Thursday, February 13, 2020

THE BIG GOODBYE:  CHINATOWN and the Last Years of Hollywood

"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."

That's one of the most memorable ending lines in Hollywood film history.

If you're a devotee of this classic movie CHINATOWN (Paramount Pictures, 1974), be sure to pick up this new book THE BIG GOODBYE: CHINATOWN and the Last Years of Hollywood by Sam Wasson.

The book has amazing details about Jack Nicholson, as private detective Jake Gittes, insights about 70s movies and insider stories about Hollywood's top directors, producers, and stars from that era of moviemaking.

I bought my copy already and had it signed by Sam Wasson at his recent talk at the Burbank Public Library in Burbank, CA.
Author Sam Wasson and AD/Producer Howard "Hawk" Koch, Jr.
The Big Goodbye focuses on the production and legend of the Los Angeles iconic film.  The screenplay for Chinatown was written by Robert Towne.  Wasson refers to it as the "the Tora of screenwriting".  He explained why this came to be.  When screenwriting guru Syd Field wrote his first book about the writing craft titled SCREENPLAY (1979) he chose Chinatown as the best example on how to professionally craft a script. The movie and the screenplay are still today referred to for its stellar storytelling on screen and on the page.

First assistant director on Chinatown, Howard "Hawk" Koch, Jr. joined Wasson to offer inside tales about Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Roman Polanski, and others.  I met Koch at the book signing for his recent memoir "Magic Time: My Life in Hollywood."  Kock was the AD and producer of over sixty films.  He produced some of my favorite films of all-time including "The Way We Were", "This Property is Condemned" (script by Francis Ford Coppola), and "Barefoot in the Park".  He's worked with the best in the film industry and also served as former president of the Motion Picture Academy and the Producer's Guild.

In closing, I'll leave you with another well-known movie line from Chinatown spoked by the film's director Roman Polanski in his cameo as Man with a Knife:

"You're a nosy fella, kitty cat, huh?"

And then, Man with a Knife slices Jake Gittes' nose open with a knife. 

Koch said that famous scene took twelve takes, with Polanski pretending again and again to slice Nickolson's nose open.  Finally, after the twelfth take, Nicholson said: "That's enough." Koch noted the director used the first take in the movie. 

Hollywood power games.

Until next time. 


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