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Robert Towne: The Hollywood Interview

Screenwriter and filmmaker Robert Towne.

Forget It Bob, It’S Chinatown

Robert Towne looks back on Chinatown’s 35th anniversary


Alex Simon

The haunting trumpet wailing plaintively over the closing credits. The bandage covering star Jack Nicholson’s nose. The best last line of a movie, ever: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown"; all elements of a film now regarded by scholars, critics and cinefiles alike as one of the greatest pieces of American celluloid ever made. Chinatown was a collaboration between a who’s-who of ‘70s film icons. Directed by Roman Polanski, produced by Robert Evans, written by Robert Towne, starring Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, shot by John Alonso, and scored by Jerry Goldsmith, Chinatown was nominated for 11 Academy Awards in 1974, but brought home only one: for its writer. Robert Towne was barely 40, and Chinatown his first produced original screenplay, his previous efforts having been literary adaptations, such as 1973’s The Last Detail.

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