The film is “Chinatown.” In 1937 Los Angeles detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by a woman claiming to be a Mrs. Mulwray to spy on her husband. Shortly after Gittes is hired, the real Mrs. Mulwray appears in his office threatening to sue if he doesn't drop the case immediately. Gittes pursues the case anyway, slowly uncovering a vast conspiracy centering on water management, state and municipal corruption, land use and real estate, and involving at least one murder.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "U" is for "unfaithful")
Our quiz question is about movies this week.
Because of certain stories that are very much in the news these days, I got to thinking of a motion picture of some years back that has been described as a classic.
In some ways it was your typical detective story. Our hero, a private investigator – we’ll call him “J” - is contacted by a woman who would like to know if her husband has been wandering over to the cheating side of town.
Rather banal and routine; another adultery case, usually not too profitable for a private eye. Unless, of course, the characters involved, the angry woman and the adulteristic hubby, happen to have a lot of money and influence.
Which they have. The male, in fact, is one of the most powerful and influential people in the entire region. “J” begins to think he may have latched on to something big. Big cases mean big billable hours.
He lackadaisically follows the gentleman about. This has him attending various commission meetings and wandering in the hinterlands, for some reason visiting reservoirs and dams.
He also manages to take an intimate picture of the unfaithful husband with a friend, a nubile young woman of a blonde persuasion. A nude photo and its juicy story make newspaper headlines all over the place.
With publicity like this, “J” figures he has it made. All kinds of new business should come pouring into his office.
What actually did come pouring in was surprising.
A woman claiming to be the man’s wife – his real wife – shows up with her lawyer preparing to sue “J” for slander and defamation of character, among other things.
It seems the gal who originally hired him was pretending to be the wife, all of which has our private eye, and probably a lot of the film’s audience, pretty solidly confused. Along the way there’s a murder, too.
As for the makeshift motivation of the film, “J” learns that in this part of the country the word “gold” was spelled with five letters – W. A. T. E. R. – and in his state that was a substance more valuable than oil or diamonds. (It’s about that again today.)
Surely you remember the movie now. What was its title?
(The answer will be posted Saturday.)