Jack Nicholson vs. the Dept. of Water and Power

Silver Screenings

Jack Nicholson knows there’s something funny about the water. Image: Daily Nexus

Chinatown (1974) is not a Feel Good film.

Jack Nicholson stars as 1930s-era private detective Jake Gittes, a cynical and persistent investigator who stumbles upon corruption in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The film is loosely based on the so-called California Water Wars of the 1920s, when water was being diverted from farms in Owens Valley to the San Fernando Valley via an aqueduct.

The tension between Owen Valley residents and the City of Los Angeles exploded (pun intended) in 1924, and again in 1927, when protestors blew up parts of the aqueduct. According to the Los Angeles Times¹, the aqueduct had been dynamited eight times by 1931.

The film explores the concept of water rights and ownership, as in: He who owns the water has all the power.

In this case, the power…

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