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Reply to "MOVIES: What are you watching?"

Do you love Chinatown? I believe it's the greatest film made during "Hollywood's" greatest decade, the 70s. I consider myself extremely knowledgeable about its history. One thing that's usually agreed on is that Robert Towne's script is the model of great scriptwriting; and it is. Do you know who Edward Taylor is? I didn't.   Which means I knew nothing about the history of Chinatown. Google his name, this is what comes up: Edward Taylor -- American poet. But Taylor wasn't an 18th century poet. But without him there simply is no Chinatown.

The book that woke me up to this fact is Sam Wasson's The Big Goodbye--Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. This book is the best research we probably ever have about this film. Unfortunately it's written with a lot of purple prose--the author thinks, as you can tell by the title, that writing like Raymond Chandler is a good idea for a non-fiction book--it not. But there are so many interesting tidbits that it's worth the slog to get through it. Another thing I didn't know is that Polanski essentially turned into an amateur detective trying to solve Sharon Tate's murder.

So who was Edward Taylor? There is no script by Robert Towne, including Roger Corman's early Poe film The Tomb of LigeiaPersonal Best, The Last DetailShampoo and even the crummy The Firm, Days of Thunder and Mission Impossible, without Taylor. He was essentially Towne's co-writer. He wrote hundreds of pages for Chinatown and spent weeks of 14+ hour days helping Towne with it. He never wanted credit and if you look him up on IMDB all you'll find is two Miscellaneous Crew credits: "Tequila Sunrise (assistant: Mr. Towne - as Edward Taylor) and Personal Best (executive associate)."

Needless to say, if you can get past some of the look-at-me writing, this is an indispensible book for those interested in the pre-production film process and in Chinatown itself.

Last edited by The Old Man
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