Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in “Chinatown” 1974. IMDb photo

“We still have dreams, but we know that most of them will come to nothing. And we also most fortunately know that it really doesn’t matter,” says author Raymond Chandler who gave us film noir’s sleuth Phillip Marlow.

Behold our beloved Alan Sanborn, who, for years and years has truly mattered. Alan, one of the founders of Railroad Square Cinema, ran the movies, sold the popcorn, installed each new system that came through the door, and still had time to greet friends, talk shop and hang the art that graced the walls.

Alan was asked, what can we do to make your special night glow?

“Show Chinatown,” he said.

And so here it is, Roman Polanski’s unforgettable “Chinatown,” a movie about many things, greed, political corruption, love, incest, yes, incest, murder and water. Everything but Chinatown.

We get the unforgettable Jack Nicholson who brought his famous grin, tinted glasses, and Fedora Lounge hat to the movie he himself calls, ”the end of Hollywood.”


In his book “The Big Goodbye,” Sam Wasson lays out the whole, true story of the making of “Chinatown,” subtitled “Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood.” You can get it online at Flatironbooks.com.

“Dreaming your paradise and waking up. That’s Chinatown. Thinking you’ve got it figured out and waking up dead — that’s Chinatown.”

“Chinatown” was written by Robert Towne, directed by Polanski and released in 1974, ultimately changing and officially ending the era of “noir.”

Jack is Jake Gittes, an ex-cop who once hung out in the ratty bars and back room poker games of L.A.

Today, he is a private eye in the smoggy sunset of a back street Hollywood, looking through windows and following husbands on their way to their girlfriends’ apartments, and taking cash from the soiled wives.

Jake is the 1937 Sam Spade, working with a crew of other ex-cops on his payroll, when he’s hired by a woman (Diane Ladd) who claims to be Chief Water Engineer Hollis Mulwray’s wife, Evelyn, and suspects he’s cheating. Soon after, another Mulwray wife will appear, (Faye Dunaway) younger, lovelier, mysterious. Confused?


This leads Jake through myriad chambers of the water department’s hidden files, and eventually out to the ranch of Noah Cross (John Huston) and into the bed of the real Evelyn Mulwray, Cross’s estranged daughter, who has a secret of her own, a big one, that will lead to the dark night alleys of Chinatown.

In the course of his investigation, Jake will get his nose slashed open by a thug who works for the water department, have his hardened heart softened by Evelyn, and then broken in pieces like the mysterious eyeglasses that float at the bottom of a garden pool.

“Chinatown,” a gift for Alan Sanborn and all of who can’t get enough of it.

“Chinatown” plays one special night only on July 16th at 6:30 p.m. at RRSQ Cinema 1.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.