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The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Fifth Avenue, Five A.M. and Fosse comes the revelatory account of the making of a modern American masterpiece. 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.

In Sam Wasson's telling, it becomes the defining story of the most colorful characters in the most colorful period of Hollywood history. Here is Jack Nicholson at the height of his powers, as compelling a movie star as there has ever been, embarking on his great, doomed love affair with Anjelica Huston. Here is director Roman Polanski, both predator and prey, haunted by the savage death of his wife, returning to Los Angeles, the scene of the crime, where the seeds of his own self-destruction are quickly planted. Here is the fevered dealmaking of "The Kid" Robert Evans, the most consummate of producers. Here too is Robert Towne's fabled script, widely considered the greatest original screenplay ever written. Wasson for the first time peels off layers of myth to provide the true account of its creation.

Looming over the story of this classic movie is the imminent eclipse of the '70s filmmaker-friendly studios as they gave way to the corporate Hollywood we know today. In telling that larger story, The Big Goodbye will take its place alongside classics like Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and The Devil's Candy as one of the great movie-world books ever written.

Praise for Sam Wasson:"Wasson is a canny chronicler of old Hollywood and its outsize personalities...More than that, he understands that style matters, and, like his subjects, he has a flair for it." - The New Yorker"Sam Wasson is a fabulous social historian because he finds meaning in situations and stories that would otherwise be forgotten if he didn't sleuth them out, lovingly." - Hilton Als

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Format:
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Street Date:
02/04/2020
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781250301833
ASIN:
B07QSPPLQQ
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APA Citation (style guide)

Sam Wasson. (2020). The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. Flatiron Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Sam Wasson. 2020. The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. Flatiron Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Sam Wasson, The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. Flatiron Books, 2020.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Sam Wasson. The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. Flatiron Books, 2020. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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shortDescription

From the New York Times bestselling author of Fifth Avenue, Five A.M. and Fosse comes the revelatory account of the making of a modern American masterpiece.

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.

In Sam Wasson's telling, it becomes the defining story of the most colorful characters in the most colorful period of Hollywood history. Here is Jack Nicholson at the height of his powers, as compelling a movie star as there has ever been, embarking on his great, doomed love affair with Anjelica Huston. Here is director Roman Polanski, both predator and prey, haunted by the savage death of his wife, returning to Los Angeles, the scene of the crime, where the seeds of his own self-destruction are quickly planted. Here is the fevered dealmaking...

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title
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fullDescription

From the New York Times bestselling author of Fifth Avenue, Five A.M. and Fosse comes the revelatory account of the making of a modern American masterpiece.

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.

In Sam Wasson's telling, it becomes the defining story of the most colorful characters in the most colorful period of Hollywood history. Here is Jack Nicholson at the height of his powers, as compelling a movie star as there has ever been, embarking on his great, doomed love affair with Anjelica Huston. Here is director Roman Polanski, both predator and prey, haunted by the savage death of his wife, returning to Los Angeles, the scene of the crime, where the seeds of his own self-destruction are quickly planted. Here is the fevered dealmaking of "The Kid" Robert Evans, the most consummate of producers. Here too is Robert Towne's fabled script, widely considered the greatest original screenplay ever written. Wasson for the first time peels off layers of myth to provide the true account of its creation.

Looming over the story of this classic movie is the imminent eclipse of the '70s filmmaker-friendly studios as they gave way to the corporate Hollywood we know today. In telling that larger story, The Big Goodbye will take its place alongside classics like Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and The Devil's Candy as one of the great movie-world books ever written.

Praise for Sam Wasson:
"Wasson is a canny chronicler of old Hollywood and its outsize personalities...More than that, he understands that style matters, and, like his subjects, he has a flair for it." - The New Yorker
"Sam Wasson is a fabulous social historian because he finds meaning in situations and stories that would otherwise be forgotten if he didn't sleuth them out, lovingly." - Hilton Als

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Bruce Wagner, author of Force Majeure and I Met Someone
      • content: "The wondrous thing about Sam Wasson's new book is that it feels both necessary and inevitable - as if Chinatown couldn't (or shouldn't) exist without it. Reading The Big Goodbye, something strange happens: it acquires the historical, dizzying, incestuous gravitas of the film itself. Wasson has a habit of making vividly thematic, compassionately revelatory art."
      • premium: False
      • source: Julie Salamon, author of The Devil's Candy and An Innocent Bystander
      • content: "Sam Wasson has written a smart, human and utterly engaging book about an iconic American movie. With its rich depiction of 1970s Hollywood, The Big Goodbye is grounded in marvelous reportorial detail and moves with novelistic urgency."
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times, 10 Books We Recommend This Week
      • content: "This scrupulously researched and reported book is about not just a cinematic masterpiece but the glorious lost Hollywood in which that movie was born."
      • premium: False
      • source: Boston Globe
      • content: "A big, chewy read, with talented, larger-than-life rogues stalking its pages -- men with names like Nicholson, Evans, Towne, Polanski. It evokes nostalgia for a movie that used nostalgia as a weapon, and it reminds a reader, once again, of how the works we take for classics came close to never happening."
      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from December 1, 2019

        Inimitable Wasson (Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.) examines the development of the iconic film Chinatown (1974), beginning with the months leading up to the murder of director Roman Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969. Robert Towne began writing a neo-noir screenplay about political corruption and a disturbing family dynamic that echoed the disarray in Washington, DC, and the pall cast over Hollywood after the Manson family killings. Robert Evans was already a successful producer, yet he was dedicated to his vision for Chinatown, his first independently produced film. Jack Nicholson, Towne's longtime friend, was coming into his own; Towne crafted the main character around the actor's talents. Each of these men brought distinct strengths to the project. Wasson nimbly guides us through their battles over the story and the score, and the infamous clashes between Polanski and the brilliant lead, Faye Dunaway. Wasson argues convincingly that Chinatown was one of the last great Hollywood films; in the years following its release, the industry shifted from a dream factory realizing ambitious visions to a corporate machine churning out blockbusters. VERDICT On par with Wasson's exceptional Fosse, this portrait of a neonoir classic will weave a spell over cinephiles.--Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA

        Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        December 1, 2019
        A biography of the making of Chinatown, which scriptwriter Robert Towne called "a state of mind." In his latest, Los Angeles-based film chronicler Wasson (Improv Nation: How We Made a Great American Art, 2017, etc.), who has written about Bob Fosse, Audrey Hepburn, Blake Edwards, and Paul Mazursky, undertakes a multifaceted dissection of the infamous noir film starring Jack Nicholson. Produced by Robert Evans and written by Towne, Chinatown was directed by the "brilliant tyrant" Roman Polanski. Throughout the book, Wasson treats the film as a masterpiece, an arguable but reasonable assessment, and delineates his biographies of Nicholson, Evans, Towne, and Polanski in the context of the film specifically. The author adeptly illustrates how each man brought his own experience of contemporary Hollywood to the film though the story is arguably a more accurate depiction of 1930s Hollywood than any noir film recorded in that time period. Wasson portrays drugs and crime in a matter-of-fact manner befitting the movie itself, and he doesn't minimize or romanticize any of the less-than-savory elements involving the principals of the narrative; this applies especially to Polanski. The author weaves into the text details about the Tate-LaBianca murders and their effects on not only Polanski, but the city as a whole. He shows how the phrase "That's Chinatown" was not just a memorable motif in the movie, but also a reflection of the visceral emotions roiling LA at the time of the film's release. "Since the murders," writes the author, "the communal dream of social and political reformation that had illumed the sixties had blackened, almost on cue, at the decade's turn." As Towne said, "there are some crimes for which you get punished, and there are some crimes that our society isn't equipped to punish, and so we reward the criminals." Through Wasson's thorough research, this book clearly illuminates that concept. If you love Chinatown, then you'll love The Big Goodbye--and it's good reading for any American cinema buff.

        COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from February 15, 2020
        Chinatown is beloved by cinema fans across generations, and this making-of account of the landmark 1974 film will be relished by them all. Veteran Hollywood writer Wasson looks both at how Chinatown came to be as well as the larger societal and cultural forces swirling behind it, including the Sharon Tate murders in 1969 and Watergate, which was dominating headlines at the time. As assistant director Howard Koch put it, We were making Chinatown the movie, and America was becoming Chinatown the country. Focusing on producer Robert Evans, director Roman Polanski, screenwriter Robert Towne, and star Jack Nicholson, Wasson scrupulously tracks the genesis of the project from Towne's desire to write a movie for his pal Nicholson that would incorporate great swaths of Los Angeles history, through Evans' legendary dealmaking, and Polanski's obsessive desire to make the film his own. The personal lives of the four weave in and out of the narrative, including Polanski's trauma over the murder of his wife, Tate, and their unborn child, as well as his criminal attraction to much-younger women. At the book's heart, though, is the screenplay, especially the role played by Towne's unacknowledged collaborator, Edward Taylor, and the battles between Towne and Polanski over cutting the script, battles that Polanski, wielding his red pencil, invariably won. A detail-rich study of the tortured birthing of a masterpiece.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

subtitle
Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood
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Flatiron Books
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