George Christy Talks About Faye Dunaway, Roman Polanski, Chinatown, Jack Nicholson and more!
With her statuesque allure and high cheek bones to kill, Faye Dunaway wears hats, from Fedoras to berets, for her movie roles that become iconic images. Not many film stars are so blessed.
Looking back at her 1974 Chinatown, rated No. 2 in AFI’s Top 10 Mysteries, Faye is costumed to perfection by Oscar nominee Anthea Sylbert.
In truth, Faye as Evelyn Mulray in Chinatown merited an Oscar for her complex portrayal. As did co-star Jack Nicholson in his gumshoe character Jack Gittes. Also, the supporting John Huston as Noah Cross, the evil tycoon. (John’s daughter Anjelica began a relationship with Jack during the filming of the movie).
Directed by Roman Polanski, an artist of unequalled brilliance, the classic Chinatown, is replete with captivating twists and turns that keep viewers wondering what’s next in the gangsterland of vintage 1930’s Los Angeles.
Robert Towne, winning an Oscar for his screenplay, was inspired by a rotogravure photo essay of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles. Along with the 1930’s pillaging of the Owens Valley by big investors buying out the San Fernando Valley. Stealing water from the North, bringing it to the South and doing so by claiming the city was suffering a terrible drought.
Chinatown’s arresting storyline was heightened by Roman Polanski’s suggestions. Debate was pursued that Faye Dunaway’s character should not die, but Roman insisted that “killing her off made a perfect Hollywood ending.”
In the scene where Jack Nicholson has his nose slit, it is Roman who wields the knife. Requiring 12 takes!
Robert Towne was determined to emphasize the lurking violence and create a sense of shock.
“Roman didn’t allow his leading man to recover from this little nose nick,” recalled Robert.
“He pasted the Band-Aid across Jack’s face, with the stitches in it, and Jack living with them throughout the filming.”
Observers complained, ‘That’s a hell of a thing to do to a leading man. Stupid!’
“But it added credibility.”
The Chinatown title was inspired by Robert Towne’s vice cop buddy, who claimed, “In Chinatown, you don’t know who’s a crook and who isn’t, so don’t do a Goddamn thing …”
In other words, what will be will be.
Chinatown was producer Robert Evans’ first solo production at Paramount Pictures, when he was the president.
A work of art, a work of cinema genius.
All the same, Frank Yablans, Paramount’s head of distribution, vowed he didn’t understand the script, declaring it “a piece of shit.”
Upon seeing the film, Frank got the message.
A box office bonanza.