Chinatown is the Holy Grail of 1970s cinema. Its twist ending is the most notorious in American film and its closing line of dialogue the most haunting. Here for the first time is the incredible true story of its making.
The Big Goodbye, Sam Wasson’s deep dig into the making of the film, is a work of exquisite precision. It’s about much more than a movie ... a scrupulously researched and reported book with a stellar cast of players, not to mention some astonishing sources ... the book makes a detailed case for how changes to Towne’s version transformed Chinatown into a counterintuitive classic ... There are layers upon layers to this account, just as there are to the film, and it flags only when Wasson violates the color scheme with purple prose.
Sam Wasson...[has] a novelist’s eye for complex characters and a natural storyteller’s feel for scenes, dialogue and richly revealing details ... Wasson, in The Big Goodbye, weaves a tale in a voice that is intimate and sympathetic, yet critical ... Poetics...blossom throughout Wasson’s narrative, adding beauty and charm, though his prose occasionally overheats. He doesn’t shy away from nailing his characters’ fatal flaws and flagging trajectories ... Wasson’s book is an utterly stylish and entertaining ode to a bygone era and the gifted but troubled people who made it memorable.
...as Sam Wasson shows in compelling detail in his fine new book The Big Goodbye, the makers of Chinatown were simply too young, too ambitious, too controversial, and their movie, while undeniably brilliant, was like a brash finger stuck in the eye of the Hollywood establishment ... While Towne’s screenplay won an Oscar and has long been hailed as a modern classic, Wasson makes a strong case that its brilliance is really due to Polanski’s shrewd and uncompromising decisions ... The Big Goodbye excels at such insider insights, gleaned from a thorough canvassing of the relevant archives and from interviews with most of the principal players. The core of the book is an engrossing history of the film’s development ... what this book offers at its heart is a rich and enthralling account of one of the finest movies ever to come out of Hollywood. Chinatown is a melancholy and savage film that repays repeated viewings, especially when armed with the penetrating insights and fascinating details Wasson has marshalled here with such loving care.