Tuesday, 29 November 2016


Part Three of our Film Noir series already!...

Warning; This review, while not being X-rated, is of a film which originally received an X-rating from the BBFC, bless 'em. Accordingly, I've included some adult words of the 'f' type, so if you are a sensitive soul, please read no further. If you have a delicate Great Aunt Gladys, please don't let her read this... although I'm fairly sure that's her in the photos, the mucky old duck...

One variant of the German theatrical release poster
The first photo shows a couple fucking, Al Fresco. She's enjoying herself. He is too, though he's at least kept his hat on. 

The second and they're going through the gears, third shot shows them breaking for a picnic. Or did they break the picnic to fuck?. The next; she's on all fours and he's pushing her home. While Curly eyes the photos, Jake Gittes eyes him. J.J.Gittes-'Jake' to his friends. Mid-thirties, dresses sharp and looks it too. Brown hair slicked back, going thin at the temples. A large medium build not tempered by the silk tie and lightweight cream suit

Jack Nicholson is J.J. 'Jake' Gittes
Curly is a slob, an unhappy one. Still, there are limits-Jake only had the Venetians installed Wednesday. Curly can't eat them, however upset he is to see his wife taking dick. Reaching into the drinks cabinet, J.J. pours the heartbroken client a glass of Old Crow. It helps. Curly tells Gittes she's no good. He's right. 

Curly is played by veteran character actor Burt Young

Jake shows Curly out through the outer office, his secretary Sophie pretending to take no notice as Curly pleads poverty. He'll pay the rest next week; Skipjack pays less than Albacore Tuna. Generously, J.J. tells him he doesn't want his last dime. Drive safe. He shuts the door behind him; it proclaims this to be 604, J.J. GITTES & ASSOCIATES and promises DISCREET INVESTIGATIONS.

Jake's secretary lets him know Mrs. Mulwray is waiting, with Misters Walsh and Duffy. Going through to Walsh and Duffy's office (Rather more functional and down-market), Gittes greets his client politely enough for a woman with her tastes in furs and jewellery. Smokes with a holder, face veiled in the latest style. Otherwise, your average redhead. With painful dignity, she tells him she believes her husband is seeing another woman. Could they speak alone?-afraid not; these are his operatives and at some point, they'll need to know. What makes her suspect him?. 

A Wife can tell. Gittes asks if she loves him-she does-so go home, forget about it. Let sleeping dogs lie?. Firmly, she insists on knowing. Well... he tried. Walsh takes doen the details; first name Hollis. The penny drops-Mulwray first name Hollis, Water and Power. The Chief Engineer, says Mrs. Mulwray. Jakes' impressed by this, but only Duffy's dumb enough to show it. One more try... Gittes tries telling her the job will cost, but money's no object. Hiring J.J. Gittes & Associates isn't that easy it seems.

In the marbled halls of the Council Chambers, red-faced Mayor Sam Bagby is thundering away to the microphones first and the audience second, behind him the map of the proposed Alto Vallejo dam and Reservoir, Roosevelt scowling over the proceedings in black and white. All that water in the Pacific and not for drinking. 

Yawning, Jake Gittes looks sideways at the two old farmboys in best bib and tucker, sat next to him. Either they've got time on their hands or all this affects them. We live next to a desert - Los Angeles is a desert community. Got it... a desert. Jake reads the Racing Record. Seabiscuit's the darling of the race-going fans. Bagby – by now even redder in the face, is telling us that the desert is threatening to take back the town. $8½ million is a small price to pay for the project. The councilman wants to hear from the departments again, starting with (thankfully) Water and Power. Mr. Mulwray takes the platform-and Jake's interest. Late fifties, thin, be-spectacled and moustached, Mulwray wears a good suit badly. 

He starts by reminding us over 500 people died when the Van der Lip gave way. Two assistants roll the plans up to unveil an overhead and side view of the proposed dam. The permeable shale is the same type as with the Van der Lip. It won't take the pressure. He won't build there, won't make the same mistake twice. Curtly, he leaves the stage to jeers and catcalls from the rubes. Amusingly, the farmers have brought re-inforcements - a small herd of sheep are driven in, bells clanking and baa-ing in vocal support for the dam. The councilman wants them removed, but to where? Shouts an angry shepherd. They steal water from the valley, ruin the grazing and starve the livestock. Who's paying you to do that, Mister Mulwray? - that's what he wants to know.

Raising a trail of dust, the Fleetwood rolls into the Los Angeles riverbed. It has concrete banks, bridges, but no water worth speaking of. From across the river, Jake watches through his spy-glasses as Mulwray's gawky figure emerges to stand in the middle of the rocks and dust, as if looking for something. What?. A peasant boy rides up on his horse, bare-back. They seem to confer, then the boy rides off, leaving the engineer to squat and examine something. Gittes watches all this, his expression unreadable. Mulwray returns to his car for a portfolio, spreads it on the hood and starts making notes. 
Jack Nicholson with Director Roman Polanski on location

Jake turns his Ford V8 behind the Cadillac at Point Fermin and parks up the road, watching Mulwray in the mirror. Holding onto his hat, he goes through the gates to the Sunken city and Jake watches from a water pipe above as the engineer clambers around the rocks. There's a purpose to all this, but what?. What Gittes doesn't see is the look on Mulwray's face. Conscience? Remorse?. Suddenly, he looks up, some sixth sense perhaps, Jake just ducking out of sight in time. Mulwray picks up a starfish, looking very much like a man alone.

Dusk finds our man stretched out on a piece of corrugated piping, smoking a cigarette, Point Fermin lighthouse a silhouette. Out of nowhere, Jake's hiding place threatens to soak him-a precipitous flood of water emerging from the pipe behind him. 

Mulwray watches from below as the torrent becomes a waterfall onto the beach. Jake's seen enough, goes back to his Ford to find a piece of paper beneath the wiper.

Going into the glove-box he picks out two from a dozen or so cheap pocket watches, sets the time by his wrist-watch. Going over to the Fleetwood, he places them under the rear tire, one either side.

The watches sit on Jake's desk, one pristine, the other shattered; the time frozen at a quarter to two. Walsh had to go back three times before he could pick up the watches. Mulwray visited three reservoirs, the men's room and the Pig & Whistle. Walsh brings in a developing tray, with photos of Mulwray arguing with another man, covertly taken, his features obscured. 

The next shows him clearly, a large older man framed by the operative's steering wheel. Jake isn't impressed, but his associate tells him they got into a terrific argument outside the Pig & Whistle. He couldn't hear details over the noise of the traffic. He heard one thing only; a word that sounded like 'Apple-Core.' Is that what he spent his day doing?. Indignantly, Walsh reminds him he told him to get pictures. Tucking a maroon silk handkerchief into his jacket pocket, Gittes reminds the other man this business requires a certain amount of finesse. The buzzer; Sophie telling him Duffy's on the phone. The subject's got a cute girl, they're in Echo Park. He's at Glendale and Douglas, they've taken a rowboat. Water again...

Duffy rows and blows Gittes a kiss as his boss lounges, cigarette in hand. Taking up his camera-one of those tele-photo jobs, Jake takes snaps of the couple on the other boat. A pretty blonde sits while Mulwray handles the oars.

Jake pulls up outside the El Macondo Apartments at 1400-1414 Havenhurst Drive. Before long he's up in the bell-tower taking shots of Mulwray. 

The engineer is sitting reading a paper in the courtyard when the blonde comes out, showing off her new dress for his approval. They exchange sweet nothings in Spanish. Jake loses his balance, his foot slips, sends a tile crashing down. Somehow he ducks back out of sight in time.

The next day it's all over the papers; the Post-record headline reads big-DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND POWER BLOWS FUSE, above one of Jake's pictures of the two, complete with heart-shaped frame. The chief is being investigated for misuse of funds to run his little love nest. A sideline names one J.J. Gittes as being hired by the suspicious wife. As a car blows it's radiator outside, Jake sits back for his shave, Barney commenting on the heat as he works with lather and brush. Fool's names and fool's faces. What?-the remark comes from the man in the next chair, he's reading the paper and doesn't think much of Jake's profession. So what does he do?; he's in Mortgages, First National. Jake takes a shot-did he foreclose on many families this week?. No damage-the banker shoots back they don't publish a record in the paper, he can say that much. Neither does Jake. No, you have your press agent do it. Angered, Jake's out of the chair; he makes an honest living, people only come to him when they're desperate. He doesn't kick families out of their houses like the bums at the bank. Maybe we can go outside to discuss it?. Conciliatory, Barney calms things down with a joke. Jake's still mad, but Barney has a try; this guy's bored of screwing his wife... so his friend says to try it like the Chinese do it...

Script in one hand, prop newspaper in the other, Jack Nicholson on the office set
Smiling and clean-shaven, Jake breezes back into the office calling for Duffy and Walsh, asks Sophie to take a powder. Pouting, she leaves so Jake can tell the joke. Okay, here it is; Well, the Chinese screw a little bit, then they stop-go read a little Confucius, come back screw a little more then stop again... both his associates are trying to warn him...they screw a little more... the door's open behind him now, an elderly grave-looking man in a pince-nez and a beautiful younger woman standing in the office... then they go out and contemplate the moon or something, makes it more exciting... So now, the guy goes home and starts screwing his own Wife. Screws for a bit, stops, goes and reads Life... then he goes back for more, stops, goes out for a cigarette... by now his Wife is sore as hell... he gets up to go out again and she says... 'Hey, what's the matter with you?-you're screwing just like a Chinaman!.' Hysterical laughter from Jake, awkward silence from his boys. Turning around, he spots them.

The woman is blonde, perhaps thirty, perhaps older, maybe younger. She's dressed impeccably in jaunty hat, jacket in gray, hint of lavender. The silk blouse is adorned with turquoise, a brooch. Her hair under the hat cut in a fashionable bob. She asks Mister Gittes if he knows her. With a look back for support, he returns to her; he would have remembered. They confirm they have never met. She is Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray. Oh shit... And since he agrees they have never met, he must agree that she has never hired him to spy on her husband. Ice-cold, she says as he likes publicity, he's going to get it and makes to leave. Jake tries to talk her round, no need to get tough. She doesn't; her lawyer does. With a glance towards the old man, she leaves. Pince-nez hands Jake a writ and leaves in the wake of his employer. 
Faye Dunaway is Evelyn Mulwray, the real Mrs. Mulwray
The best form of defense, they say... Jake Gittes goes through a door marked DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND POWER, Chief Engineer Hollis I. Mulwray. The secretary in the outer office informs Gittes Mr. Mulwray isn't in. He's at lunch. 'Gee whiz and I'm late'-Jake bluffs through into the Engineer's office, leaving her to protest at the closed door and make a call. Jake snoops around; there's a picture of the blonde on the desk, one of those hand-tinted jobs. 

Riding gear and a horse. It's her alright. The desk drawer contains, keys, a check book from the Westland National. The stubs tell Jake nothing. The second drawer contains plans, files. Engineer stuff. The third?; a hand glass, a leather men's grooming kit, more impedimenta. On a table by the wall he spots the folder Mulwray made notes in at the river.

A compact, moustached man enters with the energy for which small men are famed. Offering his hand he's Russ Yelburton, Deputy Chief. Introducing himself, Gittes tells the small man it's not a Departmental matter. 

John Hillerman is Russ Yelburton
Would he care to wait in his office?, graciously, Jake accedes. Yelburton says they're all a bit nervous with all the business in the papers. They go through to his office, stuffed marlin on the wall. After a while, he tells Jake you come to know a man-whether he's the kind who chases women. And Mulwray isn't?. The Deputy Chief says he doesn't even kid about it. With a man-to-man wink, Jake quips maybe he takes it very seriously. Declining the offer of a seat, the Detective asks if he knows where Mulwray's lunching?. He doesn't. Jake says he'll be back, wants a card. Just in case. He palms a handful of them. Shadowed to the elevators, Jake spots an old enemy; Mulvihill. A bear of a man. What's he doing here?. They shut his water off. 'How'd you find out?.' asks Jake, says he never drinks it, never bathes in it. They'd have sent him a letter, but then he'd have to be able to read. The bear makes for Jake, but he stops his charge with a friendly pat on the shoulder. Relax... glad to see you. With his wolf's smile, Jake asks Yelburton if he knows Claude Mulvihill. He should-he's working for them. 

Claude Mulvihill, the bullish-ex cop, played by Roy jenson

Doing what?. The Deputy tells him there's been some threats to blow up the City's reservoirs. The farmers are desperate, but the City needs drinking water. Acidly, Jake retorts he's in luck; when Mulvihill here was Sheriff of Ventura County the rum runners landed hundred of tons of booze on the beach...he goes into the elevator...and never lost a drop.

Jake's Ford takes the drive up to the Mulwray house. It's not a short drive. The villa is Spanish colonial, elegant, expensive. Money. A Packard Twelve in cream sits ready for its owner to remember it. 

A Chinese Butler answers the bell. J.J. Gittes to see Mister Mulwray. The Butler takes the card, looks haughtily at it and shuts the door as if to fetch someone lower to open it for Jake. The squeaking noise Jake hears is the driver chammying the Packard. The butler's back (Maybe the under-butler's off sick) and reluctantly lets Jake in. Jake studies the man as he leads him to his master, but the Chinaman is bullet-proof. A maid dusts something that almost certainly has never had a speck on it. Reaching the courtyard, Mister Hospitality stops Jake with an arm and a 'You wait.'

Jack Nicholson relaxes between takes
In the formally-laid out garden, a sun-stricken gardener-also Chinese-stops his snipping and abandons his hedge for the fish pond. Raking a handful of grass from the pool with a rod, he tells jake it's bad for glass. Sure, bad for glass... (For the record, or even the cd, I've never heard a Chinese person talk like this) The gardener goes back to his hedge and Jake looks into the pond, spotting something shining, like a diamond-only too big to be one. Grabbing the rod, he's about to fish it out when out walks Evelyn Mulwray, dressed like Amelia Earhart, followed by Chuckles the Butler. 

Removing her gloves and rolling back her sleeves, she greets him coolly. It's her husband he's here to see. She offers him iced tea. Her husband is at the office. Actually, Jake tells her, he isn't. He's checked out of the El Macondo. Evelyn says it isn't his apartment. He gives her the pitch; he's not in business to be loved, but he is in business-whoever set her husband up set him up too.  

Iced Tea, anyone?

Surprisingly, she's willing to drop the case. He isn't; he'd better speak to her husband. Why?-Holly seems to think Jake's an innocent man. Can he speak freely?, if he's able to... well, the pretty girl has disappeared and perhaps with Mr. Mulwray. Evelyn asks how he's affected. Nothing personal, he says. Flaring, she insists it's very personal. Let's put it this way; the phoney broad-excuse the language-she tells him she's Evelyn Mulwray, hires him. Whoever put her up to him is after her husband, if he can see him he can help him. Has she spoken to him this morning?. No, she went riding rather early. He might try the Oak Pass or Stone Canyon reservoirs, he often walks there. Otherwise he'll be home by six-thirty. Rising, Jake promises her he'll stop by. She asks him to call first.

Jake drives out to the Oak Pass reservoir to find the cops are there. One stops him; closed to the public. Smoothly, Jake pulls out one of Yelburton's cards and he's Russ Yelburton in person. They open the gate and he's through. There's an ambulance, more cops, detectives questioning witnesses; two boys in their swim trunks. Detective Loach, an old acquaintance is talking with a Fireman, spots Gittes and tries to steer him away before he sees him. Too late; Lieutenant Luis Escobar spots Jake. Jake asks after his health. A lousy cold he can't seem to shake, but otherwise... Jake agrees summer colds are the worst, taking a smoke from his case. The Fireman's objections are waved away by the Lieutenant. 

Detective Loach (Center) is played by Dick Bakalyan

The three walk, Loach, Escobar and Gittes. How did he get in?. By lying a little. Eyeing the suit, Lou comments Jake's done well by himself. Going through other people's dirty linen, says Loach. Unaffected, Jake asks if they're still putting Chinamen in jail for spitting in the laundry. He's behind the times, says Lou. They use steam irons now. And he's out of Chinatown. Since? Since he made Lieutenant. Jake wants to speak to Hollis Mulwray. He's welcome to try. Pointing at the firemen hauling the body from the run-off channel, Lou tells Jake there he is. 

Perry Lopez as Lieutenant Lou Escobar

At the Coroner's Office, Evelyn Mulwray identifies her late husband with a shudder and a nod. Lieutenant Escobar informs her he must have been dragged the whole length of the channel. As he could swim, the fall must have knocked him unconscious. Cautious as the job allows, Escobar asks if the affair, the publicity, made Hollis morose or unhappy. Jake listens through the open door to the hall, Loach pacing distractedly. Nervously, she replies it didn't make him happy. He couldn't have taken his own life?. No. She has to know the name of the young lady in question?. No. Where she might be?. Fraught, she replies certainly not. Jake gets up, puts out his cigarette as Lou asks if they ever discussed her. They did, but he never mentioned her name. They quarrelled. It came as a complete surprise. Indicating Gittes, Lou thought she hired a Private Investigator?. Jake takes off his hat and Evelyn blusters she did that to put an end to a ridiculous rumour. Nodding, Lou turns to face her. When did Mr. Gittes inform her of the facts?. Interrupting smoothly, Jake steps forward, taking the heat off her. Just before the story broke. Lou doesn't suppose he knows where or who she is?. No to both. Evelyn asks if he needs her any more and generously, Escobar says not. If so they'll be in touch-this last directed squarely at Jake.

Jake offers to see Mrs. Mulwray to her car, he'll be right back. The press are there and want the scoop, Evelyn turning away in horror at the flashbulbs popping. With the cops holding the pack back, Jake steers her adroitly through to the car. Thanking him, she asks if she should send him a check. A check?. To make it official that she's hired him. Before he can find a reply to that, she drives off in the Packard.

The morgue. A fat man in an apron comes out, with the Coroner and a cigarette in his paw and greets Jake. What's he doing here?; nothing, it's his lunch hour and he wants to see who dropped dead. Pulling back the sheet to reveal Mulwray's body, eyes wide open in death. Contusions and lacerations to face, neck. Strangled?. Cheerful as befits his trade, Morty remarks it's something; middle of a drought and the Water Commissioner drowns. Only in L.A. Jake remarks he looks pretty banged up-it was a long fall. The Detective asks after Morty's health. Coughing ominously, he's never been better... except for this darn cough. With his assistants and the coroner watching, he unveils another customer. Local character who used to hang around Ferguson's Alley-a drunk, the guy lived in the storm drain, furniture and everything. He came in drowned. Passed out drunk in the river. Intrigued, Jake asks; the L.A. river?. Sure, right under Hollenbeck Bridge. What's wrong with that?. It's dry as a bone. He can't have drowned in a damp riverbed. With an expansive gesture, Morty insists they got water out of him. He drowned.

Next stop, the Hollenbeck bridge. Sure enough, there's furniture down there, smashed up and washed out. Not by the water down there now, which wouldn't fill a bath. Jake goes down for a better look, mystified by what he finds. The same peasant boy rides up on the same horse. Jake says hello, but the boy is wary. Habla Ingles?. Jake reminds him of the man he spoke to a few days ago, does he mind him asking what they spoke of?. The water. What about the water?. When it comes... What did he tell him?. It comes in different parts of the river... every night, a different part. With that, the boy turns his horse and rides away, the horse's hooves picking their way through the rocks.

Night-time and the Ford rolls up to the reservoir at Oak Pass again, parking up by the abandoned fence. He's alone with the crickets. Reaching up, he vaults the fence and takes a look around, hands in pockets. Pow! Pow! The gunshots come out of the darkness, Jake jumping down into a drainage channel for cover. The next thing he hears is the sound of subterranean pumps at work, then a deluge of water comes down the channel, soaking him. Halfway to being drowned by the explosive force of the flood, he's driven into the fence across the ditch, grabbing the chain-link to climb free. Hauling himself back over, he walks back towards his car, finds he's missing a shoe. Son of a bitch...a Florsheim shoe as well!. He's the wrong side of the fence from the Ford now, so goes to climb again. Hold it there, Kitty Kat!. Turning, he sees Mulvihill walking towards him, with another man, a small Frenchman. 

Director Roman Polanski plays the knife-man

Jake asks where Claude got the midget. The 'midget' pulls a switch-blade, Claude produces a punch to the guts, doubling Jake over. Held fast by the bear-like ex-Sheriff, the small man informs Jake he's a very nosy feller. In the tones of a psychopath, Frenchie asks if he knows what happens to nosy fellers. He pushes an inch of steel into Jake's left nostril. They lose their noses... and pulls back, slicing Jake's nostril open with a spray of blood. In agony, Jake falls to the floor.

Next time he loses the whole thing; the unstable little chap will feed it to his goldfish. Understand?... a boot from Mulvihill helps Jake understand.

Walsh paces the office as Duffy sits, awkward. Jake sits, his face one big bandage. Walsh doesn't see it; some contractor makes a few pay-offs, he can't nail Mulvihill with that. Nor does he want to. Jake is after the big boys making the pay-offs. Sue the shit out of them. The buzz-box on his desk goes, it's Sophie. An Ida Sessions is calling. Not knowing her, he tells her to take a number. To Duffy's evident amusement, Walsh comments people Jake's after are liable to be having dinner with the Judge trying the suit. Bzzzzz... the Sessions woman is insisting she knows J.J. 

Taking up the phone, he tells Miss Sessions he doesn't believe they've had the pleasure. Oh yes we have... Is he alone?... isn't everyone?. She's a working girl-the one who pretended to be Mrs. Mulwray. Jake's 'Shut the fuck up' is misconstrued, he waves Walsh over. She's petrified after what happened to poor Mr. Mulwray-if it ever got out, she wants people to know she wasn't a part of it. She refuses to name any names or where she lives. Just look in the obits, today's Post-Record. He'll find-one of those people... and she's gone...

A pause between filming at the Brown Derby
At his usual table in the Brown Derby, Jake rips out the obituaries, any one of which could be a lead. Turning to the headline, he reads WATER BOND ISSUE PASSES COUNCIL, the sub-header adds a $10,000,000 referendum to go before the public. Stunning evening in mourning, Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray enters, to be shown to Jake by the tanned, smiling Maitre d'. She'll have a Tom Collins, with lime, not lemon. Holding up an envelope, Jake adds he got her check in the mail. As she said, she was very grateful. He's afraid it's not enough-not the money, that's fine... but he thinks she short-changed him on the story. Something else rather than her Husband's death was bothering her. Speaking plainly he recaps; she sues him, her Husband dies and she drops the case quicker than wind from a duck's ass. Then she wants him to lie to the Police. Not much of a lie, she thinks, but Jake knows better. If her Husband was murdered this-he waves the envelope-could look like a pay-off. But he wasn't killed... Gittes tells her she's hiding something, at which she visibly quails. 

Jake shows Evelyn the envelope on a Lobby Card

Holding up a cigarette, she admits she is-she knew about the affair. How?; he told her. And she wasn't upset?-she was grateful. Jake tells her marital work is his metier, when a wife says such a thing it runs contrary to his experience. Unless... unless what?; unless she was cheating too. Offering her a light, he asks if she was. Taking it, she says she dislikes the word 'cheat.' He pushes it and she snaps she didn't go home to tell him every time. Anything else he want's to know?, only where was she when Hollis died. Evelyn refuses to answer. With someone else? For very long?; her silence and expression answers the former, she herself the latter... she never sees anyone for very long. She feels he knows quite enough about her. He doesn't, holding up her monogrammed letter to show her initials; E.C.M. The C?; catching herself, she stutters the answer, Cross... He makes out it's nothing, but she's intrigued by his intrigue. Shaking it away with a smile, he tells her he's just a snoop. She looks horrified.

The car-park boy opens the door of Jake's Ford, but Evelyn wants to take her Packard. Jake insists, she refuses, asks for the Twelve. Gittes tells her her husband was murdered-someone's been quietly dumping thousands of tons of water from the reservoirs-in a supposed drought. Hollis found out and died for it. He tells her about the waterlogged drunk at the Morgue. Half the City's busy covering this up, fine by him-but he damn near lost his nose. He likes his nose-and he still thinks she's hiding something. Slamming the passenger door shut, he goes round to the driver's side to screech off in a huff. She goes to speak his name, but it's too late.

With ill-disguised glee, J.J. strolls into the outer office of Russ Yelburton, Chief Engineer at Water and Power and removes his hat in the manner of a Carnie about to yell for the Bearded Lady. J.J. Gittes to see Mr. Yelburton. The secretary looks like she wants to give him a smack in the kisser, but gets up, reluctantly, leaving Jake looking at opaque glass. They haven't changed the name yet. Looking around the secretary's office, Jake sees photos, lots of them. 

One shows a familiar face-the large man Mulwray was arguing with outside the Pig & Whistle. Leaning on a stick, smiling, Master of all he surveys. The plate says Noah Cross, 1929. Jake thumbs Evelyn's letter; Cross. The spinster returns and informs Jake Mr. Yelburton will be busy for some time. Casually, Jake tells her it's his lunch hour-he can wait. Leaning into the chair opposite her desk he crosses his legs, loosens his posture, reaches for the cigarette case. He takes long lunch hours-all day sometimes. Clearly bothered by this intrusion into her private sanctum, she shakes away his offer of a smoke. Noisily, he taps the cigarette to settle the tobacco, lights it with a hum. (Actually a lighter, but he's humming, all the same.) Determinedly, she pointedly ignores him-he's whistling now and humming, while she does something Terribly Important. More picture-gazing now, Jake examining a shot of the late Hollis I. Mulwray with Noah Cross, this time standing in a concrete pipe. 1925. Above that, another two-some, from '15. Side by side, they keep getting younger, this pair. Absently, Jake mentions Cross to be told he owned the company. He owned the Water Department?-for the whole city?. Yes. Strolling behind her now to the other wall, he asks how they got the company away from him. Mr. Mulwray felt it in the public interest. But she said cross owned it?. Along with Mr. Mulwray. Partners?. Yes-yes they were partners. Tossing her pencil down in defeat, the old maid goes through to her boss again. Jake's smile of triumph fades as he hears a scratching coming from outside the door to the hall. Yanking it open he's staring at two painters diligently scraping the name of Hollis. I. Mulwray from existence.

An amused twinkle in eye and manner, Russ Yelburton receives Jake with an impish apology; these staff meetings just go on and on. (They are the only two in the room) Jake offers his sympathy; it must be tough taking over under these circumstances. Sitting to steeple his fingers, the new Chief says Mulwray was the best Department Chief the City ever had. As if unaware, he asks about Jake's nose. Shaving cut. It must smart. Only when I breathe... polite laughter from the chair. Getting to it, Yelburton asks if Jake's still working for Mrs. Mulwray, to be told he never was. He doesn't understand. Neither does Jake, actually.

Excerpt from the script
Yeah-a little run-off. Summing the official up, Jake decides he's not a bad man;works hard, wife and kids. He doesn't want to nail him-he reaches into his wallet for a card-he wants to find out who put him up to it. He'll give him a few days-call him, he can help. As a parting shot, Jake tells him 'Who knows?, maybe we can put the whole thing off on a couple of bit shots and he can stay as Chief for the next twenty years.

Breezing past Sophie, J.J. hands her his hat, she gives him the tip; Evelyn Mulwray. In the office. The door shakes Evelyn from her reverie, this time she's only just in mourning; a jaunty beret and a figure-revealing one-piece, open to show a foot of back. Gittes goes for the drinks, she refuses. What is his usual salary?; thirty-five a day, plus twenty for his associates. Plus expenses. Plus a bonus if he shows results. Whoever is behind her Husband's death, she asks, why have they gone to all this trouble?. Money. How they plan to make it emptying a few reservoirs he doesn't know. Mrs. Mulwray offers him a salary, with five thousand dollars if he finds out what happened to Hollis-and who was involved. Pausing for a moment-possibly thinking how much silk five grand buys-he clicks the buzz-box, asks Sophie to draw up a standard contract. Tell me something, he asks-did she marry before or after her late Husband and her Father sold the Water Department?. Noah Cross is her Father?. Her face fails to hide a thing, she knows it. Yes, of course... she was barely out of Grade School. Matter of fact, he states she married her Father's business partner. Stalling for time, she lights another, but Jake points out she's already got one going. Does this upset her?, no-she mentions the two men had a falling out, barely able to get the word 'Father' from her lips. Over her or the Department?. Why should it be over me? Hollis felt the water should belong to the public, her Father disagreed.

Sophie enters with the contract as Evelyn tells him the row was over the Van der Lip, the Dam disaster. Hollis never forgave Noah for talking him into building it. That was the last time they spoke. Sure about that?, enquires Jake, signing his name to the papers. Of course she's sure. Handing her his pen, he invites her to sign, which she does.

Out at the exclusive Albacore Club on Catalina Island, Jake is shown into the wooden structure by a man in moustache and hat, through a 'Members Only' gate to a waiting Ford Deluxe Woody. The drive through to the Cross place is a short one. They pull up at the trotting ring. Noah Cross is the kind of man that likes to surround himself with people, he turns from discussion of his thoroughbreds to watch the interloper's arrival.
Noah Cross is played by the legendary John Huston
Soon they are sat on the verandah while a flunky brings the food. In a two-hundred dollar embroidered shirt and tie, with banker's braces and a hat, Noah Cross is a man of seventy with the amiable manner of a favourite uncle and the energy of a man of thirty. Cross tells Jake he's got a nasty reputation, which he admires. Thanks. In his business, the old man continues, it's admirable. It helps get a client like his daughter. When Cross speaks, his face seems to mould itself around the words. Jake finds himself looking at a grilled Albacore head, which is looking back at him with what might be a smile. Probably... he concedes. Noah is surprised he's still working for him. Unless she's come up with a new husband. 

J.J. tells him she thinks the last one was murdered. Cutting into his tuna-no head for old Noah-he asks how she got that idea. Jake thinks he gave it to her. Cross hopes Jake doesn't mind the head-it's fine, says Jake, so long as doesn't serve the chicken that way. The waiter pours the wine as Noah asks what the Police said. They're calling it an accident. The investigating officer?-Lt. Escobar. Does Jake know him?-oh yeah. He knows Lou. Where from?-they used to work Chinatown together. Amicably, Noah wonders if Jake thinks him capable. Very. Honest?. As far as it goes. Of course, Jake adds, he has to swim in the same water we all do. Of course, but he's no reason to think he's bungled the case?. A shake of the head. None. Too bad... says Cross. Too bad?. Disturbs him, makes him think he's taking his daughter for a ride. Financially speaking, of course. What's he charging her?. Irritated, Jake replies 'My usual fee. Plus a bonus if I get results.' Crafitly, the old man asks if Jake's sleeping with her, getting a stare for reply.

Director Roman Polanski discussing the scene with John Huston and Jack Nicholson
Rising and putting on his hat, Jake coldly replies if he wants an answer to that question, he'll have to put one of his men on the job. Cross says Jakes' dealing with a disturbed woman who's just lost her husband-he doesn't want her taken advantage of. Head cocked, Noah asks Jake to sit down. What for?. Patiently, he replies Jake may think he knows what he's dealing with, but believe me you don't. The smile on J.J.'s face irks him; why's that funny?. 'That's what the District Attorney used to tell me in Chinatown.' Was he right?; Jake refuses to answer that one. Cross asks Jake to sit again-what exactly does he know about him?. Sitting, Gittes responds mainly that he's rich, respectable and doesn't want his name in the newspapers. 'Of course I'm respectable, I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings and whores get respectable-if they last long enough.' He offers to double Jake's fee, plus ten thousand dollars of he find's Hollis' girlfriend. Jake's surprised he knows she's gone missing, but Noah asks wouldn't it be useful to talk to her?. Maybe, he concedes. If Mulwray was murdered, Noah continues, she was one of the last people to see him alive. Jake asks when was the last time Noah saw him?, but the arrival of some men on horseback gives the old man a break; the Sherrif's Gold Posse, damn fools. They paid five thousand apiece for the Sherrif's re-election, so he lets them practice riding up here. Yeah... taking up his crystal glass, Jake asks the question again. Facing the riders, Cross claims at his age you tend to forget.

As the old man waves to the 'fools', Jake calmly states it was five days ago, outside the Pig & Whistle-Cross's face drops, though Jake can't see it-and they had one hell of an argument. He's got the pictures in his office if that'll help his memory. What were they arguing about?. Sadly, Noah replies; 'My daughter.' What about her?. 'Just find the girl, Mr. Gittes.' Cross goes on; he knows Hollis was fond of her, he'd like to help her. Suspicious, Jake had no idea Hollis and he were so fond of each other. 

Blandly, Noah states Hollis Mulwray made this city... and him a fortune. 'We were a lot closer than, Evelyn realised.' Pausing, Jake insists if he wants to hire him he still has to know what the argument was about. Considering his reply, Cross says his daughter's a very jealous woman... he didn't want her to find out about the girl. So how did he find out?. Smiling, the old man says he still has a few teeth left in his head, and a few friends in town. 'Okay' Jake nods in agreement, taking a last sip of his wine. He'll have his secretary draw up the papers. Replacing his hat, Jake enquires is Cross frightened for the girl or for what Evelyn might do to her?. Putting on his best goofy old boy expression, Noah says 'Just find the girl.' Jake will look into it. He tries a shot; as soon as he's checked out some Orange Groves. Orange Groves?... touching his hat, J.J. says he'll be in touch and takes his leave of the old man.

At the Hall of Records, Jake's a little lost, asking the spotty clerk where he can find the Plat Books for the Northwest County. Impatiently, zits says part of its in Ventura County. They don't have Ventura in the Hall. Then he'll take Los Angeles County. Row 23, Section C. Calling the kid a weasel under his breath, Gittes goes to find it. It's a foot by one and a half wide, doesn't quite weigh a ton. Hefting the book to a desk, Jake exercises more muscles flipping the pages over. Tracts, lots, parcels of land...For some reason, some of the entries have been pasted over with little bits of card bearing new owner's names. Clarence Speer and Emma Dill, to name two. Going over to Acne Boy, he asks why some of the names have been pasted over. Land sales out of escrow are always recorded within the week. And all these are the new owners?. They are. So, Jake reasons, most of the Valley's been sold in the last few months. He asks if he can check one of the volumes out, but it's not, the nastly little prick tells him, a lending library. Resisting the urge to pop his zits with his own desk, Jake asks for a ruler instead. A ruler?; yeah, the print's real fine and he's left his reading glasses at home. Finding him one from his draw, the prick slaps it down. Jake goes to the book, places the ruler carefully and... you guessed it, tears off the relevant strip, coughing sharply to hide the noise.

Sunglasses on, Jake regards the sign. From the look of the irrigation channel and the dry, parched earth it's easy to see why it had to be sold. Someone's hopes and dreams... all dust. Looking across the Valley, however, it's a different story. Even from this distance it looks green, fertile. Driving over, he comes to a No Trespassing sign, beyond which lie row after row of orange bushes. Pulling up amongst all the young fruit, Jake gets the now-traditional greeting, the shot missing his head by two feet.

Some rube comes charging up on his horse, rifle in hand and hooves flying. Luckily the V8 has more horses and Jake's off into the bushes, driving down a narrow lane, smashing oranges as he goes. 

Another cowboy rides out, blocking his path, so he throws it into reverse, crosses the main path and goes off up another, sending a flock of geese squawking for their lives. More hicks with guns, one with a crutch and a limp, just for variety. Reverse gear gets another turn. A shot takes out the radiator, and a car without water is, well, as much use as land without it. Jake tries anyway, getting both barrels from a twelve gauge through the front tire. He hits a tree. Before he knows it, he's being wrestled around by a lump with arms used to heavy work and whacked with the crutch for good measure. The senior man-we can tell, he has a pipe protruding from his pocket-calls them off, still sat on his horse. Orders a search, in case Jake's armed. The hayseed searching him empties his pockets instead. 

Boss-man wants to know who Jake's with, the Water Department or the Real Estate office?. The bumpkin prods him with his crutch and Jake yells to get him away from him. He comes near him again, he'll need the pair. Big-boy spits, invites him to pick on someone his own size. Pops wants them to leave it out. 

Polanski shows the actors how he wants the scene played
Through his broken sunglasses, Jake identifies himself. His nose is bleeding from his wound. A client hired him to see if the Water Department was irrigating his land. In disbelief, the head man spits the Water Department has been blowing up his water tanks, poisoning his wells. Who'd hire him for a thing like that?. Picking up Evelyn's contract, Jake hands it up to the older man. One of the yokels recognises the name of Mulwray, but Jake tells him Mulwrays dead, he doesn't know what he's talking about, adding the words 'Dumb Oakie' for good measure and getting a swing from Big-Boy in return. Out of nowhere, J.J.'s pedigree shows, he spins and kicks him square in the heritage department. The 'Oakie' jumps down from his mount and gives Jake a beating, helped by Crutch. Jake goes out for the count.

The first thing he sees is Evelyn Mulwray, crouched over him. He's on the porch of the farm-stead, the boys and mom and pop looking on. Fuzzily, he asks what's going on. The old man tells him he didn't look too good. So they thought to call his employer.

Evelyn drives him back in the Packard. Declining a cigarette, she keeps her eyes on the road as Jake takes one, telling her the dam's a con-job. What dam?. The one her husband opposed. They're conning L.A. into building it, but the water's coming out here, not to the City. He tells her about his visit to the Hall of Records. His lighter won't work, so he reaches for the torn-off sheet. He names names that have bought land in the Valley the last three months, blowing the farmers out of their land, then picking it all up for peanuts. Does she have any idea what this land would be worth with a steady water supply?. He answers his own question; about thirty million more than they paid for it. He tries the lighter again-no luck. Evelyn asks if Hollis knew. That's why he was killed. Something about the last name on the list comes to him; Jasper Lamar Crabb... digging out the obituary column he tore off earlier, he reads the entry for a man of the exact same name. 

The service was held at the Mar Vista Inn. Is that unusual? She asks. Well, he passed away two weeks ago and one week later bought the land. That's unusual.

The Packard takes the drive of the Mar Vista rest home. Pausing at the top step for Evelyn to take his arm, Jake walks her in. A respectable young couple, keen to ditch an awkward relative. A Mr. palmer glides up and wants to help. Gravely, Jake tells him its Dad, he can't seem to handle him anymore. 'Can I sweetheart?'. A sympathetic shake of the head from Evelyn. Goodness... Mr. Palmer is horrified. It's nothing with dad, you understand, just me, says Jake. Catching on, Evelyn says 'dad' is an angel with everyone else, it's just with her husb... Of course, adds Jake he wants him to have the best, and money is no object. Perhaps if Mr. Palmer could meet Jake's father?. There is one question, do they accept people of the Jewish persuasion?. Mr. palmer is sorry, but they don't. (Oi vey!) With an evil grin, Jake says not to be sorry, neither does Dad, they just wanted to be sure. Would it possible to see a list, just to be certain?. Authoratively, Palmer states they never reveal the names of their patients. That's exactly what Jake wanted to hear him say, he lies. He wonders, is it too late to have a look around/. Anxious to help, Palmer volunteers to lead the tour, but Jake prefers to look around as a couple.

It's a nice place; old boys playing cards and checkers, a piano playing and groups of old folks sitting around or pinching the Nurses' ass. Good for you, Pops. Life in the old dog yet. Jake spots a handy board with the activity groups listed; they're all there, every god-damn name. Our old friend from the Hall of Records, Emma Dill is listed for Arts & Crafts. Casually, he walks Evelyn back to the recreation room, tells her she's looking at the owners of a fifty-thousand acre empire. Even if they don't know it. Greeting the ladies, he asks after Emma. There, she is, large as life and twice as happy to have a visitor. Jake gives her the good news; she's a wealthy woman. No more, she laments-some time back her Husband owned a lot of Long Beach, but they lost it. Jake notices what the old girls are making; a quilt, one piece of which is the design of none other than the Albacore Club!. It's a fish, she adds helpfully. Her grandson is a member and they take very nice care of us. Jake asks how they do that, but Mr. Palmer has materialised at his shoulder. Emma says not just things like this old flag, but other things... Palmer breaks in; the home is an unofficial charity of theirs. Angrily, but under control, he asks Jake to come with him. Someone wants to talk to him. Unsettled, J.J. recovers quickly and bids the ladies goodbye.

Jake and Evelyn visit the Old Folk's home

Its Mulvihill, and he wants Jake to meet someone. J.J. asks if they can leave the lady out of this and the ex-cop says why not?. Jake asks to see Evelyn to the car, but she wants to stay. Get in the car... she takes the hint and as Mulvihill opens the door for her, Jake launches into him with a shoe, hauling him around into the bars on the doors by his coat, which he hauls over his head. A knee and a few right-handers through the coat and Jake wrestles the helpless lunk-his gun drops to the floor-into a pillar for some more knees-ups. Palmer comes out and goes for the gun, but Jake hasn't come up with the roses, kicks it clear and advances on him and suddenly the rest-home stooge doesn't feel so brave. Mulvihill's out and Jake retrieves his hat, turning from Palmer and the small crowd of patients that's formed without a word. On the drive, the French psycho and another heavy are marching towards him, but the Packard squeals up and Jake takes the running board as evelyn drives him clear. The heavy fires a few shots, killing the windscreen. J.J. now in the car, they drive off without a word.

At the Mulwray residence, Jake fingers his dressing carefully as Evelyn brings out a tray. Maid's night off?. Why?. Whattya mean, why?, no-one else is here, that's why. Acidly, she tells him she gave everyone the night off. Easy, it's an innocent question... No question from you is ever innocent says she. He concedes the point and they clink glasses; 'To you, Mrs. Mulwray.' Frankly he tells her she saved his a... his neck. Somewhat less formal of manner now, she asks if this often happens to him. Hows that?; well, if this is how he goes about his business, she thinks he'd be lucky to get through a whole day. The way she distractedly runs her hand through her permanent wave doesn't pass un-noticed. Nor that she's wearing lilac instead of black. Actually, he says, this hasn't happened to him in a long time. How long? Is her question. Why? His. 'It's an innocent question.' Pouring himself another, he gets to the answer; in Chinatown. Working for the D.A. Doing what?. 'As little as possible.' The district attorney gives his men advice like that?. They do in Chinatown...

Evelyn asks why he left the force. Not altogether unhappy with the way his night's going, he asks if she has any peroxide. For his nose. Surely... she leads him indoors by the hand. Once in the bathroom, she gets the stuff from the cabinet and is appalled by what she sees when he removes his dressing. It looks like a knife wound to the nose, stitched in a hurry, but professionally. 

Gently, Nurse Mulwray dabs at the cut. Jake takes it. Suddenly, he freezes, fixated on something in her eye. What about it?-there's something black in the green part of her eye. Her face truly beautiful now she's relaxed, Evelyn explains it's a flaw, in the iris. A flaw?. (There's nothing so perfect as a flaw in a woman, however small.) A sort of birthmark. Gently, Jake kisses her. They kiss each other.

Polanski directs the bedroom scene
Laid out in the bed, Jake lets his cigarette dangle in the afterglow of their love-making. Softly, Evelyn asks if he wore a uniform. Sometimes. She thinks he'd look cute in blue. She wants to know more about him. Not the time. Still, there's nothing like the afterglow to get a man's defences down... why does it bother him to talk about it? About Chinatown?. It bothers everyone who works there. Just bad luck... you can't always tell what's goin' on. Turning to face her, he asks 'Do you?.' She takes a drag of her cigarette instead of replying, persisting; Why was it bad luck?. I was tryin' to keep someone from being hurt. I ended up making sure she was hurt... Cherchez la femme... smiling mischievously, she asks if there was a woman involved. Of course... A little nervously, she asks; 'Dead?', but the harsh peal of the phone saves him from that one.

Lobby card showing the bedroom scene

Evelyn listens for a moment, then exclaims 'Oh my God!.' Tells the caller don't do anything until she gets there. She has to go, won't tell Jake where. Suspicious, he wants to know, but she flusters it's nothing to do with him or any of this. Emotional, desperate even, she begs his trust. He allows her to brush her lips against his, but doesn't kiss back. She'll be back, but decides to let him in one one secret; the fishing club the old lady mentioned-it has to do with her Father-he knows-he owns it... you know?. 'I saw him.' 

Shivering, as if an ice pick had raked her spine, she is distressed and petrified at once. Sub-consciously, she covers her breasts with her arms, protectively. 'M-my-fath- Father?.' He nods. She asks when. He tells her. Going to slip into her robe (silk, of course) she asks what he said, trying-failing, to sound casual. That she was jealous, Jake replies. That he was afraid what she might do, to Mulwray's girlfriend, for one... he wanted to know where she was. In earnest, her face purposeful, Evelyn wants him to listen to her. Her Father is a very dangerous man. Jake doesn't know how dangerous, how crazy. J.J. wants to know if she thinks he might be behind all of this. It's possible, she admits. Even the death of her husband. No more questions, she asks, just wait for her here; she needs him here. Evelyn goes through to her shower, leaving Jake alone with his thoughts and his cigarette.

Throwing on his loafers and pants, Gittes goes down to the Packard, kicks a tail-light glass in. Following a car with one tail light and one showing white is a lot easier at night. Jake drives Hollis Mulwray's Fleetwood, staying a safe distance behind the Packard through the winding roads of Pasadena the fifteen miles to Canyon Drive. 

Evelyn parks in the drive of 1972, a chalet bungalow and furtively goes to the door. A man, looking a lot like her Butler, opens the door-evidently she was expected. Jake's borrowed Caddy rolls to a halt and Jake clicks the door shut quietly, walking casually across to the lawn before trying the side. Through the window J.J. sees a distraught Evelyn talking to her Butler, a newspaper in her hand. After this brief conference, she goes through to the back, Jake following silently from outside.

Its a bedroom, a girl is laying face-down on the bed, inconsolable about something. It's the girl Jake snapped with Hollis. Evelyn takes her hands in hers with tenderness. The Butler brings in a tray and Evelyn produces a pill-box from her bag. The girl doesn't want the pill, but Evelyn pleads with her and she relents, Mrs. Mulwray taking the glass the Butler's holding so she can wash it down. Jake steps back into the shadows, a hard expression on his face.

Evelyn, clearly emotionally drained, climbs into her Packard. Jake's in the passenger seat. 'Gimme the keys. It's either that or you drive yourself to the Police.' The Police?. She's got Hollis' girlfriend tied up in there, by which he means held against her will. She denies this. 'Okay' says Jake, 'Let's go talk to her...' With a defiant 'No!', Evelyn grabs his arm to stop him. She's too upset. About?. Hollis' death. She didn't want her to know until she could make plans for them to leave. He asks if she just found out, gets a nod in answer. It's not what it looks like, Mrs. Mulwray... looks like she knows more than Evelyn wants her to tell. You're insane... Jake's tired of this, he just wants the truth. He doesn't care what she's done or want to hurt her. Nervously, she seeks assurances he won't go to the Police. He will if she doesn't. With no other way out, her breath seems to catch as she lowers her head to the steering wheel, setting the horn off and giving herself a start. Fighting against something terrible in herself, she struggles to form the words. A terrible secret that has stayed that was for many years. 'She's my Sister.'

Relieved it's not something worse, Jake tells her to take it easy; if she's her Sister, she's her Sister. Is it because of Hollis, because she was seeing her Husband, is that it?. Evelyn says she'd never have hurt Hollis, he was the most gentle, decent man imaginable. He put up with more from her than Jake'll ever know. On the verge of tears now, she claims she just wanted to make him happy. Climbing out, Jake tells her he borrowed Hollis' car, he'll return it in the morning. Isn't he coming back with her?. Don't worry, he says-he's not going to tell anyone about this. Fragile, she says that's not what she meant... but he's tired and wishes her goodnight.

At his place, Jake showers, notices his nose is healing well and gets into his pajamas. Sometimes only your own bed will do. As soon as he hits the pillow, he's... disturbed by the damn phone. He lets it ring several times before answering. Male voice. Ida Sessions wants to see him. Who?. Ida Sessions-you remember Ida. Before he hangs up, J.J. tells the voice if Ida wants to see him she can do it at the office. No sooner have his eyes shut and there it goes again. Eight four eight and a half, East Kensington, Echo Park, she begged me to call-she's waiting for you. The voice hangs up.

Pulling up in the Cadillac, Jake goes across the street to the apartment building, a low, stucco job. The sun coming up behind him, he goes to ring, spots the broken glass in the door and knocks instead. No answer. Unlocked. Stinks of set-up. No-body home. A lettuce sits on the floor, out of place. Inside the kitchen, more food all over the floor. And Ida Sessions too. Dead. Going through her purse, he finds a wallet. A driving license, social security card, screen actor's guild... so on. All Ida Sessions. Going through to the bathroom, a flashlight shines in his eye. Lou Escobar and Loach are in there. The Lieutenant asks how come he's here. Didn't you call me?... letting that one ride, Lou asks how he knew her. Jake lies; 'I don't'. Lou wants to show him something, as a burly cop appears to prevent any escape. Tapping a number written on the wall above the phone, Escobar asks if it isn't Jake's number. Is it?-he forgets, he doesn't call himself that often. Lou tells him just to make sure, he had Loach make a call. Loach wants to know about Jake's nose. Someone slam a bedroom window on it?. The uniform finds it funny, so does Jake. Nope; he tells Loach, your wife got excited and crossed her legs a little too quickly. Lou holds his partner back. Going to a bureau, the cop opens it with a pencil. Inside, the glossies Jake took of Hollis and the girl on the boating lake. 

Jake owns up to taking them. How did she (Ida) happen to have them?. Weary, Jake says either tell him or he'll guess, he doesn't know. Escobar leans towards J.J.; he must think he's stupid. Well, he doesn't think that much about it, but give him a day or two and he'll get back to him. For now, he wants to go home. The Lieutenant demands the other pictures. What pictures?. Triumphant, Lou states the dead woman hired him, not Evelyn Mulwray. Somebody wanted to shake Hollis Mulwray down, she hired Jake. That's how he found out he was murdered. Blankly, Jake tells him he thought it was an accident. Come on, says Lou, who does he think he's dealing with-a bunch of assholes?. Mulwray had salt water in his lungs... you followed him day and night, you saw who killed him. Even took pictures-he's been using Evelyn Mulwray as a slot machine ever since.

When's a smile not a smile?-when it's the one that crosses Gittes' face now. Is Escobar accusing him of extortion?. Damn right he is. The big cop says something to the two patrolmen outside, closing the door behind Jake, just as he's telling Lou he doesn't need a day or two-he's dumber than he thinks Jake thinks he is. Not only that, but he wouldn't extort a nickel from his worst enemy. That's where he draws the line. Insistent, Escobar wants the non-existent pictures, trying to hang accessory after the fact, with a generous helping of conspiracy and extortion onto Jake as a persuader. Losing his patience, Gittes asks the Lieutenant if he actually thinks Evelyn Mulwray knocked off her husband in the Ocean, then dragged his corpse up to the reservoir to make it look accidental?. That takes the wind from Lou's sails, Jake adding Mulwray was knocked off and moved because somebody didn't want him found in the Ocean-they were dumping water there and needed to keep it a secret. Escobar's totally lost by now and Jake offers to show him, goading him that as he's in charge, he should make a decision.

The big cop lets out a snort of laughter as Lou Escobar examines the tiny trickle of water seeping from the pipe at Point Fermin. Jake insists they only dump the water at night. Calling up to a cop coming down the dusty hillside, Lou shouts up; 'Reach anybody?.' 'Yelburton, the new chief.' Lou knows who he is. The cop calls down; Yelburton said there's irrigation in the valley and there's always a little run-off after they do that. And he says Gittes knows this and has been going around making irresponsible accusations. Stupidly, Loach wants the Lieutenant to swear out a warrant on Evelyn, but Jake hints he'd lose his gold bar for that one. 

Making a decision for once, Lou orders Jake to produce his client within two hours, reminding him he's got him for withholding. The cops leave, with the uniform making a flicking gesture against his nose as an example of his wit. Jake watches them leave, smiling. It'll probably take all four to find their cars.

No-one is answering the bell or the door-knocker at the Mulwray home. Jake's about to use his skeleton key when the maid opens up, looking startled. Everything's under dust sheets or in boxes. Is she going on a trip? Vacation?. The maid says she's not home. Gittes takes a look around, the crazy gardener's out back. Bad for glass, right?... yes, he agrees, salt water very bad for 'glass.' Jake stops as if he's been hit by a linebacker, goes back to where the man is tending his pool. Salt water in the pool... the screwy gardener holds out some dead grass as proof. Remembering the sparkle he saw, Jake points; what is that?. 

Wading in, the man rolls up his sleeve to fetch up a pair of broken spectacles. Anxious to please, the gardener offers them up to Jake. Mulwray's?.

This time the Fleetwood roars past the Packard and into the drive at Canyon Drive with a squeal of tires. Jake Gittes storms up to the door, rips the screen door open to find the front door locked. 

James Hong plays Kahn, Evelyn's loyal butler
Knocking, he gets the Butler, who tries to stall him, but Jake pushes past with some words of Cantonese that he certainly didn't learn in polite society. Hurrying down the stairs to greet him, Evelyn seems pleased to see him and assures her man it's okay. She's all concern; has he slept?, has he had lunch?. Kahn can fix him something... 'Where's the girl?' is all J.J. wants to know. Upstairs. He wants to see her-Evelyn asks why. Looking over the luggage spread across the room, he asks if she's going some-place. She has a five-thirty train to catch. Without another word, he goes to the phone and calls Police Headquarters, asking for Lieutenant Escobar. Flustered, apparently confused Evelyn asks what's wrong, mentions her train. With a gallows in his eye, Jake says she's going to miss it. Lou comes on and Jake gives him the address. Hanging up, he walks past her as she demands to know why he did that. Does she know any good criminal lawyers?. Seating himself, he gets out the smokes. He can recommend a couple. Hands on hips, she again demands to know what this is all about. Placing a handkerchief on the table in front of him, Jake opens it with one hand, revealing the broken spectacles. He tells her where he found them. They belonged to her husband. Yes, possibly, she says. Standing with irritation, he snarls back; Yes positively... it's where he was drowned. Evelyn seems staggered by this, but there's no time to be shocked by the truth, he says. He had salt-water in his lungs and Jake wants to know how and why and before Escobar gets here because he wants to keep his license.

Evelyn starts to babble that this is the craziest, most insane thing she's ever heard, when Jake grabs her and shakes her out of it. Cigarette in mouth, he says he'll make it easy for her; they had a fight, he fell, he hit his head. It was an accident, but his girl is a witness... so she wants her shut up, she doesn't have the guts to harm her, but has the money to keep her quiet. The pain that tears through Evelyn is real, a terrible, pure agony. Jake pushes harder; 'Yes or no?.' 'No!'. The word comes as a breath of defiance. Who is she then?, Jake knows she doesn't have a sister... Evelyn agrees to tell the truth. Good. What's her name?. Katherine. Katherine who?. 'She's my daughter.' Slapping her brutally, Jake barks he wants the truth. Shocked, on the edge of losing her sanity, Evelyn Mulwray tells him the truth. She's her sister. She's her daughter. He keeps hitting her with every different answer, finally hurling her onto the sofa. In a squeal of outrage and shame, she tells him she's her sister and her daughter. Kahn the Butler comes rushing downstairs, but she implores him to go back and keep the girl up there.

With incredible dignity, Evelyn speaks through her tears and pain. 'My Father and I... understand?.' Numb, Jack replies; 'He raped you?.' Whether she shakes her head in refusal or to clear it is unclear. Then what happened?-she ran away. To Mexico. Hollis came and took care of Evelyn, but she couldn't see her daughter. She was fifteen. She wanted to, but she couldn't. Now all she wants is to be with Katherine, to take care of her. She's planning to take her back. To Mexico. His tone quietly sympathetic, Jake tells her she can't take the train, Escobar will be looking for her everywhere. How about a plane?, even worse. She'd do better to just get out of here, leave all this stuff behind. As a thought, he asks her to get the address where Kahn lives. As she goes to the stairs, she tells Jake those glasses didn't belong to Hollis; he didn't wear bi-focals.  

Examining the broken spectacles, Jake slips them into an inside pocket as Evelyn leads her daughter down, Katherine's face a doll-mask of her Mother's. The girl says Hello and Jake back. The Butler's place is 1712 Alameda. Does he know where it is?. He knows. Chinatown...

Jake drops the blind and turns from the window as Kahn helps Evelyn get the girl away in the Packard. As soon as they're clear, he calls his office, asks for Walsh. Escobar's going to try and book him in about five minutes, if he'll just relax he can tell him about it. He's to wait in the office two hours, if no word from him by then he and Duffy are to meet at the Alameda address. The door bell. Slowly, Jake opens it to Escobar and Loach with an air of regret. Looks like we're both too late. She flew the coop. With a look of disbelief to his partner, Lou wonders if Jake has any idea where to. The Maid's house, out in San Pedro. Jake offers to write it down, but Lou's not buying; he wants Jake to show him. What for?-because if she isn't there Lou'll hold Jake until she does show up. With his best dumb-show, J.J. says he's doin' the best he can. Somehow he doesn't say 'shucks'.

They pull up at the house. Lou is ready to get 'er, but Jake wants to ask a favour first. He'd like to bring her out himself. She's not armed, she won't be a problem. He just wants a minute alone with her; it'd mean a lot, to them both. Sighing, Lou tells Jake he never learns, but just three minutes. Gee thanks, Lou... Jake knocks, to be met by Curly's wife-sporting two shiners after her pic-nic, the entire family seated at supper. Curly pumps Jake's hand warmly, offering him a place at the table. A glass of wine?-no, but Jake would like a glass of water out in the kitchen, bundling Curly into his coat to go out the back to get his pick-up, an old ½-ton Ford. 

Ducking down next to the fisherman, Jake tells him to drive slow for a block or two as Escobar's watch shows three minutes. Jake asks Curly how much does he owe?, he can clear it by taking a couple of passengers to Encenada. He has to leave tonight and there's maybe a hundred in it for his trouble.

At the Mulwray house, they load up the truck-bed with Evelyn's possessions, Jake giving Curly the address in Alameda and re-assuring Curly it's okay before going back into the empty house to call Noah Cross. He asks the old man if he's got his check-book handy. He's got the girl. He tells Cross where he is, how soon can he get there?. An hour. The broken spectacles sit on the telephone table in front of him.

Jack Nicholson gets a camera's eye view as Polanski directs
Crickets chirping on cue, Jake smokes in the garden as Noah Cross's car arrives, the Old Man shuffling in energetically-eagerly?, on his stick. Where's the girl?-Jake's got her-is she okay?-she's fine... well, where is she?. With her Mother. Cross answers with his dark eyes. Reaching into his pocket, Jake has something to show him. The obituary column-can he see alright in this light?. Awkwardly, the old man extracts his spectacles and tries to make sense of it. 

What does it mean?. That you killed Hollis Mulwray... right here. In that pond. You drowned him. And you left these... Jake shows Cross his broken bi-focals, mentions the coroner's report. Avuncular, the wizened face tells the younger man Hollis was fascinated by tide pools, the creation of life there. When they came out here, Mulwray had a theory that if you pumped water into the desert, it would percolate down and stay there, instead of evaporating as in a reservoir. You lose twenty percent, not eighty.

Excerpt from the script
And now he wants his daughter, the only one he has left-as he's found out, Evelyn was lost to him a long time ago. Repulsed by this creature, Jake asks who he blames for that, her?. Noah Cross doesn't blame himself, stating that at the right time and place most people are capable of anything. Proving this, Cross asks 'Claude, take those glasses from him, willya?.' And Mulvihill appears from nowhere, still bandaged after their last meeting, his big paw held out expectantly. It's not worth it, Mr. Gittes, it's really not worth it... as the old man speaks, Claude's revolver is suddenly in his hand, tickling Jake's ear playfully before sticking it in his ear. Jake hands over the glasses. Take us to the girl...

Chinatown. Thirty dynasties wearing a Neon face, secrets and whispers of forgotten gold in every doorway, only truly alive after the sun has set. Jake drives them through the hustle to Alameda*, the Packard parked across the street. Hands in pockets, Jake strolls over to where Duffy and Walsh are standing waiting. Jake starts by asking if they remember night-train Mulvihill?, starts to tell Cross these are his Associates when they raise their hands to show the bracelets on them. 

Escobar and Loach waft into view and Lou arrests Jake. Withholding evidence, extortion, accessory after the fact. Unable to believe this moron, Jake rebust the extortion charge. This is Noah cross-if you don't know-Evelyn's Father-if you don't know-he's the bird you're after. Jake can explain everything if Lou gives him five minutes. Cross starts into his kindly old man bit and Lou Escobar won't listen to a word Jake has to say. He's handing him a murderer-and maybe worse, but he can't see it. Escobar has Jake locked to the wheel of his car, Gittes still protesting he doesn't know what's going on.
*Actual filming took place on N. Spring Street.

Cross's face becomes the Big Bad Wolf as he spots Katherine, walking to the Packard with Evelyn and Kahn for their trip South. Going over to the girl, Cross tells her he's her Grandfather. Evelyn bustles Katherine into the Packard and assures Curly and the Maid she'll be following. She tries to wrestle the evil old bastard away from his next victim, but he just appears to be an innocent old man. 

The girl is terrified and Evelyn steps between them, to be held close by the man who raped her. How many years have I got? He asks. She's mine too... Evelyn is determined her daughter will not be his next victim. She pulls a pistol on him, a little .25 Colt. With hideous irony, the old monster makes out she's a disturbed woman. Cuffed to Loach, Jake shouts to her to let the Police deal with this. 'He owns the Police!.' She yells back. Cross reaches to open the passenger door of the Packard, to reach the petrified child. Evelyn aims; get away from her!. And shoots him in the arm.

Calling out for Evelyn to Halt, Escobar fires two in the air, then one at the fleeing car, Jake gets to him and manages to stop him firing any more, but Loach jumps forward, fires three shots. The Packard's horn sounds and it rolls to a stop aimlessly. Slowly at first, the group starts after the car as a terrible scream sounds from the car. Katherine is inconsolable, her Mother face down on the wheel. As if afraid to touch it, Jake opens the door, the corpse spilling out, the left eye gone to be replaced by a devastating wound. Escobar calls for an ambulance, says to turn 'em all loose. 
Faye Dunaway not looking her best; checking her make-up prior to shooting the fatal scene

Jake watches in mute horror as a monster wraps his giant hands around his next victim, unable to do a fucking thing about it, then stares at Evelyn's body blindly.

'As little as possible...' the words escape Jake's mouth as if by their own impetus. Escobar wants to know what he meant by it, then wants rid of him, telling his Associates to take him home. He's doing him a favour. Gently, Duffy and Walsh lead J.J. away. As they go, Jake tenses, pulls back for one final look. Walsh says 'Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown...' the three men walk away through the gathering crowd. Lou clears them away to the side-walk as the sirens approach and the black and whites screech up.

So, that's the film... one of the greatest ever made-Chinatown frequently tops various contrived lists and is often cited as an example of perfect scriptwriting. It has a timeless appeal; the eternal themes of corruption and moral decay are ageless. Polanski's last film in America is his best. A first-person narrative done partly in homage to the great Raymond Chandler, partly for our enjoyment, we learn every clue as Jake Gittes does and are swept along with him. I'd use the word Chandler-esque, but I won't. (?) There isn't a single weak performance here either-from Burt Young as Curly to Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray the whole cast are immaculate, every little piece in place. 

Jack Nicholson on the set
John Huston earns his place in legend for many reasons, his helming of The Maltese Falcon alone would earn him a special place here, but his performance is simply breathtaking. The avuncular, slightly hokey old man that you can't hate, his character turns out to be a creature from Hell itself. The charming way he goes through the film ranks as one of the most horrifying performances I've ever seen and it's a triumph that this Giant of Twentieth-Century Hollywood was given this part. Jack Nicholson is his usual, tense, slightly-strained self-you always get the feeling this man is ready to blow and he keeps it under control here to give a finely-judged performance; overacting next to Faye Dunaway would have killed the film. Her part is played faultlessly, as you might expect, with class and more than an echo of the Noir heroines of the past. Bond fans can hardly have missed Bruce Glover-Wint in Diamonds are Forever-as Duffy.

Jack Nicholson posing with Evelyn's Packard Twelve
One of the cast members I should mention is Los Angeles. As with San Francisco in Dark Passage, many of the locations used are real. For example, 1972 Canyon Drive is really there should you be wondering, but the new owners may not be keen on visitors. I'd ask first. Likewise, apart from a few goofs and oversights, 1937 is recreated fairly authentically.

Director rehearses Star
So what does Chinatown mean?, the use of the word is a metaphor; in every big city, there's corruption, honest people, dishonest people and rich people screwing everyone over. There's nothing you can do about it, that's what Jake learned when he patrolled the streets of Chinatown and the metaphorical 'Chinatown' is a symbol of that. Also, things seem to happen twice in this movie; like a man in a waking nightmare, Jake has to watch as a second woman he cares about is destroyed in Chinatown, his actions both not enough to save the second and even helping ensure it. His failure to identify Ida Sessions drags him into the case and his failure to recognize Loach's voice on the phone leads, inevitably to Evelyn's death. There are two Evelyn Mulwrays in this film, the real Evelyn seeming to foreshadow her death, when her head hits the steering wheel. You can't change fate?-no, it's that sometimes you can't fight it. Maybe it's better to forget it, it's Chinatown...

Roman Polanski in an intense moment on-set

Legend has it that Anjelica Huston-then in a relationship with Jack Nicholson-was on set to see her Father during the filming of the scene where Noah Cross (Played, of course by her Father John) asks Gittes if he sleeps with his daughter.
After several failed takes, Faye Dunaway told Jack Nicholson to actually slap her; it's in the movie.
Although it's right in your face, the name Noah carries imagery of water by itself, a recurring theme throughout.

European release poster

C.O. Erickson, Executive Producer in his cameo role
Executive Producer C.O. Erickson has a cameo as the Banker who starts the row with Jake in the Barber Shop, but by far the most famous cameo is, of course, Roman Polanski as the French psycho who cuts Jake's nose.
The original script called for Jake to talk Curly out of killing his unfaithful wife, telling him he's not rich enough to get away with murder. This scene was to have foreshadowed one of the main theme's of the film, that the rich can get away with anything. Screenwriter Robert Townes expressed regret at the scene being cut, but a fragment survives in Gittes discussing Curly's finances as he shows him out of the office.
There is no Hollenbeck Bridge in L.A. The producers used the Seventh and Olympic Bridge.

When Jake's Ford hits the tree, watch the trunk (the tree, you dummy!); it has protective steel sheeting wrapped around it. Handy that; the one tree he hits is re-inforced!. 

(Center) it's the AT&T Building... in 1937?
When Jake consults the obituary for Charles Brondrell, the word 'cremation is spelt 'creamation'. 

Jake has self-repairing sunglasses...

(Left) Broken... then fixed!
Apparently, this is a 1970's-era refrigerator visible in the house...
Watch the scene where Lou Escobar shoots at Evelyn's Packard-he staggers as Jake tries to stop him shooting, but he does this before Jack Nicholson reaches him, presumably he was told 'Fire a couple of shots and Jake will tackle you'-and Nicholson's timing was off. 

Spot the Boom Microphone reflected in the window...
Theatrical release poster


  1. Great write-up! I wrote about this film a couple of years ago as part of my Top Five. A classic private detective story that inverts some of Chandler's Marlowe mythology and goes against classic Hollywood noir tropes of the 1940s. Whenever agitates ventures out of the city, the PI's natural habitat, something happens to him.
    One of the most perfect screenplays ever written. I once read; "the only flaw in this film is in Evelyn's iris."
    Too true.

    1. Damn autocorrect! I typed "Gittes" and it gave me "agitates"!