Well, this Friday is “Good Friday”, and April dons its Easter bonnet soon. I can never remember if this is the end of an equinox or the beginning of a solstice; regardless, spring is in the air, allergies abound, with love and rhododendrons blossoming everywhere. We could not use the Center for Spiritual Learning for our first screening in April, but we will show it at our club’s other screening room at 924 Broadway. So the Tacoma Film Club is proud to screen Roman Polanski’s classic film noir: CHINATOWN (1974) on Friday, April 2, 2010. This was the last film Polanski ever directed on American soil. He fled to France in 1979 to avoid imprisonment on a statutory rape conviction with a 13 year old girl. He has only directed 29 movies in 50 years. THE GHOST WRITER (2010) which the club has picked for its theatrical selection may be his final effort. He began to be popular after KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962). He followed that with success on REPULSION (1965), ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968), MACBETH (1971). CHINATOWN was his 12th film. In the 35 years after that he only directed 11 more movies, winning an Oscar for THE PIANIST (2002). His friend, Harrison Ford, flew to France to present him with it. There has been a lot of tragedy in his life. As a child he survived the Holocaust. His young pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson family. Presently he is in a jail in Switzerland on those old American rape charges.
Roman Polanski said: “I’m not a fortune teller. I would like to be judged for my work, not for my life. If there is any possibility of changing your destiny, it may only be in your creative life.”
Polanski has a reputation for being very volatile, and he argued very heatedly with Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Evans, and script writer Robert Towne.
Towne won the solitary Oscar from the 11 nominations the film received. He had originally written a softer “happy” ending to CHINATOWN, but Polanski insisted on the dark ending the film ultimately was given. Afterward Towne admitted that Polanski had been right in his choice. Towne had a sterling reputation in Hollywood as a script doctor, a ghost writer. He is “uncredited” for the work he did on BONNIE & CLYDE (1967), THE GODFATHER (1972), THE MISSOURI BREAKS (1976), and FRANTIC (1988). He did write, and was credited for THE LAST DETAIL (1973), SHAMPOO (1975), THE FIRM (1993), and THE TWO JAKES (1990). CHINATOWN was supposed to be part of a trilogy of films. Jack Nicholson directed, produced, and starred in part two: THE TWO JAKES. Part III will probably never be made. Towne also has directed (5) films, like PERSONAL BEST (1982), and TEQUILA SUNRISE (1998).
John Huston as Noah Cross: “’Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”
Trivia: Ali MacGraw, once Robert Evan’s wife, was first pick to play Evelyn in the film. But she left Evans for Steve McQueen, and she was dropped from consideration. Then both Jane Fonda and Julie Christie turned it down before it was offered to Faye Dunaway. Jack Nicholson held up some shots watching the Lakers game on his portable TV. Polanski became so enraged about this he kicked out the screen on the television. Peter Bogdanovich had turned down a chance to direct the film. Philip Lambro had been hired to write the film’s musical score, but he and Polanski clashed. So Jerry Goldsmith was rushed in and he had to compose all the music in ten days; which he did. Stanley Cortez had been hired as cinematographer. Polanski did not like the style the film was being shot in, and lenser John A. Alonzo was brought aboard.
In VARIETY it was written when the film opened: “Jerry Goldsmith, who is one of the best, and genuine, film composers currently active, contributed a fine score, evocative and dramatic, reminiscent of Max Steiner’s music for THE BIG SLEEP (1946).”
Jerry Goldsmith wrote 250 film scores during his career. Some of my favorites included LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962), LILIES OF THE FIELD (1963), SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964), VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965), THE SAND PEBBLES (1966), PLANET OF THE APES (1968), PATTON (1970), PAPILLION (1973), THE OMEN (1976), ISLANDS IN THE STREAM (1977), ALIEN (1979), HOOSIERS (1986), and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997).
CHINATOWN (1974) Directed by Roman Polanski @131 minutes.
The film stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Diane Ladd, John Hillerman, and Burt Young. This movie is a member-pick from Barbara Madsen. Synopsis: Private detective Jake Gittes finds himself overwhelmed in a scandalous adultery case involving the rich and powerful of 1937 Los Angeles. A gripping, atmospheric mystery that excels in virtually every aspect—with a strong narrative drive, tremendous cinematography and art design, and outstanding performances by the entire cast. Tagline: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
Film was nominated for 11 Oscars, and won one for writer Robert Towne. It was the winner of 4 Golden Globes: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, & Best Writer.
Roger Ebert wrote: “This movie is a tour de force; it’s a period film, with the right cars, clothes, and props, but we forget that after the first ten minutes. We’ve become involved in the movie’s web of mystery, as we were with the best private-eye stories by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross MacDonald—whether written or filmed. We care about these people and want to see what happens to them.”
Noah Cross: “You see, Mr. Gitts, most people never have to face the fact that at the right time, and the right place, they’re capable of anything.”
John A. Alonzo was the cinematographer on CHINATOWN, and his period lensing created a sun-soaked L.A. of the 1930’s, earning him a Golden Globe. Some of his other films I have enjoyed include: SOUNDER (1972), LADY SINGS THE BLUES (1973), FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), NORMA RAE (1979), TOM HORN (1980, and SCARFACE (1983).
So, folks, join us on Good Friday, April 2, 2010, at 924 Broadway, in Tacoma’s theater district, kitty-corner from the Pantages, and across from the Theater On The Square, in the Pythian Temple building, at street level—for the TFC screening of Roman Polanski’s film CHINATOWN (1974). Arrive early and enjoy fellowship and conversation. The Phantom Director will have tea/coffee and wine set out, and will be serving some kind of hot meal around 6:15pm. Per usual for our gatherings, any of you who wish to bring wine, bread, cheese, or desserts, please do so for the consumption and pleasure of all of us. We will offer the TFC Raffle, at one dollar per ticket, still giving away free tickets to the first (15) ladies who arrive. The winners will receive either 40% of the cash collected, or a fine DVD film from my personal collection. Near 7pm we will show a short film, and then have the raffle and I will give a brief introduction for the feature film. CHINATOWN is 2 hours and 11 minutes in length, so folks should be ready to head home by 9:30pm. See you at the movies!