Chinatown and The Last Detail
978-0-8021-3401-1 • $17.00 • Paperback • Jan. 1998
Robert Towne is indisputably one of the most important, influential, and talented screenwriters America has produced. His screenplays are handed out as gospel in Hollywood, and his lines and scenes are quoted and reenacted from memory by countless fans. Collected here are two of his most famous and critically acclaimed scripts: Chinatown and The Last Detail. Each earned Towne a nomination for an Academy Award, which he won for Chinatown in 1974.
Chinatown, generally regarded as the Great American Screenplay, follows a seedy private investigator, Jake Gittes, as he becomes involved in a case far more complicated than he ever imagined. Instead of adultery and divorce, he uncovers a conspiracy reaching to the economic foundations of Los Angeles. Set in the 1930s, the film was directed by Roman Polanski and stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Houston.
The Last Detail, also starring Jack Nicholson, is about the lost weekend odyssey of two hardened Navy lifers, Buddusky and Mule, assigned to escort a court-martialed recruit to prison. Projecting onto this young doomed kid all of their lost possibilities, Buddusky and Mule are determined to enjoy the moment before they must all unwillingly confront the future.
These movies, released in the mid-1970s, revolutionized Hollywood filmmaking with scripts that are, by turns (or all at once), frank, political, uncompromising, and daring in language and event, complex in design and execution, funny, serious, and socially significant.