A woman named Evelyn Mulwray hires private investigator J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) to perform matrimonial surveillance on her husband Hollis Mulwray, the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Mr. Mulwray is in the public eye due to his opposition to the proposed construction of a new dam, citing grounds of safety. Gittes tails him and photographs Mulwray with a young woman, Katherine Cross (Belinda Palmer). The photos hit the front page of the paper the next day, and Gittes is confronted by the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway). Gittes realizes he had been duped by a phony Mrs. Mulwray, and to repair his reputation, he must figure out who was behind the hiring, and why.
Gittes goes looking for Mr. Mulwray. Eventually, he finds former colleague Lt. Lou Escobar (Perry Lopez) recovering Mulwray's drowned body. He suspects he was murdered and investigates further. He learns that huge quantities of water are being released from the reservoir every night. Breaking into the reservoir, he is confronted by water department security chief Claude Mulvihill (Roy Jenson) with a henchman (a cameo by director Roman Polanski) who slashes Gittes's nose. Back at his office, Gittes receives a call from one Ida Sessions, the bogus Mrs. Mulwray. She does not identify her employer, but provides a clue: the name of one of "those people" is in that day's obituaries.
Gittes learns that Mrs. Mulwray's maiden name was Cross and that her husband was once her father's business partner. Visiting the Department of Water and Power, Gittes learns his name: Noah Cross (John Huston). Gittes joins Noah Cross at his estate for lunch and Cross offers to hire Gittes to find Katherine, who has been missing since Mulwray's death. Gittes visits the hall of records, where he learns that one of the deceased persons in the obituary column had just bought a huge land tract in the orange grove of the northwest San Fernando Valley. He goes there but is caught and beaten by angry landowners. They explain that agents of the water department have been demolishing their water tanks and poisoning their wells.
Gittes reviews the obituary column, noticing that a resident of the Mar Vista Inn, a retirement home, died two weeks ago, but "bought" acreage in the Valley only one week ago. He deduces that it is a ploy designed not to conserve water for city taxpayers, but to irrigate the rural valley after buying it. Mulwray had presumably realized this, leading to his murder. Evelyn and Gittes bluff their way into the inn and confirm that the real estate deals are done in the name of its residents without their knowledge. After fleeing from Mulvihill and his thugs, they hide at Evelyn's house, where they give in to their mutual attraction and make love. This sours somewhat when Gittes discovers that she has been keeping Katherine hidden from Cross.
Gittes gets a mysterious call from Escobar using Ida Sessions's phone and arriving there, finds Sessions has been murdered. Escobar reveals that the coroner found salt water in Mulwray's lungs, indicating that the body was moved to the freshwater reservoir where it was found. Gittes returns to Evelyn's mansion, where he discovers a pair of men's eyeglasses in her salt water garden pond. Presuming that Evelyn killed Mulwray and that the glasses had been his, Gittes confronts Evelyn about her relationship with Katherine. Gittes slaps her repeatedly until she cries out "She's my sister and my daughter!" and falteringly tells of sexual abuse by her father at age 15. She adds that the eyeglasses are not her husband's: he did not wear bifocals. Gittes decides to help Evelyn and Katherine escape from Escobar, who now suspects Evelyn of Mulwray's murder, with Gittes as accessory after the fact.
Gittes plans for the two women to flee to Mexico through a fisherman client of his, Curly (
Has Detailed Data (New)
Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne and starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston. The film features many elements of the film noir genre, particularly a multi-layered story that is part mystery and part psychological drama. It was released by Paramount Pictures. The story, set in Los Angeles in 1937, was inspired by the California Water Wars, the historical disputes over land and water rights that had raged in southern California during the 1910s and 1920s, in which William Mulholland acted on behalf of Los Angeles interests to secure water rights in the Owens Valley. Chinatown was the last film Roman Polanski made in the United States before fleeing to Europe.