his lungs.
Cross: Hollis was always fascinated by tidepools. You know what he used to say?...That's where life begins. Sloughs, tidepools. When he first come out here, he figured if you dumped water into the desert sand and let it percolate down to the bedrock, it would stay there instead of evaporate the way it does in most reservoirs. You only lose 20% instead of 70 or 80. He made this city.
Gittes: That's what you were going to do in the valley.
Cross: That's what I am doing. If the bond issue passes Tuesday, there'll be eight million dollars to build an aqueduct and reservoir. I'm doing it.
Gittes: Gonna be a lot of irate citizens when they find out that they're paying for water that they're not gonna get.
Cross: Oh, that's all taken care of. You see, Mr. Gits. Either you bring the water to LA or you bring LA to the water.
Gittes: How you gonna do that?
Cross: By incorporating the valley into the city. Simple as that.
Gittes: How much are you worth?
Cross: I've no idea. How much do you want?
Gittes: I just want to know what you're worth. Over ten million?
Cross: Oh my, yes!
Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can't already afford?
Cross: The future, Mr. Gits - the future! Now where's the girl. I want the only daughter I've got left. As you found out, Evelyn was lost to me a long time ago.
Gittes: Who do you blame for that - her?
Cross: I don't blame myself. You see, Mr. Gits. Most people never have to face the fact that at the right time, the right place, they're capable of anything.

Gittes: Evelyn, put that gun away. Let the police handle this.
Mrs. Mulwray: He owns the police!

Cast

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