WTF Happened to Chinatown?

In this episode of WTF Happened to This Movie, we look back at Roman Polanski’s Chinatown starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

Last Updated on April 4, 2023

Roman Polanski’s Chinatown is considered by many to be one of the greatest detective stories of all time. It’s widely viewed as one of the greatest films of the seventies, with it sporting one of star Jack Nicholson’s most iconic performances, with him playing hard-boiled private eye Jake Gittes. The film was nominated for eleven Oscars, and while it only won one for Robert Towne’s screenplay, its legend looms large. In fact, just recently, a book called The Big Goodbye by Sam Wasson was written about it and is considered a modern classic as far as books about Hollywood go. While director Roman Polanski is a controversial figure – to put it mildly – no one can deny the film’s power.

In this episode of WTF Happened to this Movie, we look into the making of this neo-noir classic. The making of the film was fraught with drama, including a leading lady (Faye Dunaway) who often hated her director (for legitimate reasons) and an early, disastrous screening that led to a complete overhaul of the movie’s soundtrack at the 11th hour. We also dig into how it was planned as the first in a Jake Gittes trilogy, but only one more film, The Two Jakes (which Nicholson directed himself), would be made, and it would turn out to be a bit of a disaster.

This episode is written by Eric Walkuski, edited by Ric Solomon, and narrated by Mathew Plale. Do you think Chinatown is as good as its reputation suggests? Let us know in the comments!


About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.