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Robert Towne, Oscar-winning writer of ‘Chinatown,’ dies at 89

Robert Towne, Oscar-winning writer of ‘Chinatown,’ dies at 89

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Robert Towne, Oscar-winning writer of 'Chinatown,' dies at 89

Robert Towne, the Oscar-winning screenplay writer of “Shampoo,” “The Last Detail” and other acclaimed films whose work on “Chinatown” became a model of the art form and helped define the jaded allure of his native Los Angeles, has died. He was 89.

Towne died Monday surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles, said publicist Carri McClure. She declined to comment on any cause of death.

In an industry which gave birth to rueful jokes about the writer’s status, Towne for a time held prestige comparable to the actors and directors he worked with. Through his friendships with two of the biggest stars of the 1960s and ‘70s, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, he wrote or co-wrote some of the signature films of an era when artists held an unusual level of creative control. The rare “auteur” among screen writers, Towne managed to bring a highly personal and influential vision of Los Angeles onto the screen.

“It’s a city that’s so illusory,” Towne told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. “It’s the westernmost west of America. It’s a sort of place of last resort. It’s a place where, in a word, people go to make their dreams come true. And they’re forever disappointed.”
Recognizable around Hollywood for his high forehead and full beard, Towne won an Academy Award for “Chinatown” and was nominated three other times, for “The Last Detail,” “Shampoo” and “Greystoke.” In 1997, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild of America.

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“His life, like the characters he created, was incisive, iconoclastic and entirely (original),” said “Shampoo” actor Lee Grant on X.
Towne’s success came after a long stretch of working in television, including “The Man from U.N.C.L.E” and “The Lloyd Bridges Show,” and on low-budget movies for “B” producer Roger Corman. In a classic show business story, he owed his breakthrough in part to his psychiatrist, through whom he met Beatty, a fellow patient. As Beatty worked on “Bonnie and Clyde,” he brought in Towne for revisions of the Robert Benton-David Newman script and had him on the set while the movie was filmed in Texas.

Towne’s contributions were uncredited for “Bonnie and Clyde,” the landmark crime film released in 1967, and for years he was a favorite ghost writer. He helped out on “The Godfather,” “The Parallax View” and “Heaven Can Wait” among others and referred to himself as a “relief pitcher who could come in for an inning, not pitch the whole game.” But Towne was credited by name for Nicholson’s macho “The Last Detail” and Beatty’s sex comedy “Shampoo” and was immortalized by “Chinatown,” the 1974 thriller set during the Great Depression.

“Chinatown” was directed by Roman Polanski and starred Nicholson as J.J. “Jake” Gittes, a private detective asked to follow the husband of Evelyn Mulwray (played by Faye Dunaway). The husband is chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Gittes finds himself caught in a chaotic spiral of corruption and violence, embodied by Evelyn’s ruthless father, Noah Cross (John Huston
Influenced by the fiction of Raymond Chandler, Towne resurrected the menace and mood of a classic Los Angeles film noir, but cast Gittes’ labyrinthine odyssey across a grander and more insidious portrait of Southern California. Clues accumulate into a timeless detective tale, and lead helplessly to tragedy, summed up by one of the most repeated lines in movie history, words of grim fatalism a devastated Gittes receives from his partner Lawrence Walsh (Joe Mantell): “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

Towne’s script has been a staple of film writing classes ever since, although it also serves as a lesson in how movies often get made and in the risks of crediting any film to a single viewpoint. He would acknowledge working closely with Polanski as they revised and tightened the story and arguing fiercely with the director over the film’s despairing ending — an ending Polanski pushed for and Towne later agreed was the right choice (No one has officially been credited for writing “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown”).

But the concept began with Towne, who had turned down the chance to adapt “The Great Gatsby” for the screen so he could work on “Chinatown,” partly inspired by a book published in 1946, Carey McWilliams’ “Southern California: An Island on the Land.”
“In it was a chapter called ‘Water, water, water,’ which was a revelation to me. And I thought ‘Why not do a picture about a crime that’s right out in front of everybody,‘” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2009.

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“Instead of a jewel-encrusted falcon, make it something as prevalent as water faucets, and make a conspiracy out of that. And after reading about what they were doing, dumping water and starving the farmers out of their land, I realized the visual and dramatic possibilities were enormous.”

The back story of “Chinatown” has itself become a kind of detective story, explored in producer Robert Evans’ memoir, “The Kid Stays in the Picture”; in Peter Biskind’s “East Riders, Raging Bulls,” a history of 1960s-1970s Hollywood, and in Sam Wasson’s “The Big Goodbye,” dedicated entirely to “Chinatown.” In “The Big Goodbye,” published in 2020, Wasson alleged that Towne was helped extensively by a ghost writer — former college roommate Edward Taylor. According to “The Big Goodbye,” for which Towne declined to be interviewed, Taylor did not ask for credit on the film because his “friendship with Robert” mattered more.

Wasson also wrote that the movie’s famous closing line originated with a vice cop who had told Towne that crimes in Chinatown were seldom prosecuted.
“Robert Towne once said that Chinatown is a state of mind,” Wasson wrote. “Not just a place on the map in Los Angeles, but a condition of total awareness almost indistinguishable from blindness. Dreaming you’re in paradise and waking up in the dark — that’s Chinatown. Thinking you’ve got it figured out and realizing you’re dead — that’s Chinatown.”

The studios assumed more power after the mid-1970s and Towne’s standing declined. His own efforts at directing, including “Personal Best” and “Tequila Sunrise,” had mixed results. “The Two Jakes,” the long-awaited sequel to “Chinatown,” was a commercial and critical disappointment when released in 1990 and led to a temporary estrangement between Towne and Nicholson.

Around the same time, he agreed to work on a movie far removed from the art-house aspirations of the ’70s, the Don Simpson-Jerry Bruckheimer production “Days of Thunder,” starring Tom Cruise as a race car driver and Robert Duvall as his crew chief. The 1990 movie was famously over budget and mostly panned, although its admirers include Quentin Tarantino and countless racing fans. And Towne’s script popularized an expression used by Duvall after Cruise complains another car slammed him: “He didn’t slam into you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you. He rubbed you.
“And rubbin,′ son, is racin.’”

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Towne later worked with Cruise on “The Firm” and the first two “Mission: Impossible” movies. His most recent film was “Ask the Dust,” a Los Angeles story he wrote and directed that came out in 2006. Towne was married twice, the second time to Luisa Gaule, and had two children. His brother, Roger Towne, also wrote screenplays, his credits include “The Natural.”

Towne was born Robert Bertram Schwartz in Los Angeles and moved to San Pedro after his father’s business, a dress shop, closed down because of the Great Depression. (His father changed the family name to Towne). He had always loved to write and was inspired to work in movies by the proximity of the Warner Bros. Theater and from reading the critic James Agee. For a time, Towne worked on a tuna boat and would speak often of its impact.

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Noor Xarmina crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024

Noor Xarmina crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024

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Noor Xarmina crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024

Noor Xarmina from Islamabad has been crowned Miss Universe Pakistan 2024 and will represent Pakistan at the 73rd Miss Universe competition in Mexico this November.

Noor’s diverse upbringing across nine different countries shaped her global perspective.

She studied biology and business and worked as a venture capital investor in London before pursuing a career in acting and modeling.

In her free time, she enjoys running for mental clarity. Noor aims to increase Pakistani representation in the international entertainment industry. The first runner-up is Nimra Jacob.

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Shaheera Jalil joins star cast of Selahaddin Eyyubi Season 2

Shaheera Jalil joins star cast of Selahaddin Eyyubi Season 2

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Shaheera Jalil joins star cast of Selahaddin Eyyubi Season 2

The makers have reportedly “confirmed” that Shaheera Jalil Albasit, who is known for her role in drama series Razia, has now joined the star cast in Season 2 of the mega project Selahaddin Eyyubi.

Earlier in November last year, Shaheera appeared on Amna Isani’s Haute Talk, where she shared some inside information about the auditions for the Selahaddin Eyyubi series.

Shaheera explained, “In 2021, I auditioned for the Pakistan-Turkey joint venture Selahaddin Eyyubi. It was a formal process; I applied, received a call, and traveled to Karachi. I was thrilled and surprised to see amazing actors like Ushna Shah and Ayesha Omar there.

The auditions were conducted by the Turkish team. I was selected out of 60 people, which was a significant achievement. Standing next to actors like Humayun Saeed felt like a milestone. After being selected, I thought I was set with a role in a Turkish drama.

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The drama has since been completed, but none of us are in it. They selected

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Khalilur Rehman released after abduction, police register case

Khalilur Rehman released after abduction, police register case

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Khalilur Rehman released after abduction, police register case

The Lahore police on Sunday registered a case on the complaint of eminent writer Khalilur Rehman Qamar that he was kidnapped and tortured.

Qamar is a famous writer and has given the industry some major hits. He is also known to have some controversial views on a variety of subjects.

According to the details, a woman named Amina had called Qamar to her house saying she wanted to make a drama and when he reached the woman’s house, the armed men kidnapped him.

The Payare Afzal writer had to give a huge sum of money to the kidnappers for his release.

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Later the Sundar police registered a case of the incident based on his statement.

In the FIR, it is mentioned that the accused kept on torturing Qamar and kept moving him to different places, the accused threatened to kill him and asked him to request for more money from his relatives.

It was further stated in the FIR that the accused had transferred Rs250, 000 from Qamar’s mobile phone and also took his watch, cash and ATM card.
 

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