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Chinatown Screenplay

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    Screenplay by

    Robert Towne

    10/9/73 3rd Draft

  • FADE IN:


    Grainy but unmistakably a man and woman making love. Photograph shakes. SOUND of a man MOANING in anguish. Thephotograph is dropped, REVEALING ANOTHER, MORE compromisingone. Then another, and another. More moans.

    CURLY'S VOICE(crying out)

    Oh, no.


    CURLY drops the photos on Gittes' desk. Curly towers overGITTES and sweats heavily through his workman's clothes, hisbreathing progressively more labored. A drop plunks on Gittes'shiny desk top.

    Gittes notes it. A fan whiffs overhead. Gittes glances up atit. He looks cool and brisk in a white linen suit despitethe heat. Never taking his eyes off Curly, he lights acigarette using a lighter with a "nail" on his desk.

    Curly, with another anguished sob, turns and rams his fistinto the wall, kicking the wastebasket as he does. He startsto sob again, slides along the wall where his fist has lefta noticeable dent and its impact has sent the signed photosof several movie stars askew.

    Curly slides on into the blinds and sinks to his knees. Heis weeping heavily now, and is in such pain that he actuallybites into the blinds.

    Gittes doesn't move from his chair.

    GITTESAll right, enough is enough --you can't eat the Venetian blinds,Curly. I just had 'em installed onWednesday.

    Curly responds slowly, rising to his feet, crying. Gittesreaches into his desk and pulls out a shot glass, quicklyselects a cheaper bottle of bourbon from several fifths ofmore expensive whiskeys.

    Gittes pours a large shot. He shoves the glass across hisdesk toward Curly.

    GITTES-- Down the hatch.

    Curly stares dumbly at it. Then picks it up, and drains it.He sinks back into the chair opposite Gittes, begins to cryquietly.

  • 2.

    CURLY(drinking, relaxing alittle)

    She's just no good.

    GITTESWhat can I tell you, Kid?You're right. When you're right,you're right, and you're right.

    CURLY-- Ain't worth thinking about.

    Gittes leaves the bottle with Curly.

    GITTESYou're absolutely right, I wouldn'tgive her another thought.

    CURLY(pouring himself)

    You know, you're okay, Mr. Gittes.I know it's your job, but you'reokay.

    GITTES(settling back,breathing a littleeasier)

    Thanks, Curly. Call me Jake.

    CURLYThanks. You know something, Jake?

    GITTESWhat's that, Curly?

    CURLYI think I'll kill her.


    noticeably less plush than Gitte's. A well-groomed, dark-haired WOMAN sits nervously between their two desks, fiddlingwith the veil on her pillbox hat.

    WOMAN-- I was hoping Mr. Gittes could seeto this personally --

    WALSH(almost the manner ofsomeone comfortingthe bereaved)

    -- If you'll allow us to completeour preliminary questioning, by thenhe'll be free.

  • 3.

    There is the SOUND of ANOTHER MOAN coming from Gittes' Office --something made of glass shatters. The Woman grows more edgy.


    Gittes and Curly stand in front of the desk, Gittes staringcontemptuously at the heavy breathing hulk towering overhim. Gittes takes a handkerchief and wipes away the plunk ofperspiration on his desk.


    They don't kill a guy for that.

    GITTESOh they don't?

    CURLYNot for your wife. That's theunwritten law.

    Gittes pounds the photos on the desk, shouting;

    GITTESI'll tell you the unwritten law, youdumb son of a bitch, you gotta berich to kill somebody, anybody andget away with it. You think you gotthat kind of dough, you think yougot that kind of class?

    Curly shrinks back a little.

    CURLY... No...

    GITTESYou bet your ass you don't. You can'teven pay me off.

    This seems to upset Curly even more.

    CURLYI'll pay the rest next trip --we only caught sixty ton of skipjackaround San Benedict. We hit achubasco, they don't pay you forskipjack the way they do for tuna oralbacore --

    GITTES(easing him out ofhis office)

    Forget it. I only mention it toillustrate a point...

  • 4.


    He's now walking him past SOPHIE who pointedly averts hergaze. He opens the door where on the pebbled glass can beread: J. J. GITTES and Associates - DISCREET INVESTIGATION.

    GITTESI don't want your last dime.

    He throws an arm around Curly and flashes a dazzling smile.


    What kind of guy do you think I am?

    CURLYThanks, Mr. Gittes.

    GITTESCall me Jake. Careful driving home,Curly.

    He shuts the door on him and the smile disappears. He shakeshis head, starting to swear under his breath.

    SOPHIE-- A Mrs. Mulwray is waiting foryou, with Mr. Walsh and Mr. Duffy.

    Gittes nods, walks on in.


    Walsh rises when Gittes enters.

    WALSHMrs. Mulwray, may I present Mr.Gittes?

    Gittes walks over to her and again flashes a warm, sympatheticsmile.

    GITTESHow do you do, Mrs. Mulwray?

    MRS. MULWRAYMr. Gittes...

    GITTESNow, Mrs. Mulwray, what seems to bethe problem?

    She holds her breath. The revelation isn't easy for her.

    MRS. MULWRAYMy husband, I believe, is seeinganother woman.

  • 5.

    Gittes looks mildly shocked. He turns for confirmation tohis two partners.


    No, really?

    MRS. MULWRAYI'm afraid so.

    GITTESI am sorry.

    Gittes pulls up a chair sitting next to Mrs. Mulwray --between Duffy and Walsh. Duffy cracks his gum. Gittes giveshim an irritated glance. Duffy stops chewing.

    MRS. MULWRAYCan't we talk about this alone, Mr.Gittes?

    GITTESI'm afraid not, Mrs. Mulwray.These men are my operatives and atsome point they're going to assistme. I can't do everything myself.

    MRS. MULWRAYOf course not.

    GITTESNow -- what makes you certain he isinvolved with someone?

    Mrs. Mulwray hesitates. She seems uncommonly nervous at thequestion.

    MRS. MULWRAY-- a wife can tell.

    Gittes sighs.

    GITTESMrs. Mulwray, do you love yourhusband?

    MRS. MULWRAY(shocked)

    ... Yes of course.


    Then go home and forget about it.

    MRS. MULWRAY-- but...

  • 6.

    GITTES(staring intently ather)

    I'm sure he loves you, too. You knowthe expression, let sleeping dogslie? You're better off not knowing.

    MRS. MULWRAY(with some real anxiety)

    But I have to know.

    Her intensity is genuine. Gittes looks to his two partners.

    GITTESAll right, what's your husband'sfirst name?

    MRS. MULWRAYHollis. Hollis Mulwray.

    GITTES(visibly surprised)

    -- Water and Power?

    Mrs. Mulwray nods, almost shyly. Gittes is now casually butcarefully checking out the detailing of Mrs. Mulwray's dress --her handbag, shoes, etc.

    MRS. MULWRAY-- he's the Chief Engineer.

    DUFFY(a little eagerly)

    -- Chief Engineer?

    Gittes' glance tells Duffy Gittes wants to do the questioning.Mrs. Mulwray nods.


    This type of investigation can behard on your pocketbook, Mrs.Mulwray. It takes time.

    MRS. MULWRAYMoney doesn't matter to me, Mr.Gittes.

    Gittes sighs.

    GITTESVery well. We'll see what we can do.


    already shimmering with heat. A drunk blows his nose withhis fingers into the fountain at the foot of the steps.

  • 7.

    Gittes, impeccably dressed, passes the drunk on the way upthe stairs.


    Former Mayor SAM BAGBY is speaking. Behind him is a hugemap, with overleafs and bold lettering: "PROPOSED ALTO VALLEJODAM AND RESERVOIR" Some of the councilmen are reading funnypapers and gossip columns while Bagby is speaking.

    BAGBY-- Gentlemen, today you can walk outthat door, turn right, hop on astreetcar and in twenty-five minutesend up smack in the Pacific Ocean.Now you can swim in it, you can fishin it, you can sail in it -but youcan't drink it, you can't water yourlawns with it, you can't irrigate anorange grove with it. Remember --we live next door to the ocean butwe also live on the edge of thedesert. Los Angeles is a desertcommunity. Beneath this building,beneath every street there's a desert. Without water the dust will rise upand cover us as though we'd neverexisted!

    (pausing, letting theimplication sink in)


    sitting next to some grubby farmers, bored. He yawns -- edgesaway from one of the dirtier farmers.


    The Alto Vallejo can save us fromthat, and I respectfully suggestthat eight and a half million dollarsis a fair price to pay to keep thedesert from our streets -- and noton top of them.


    An amalgam of farmers, businessmen, and city employees havebeen listening with keen interest. A couple of the farmersapplaud. Somebody shooshes them.


    in a whispered conference.

  • 8.

    COUNCILMAN(acknowledging Bagby)

    -- Mayor Bagby... let's hear fromthe departments again -- I supposewe better take Water and Power first.Mr. Mulwray.


    looking up with interest from his racing form.


    walks to the huge map with overleafs. He is a slender man inhis sixties, who wears glasses and moves with surprisingfluidity. He turns to a smaller, younger man, and nods. Theman turns the overleaf on the map.

    MULWRAYIn case you've forgotten, gentlemen,over five hundred lives were lostwhen the Van der Lip Dam gave way --core samples have shown that beneaththis bedrock is shale similar to thepermeable shale in the Van der Lipdisaster. It couldn't withstandthat kind of pressure there.

    (referring to a newoverleaf)

    Now you propose yet another d