The Ending Roman Polanski's Chinatown Was Supposed to Have
In 1975, film critic Pauline Kael wrote that the 1974 film noir Chinatown, written by Robert Towne and directed by Roman Polanski, was originally supposed to have a different ending.
In the script by Robert Towne (who also wrote the screenplays for The Last Detail and Shampoo) the monster Noah Cross was killed by his daughter, Evelyn. Evelyn had been raped and made pregnant by her father. In Towne's version, Evelyn killed her father to protect her daughter from the old man's predations.
Evelyn tries to save her daughter
This is the kind of ending you can imagine Raymond Chandler writing. Evelyn might die along with her father, the only way to put an end to his evil, but there would be some hope, with Evelyn's daughter having a chance at salvation.
Polanski changed Robert Towne's ending to let Noah Cross destroy Evelyn and take possession of his grand-daughter as his new slave. Why did Cross do this? Because he could. Because he was rich and politically powerful and normal human beings didn't matter next to his whims. He may even have thought of himself as an artist.
Noah Cross: "The evil that men do lives after them . . ."
“Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown.” That's a movie cliché now, but there's a reason people remember those words from that film—they express the time they were written (the 1970s) as much as the time when they were supposed to have been spoken (the 1930s).
Against power, right doesn't stand a chance.
Pauline Kael called Polanski a “Gothic-minded absurdist,” which is understandable after watching Polanski's 1968 film Rosemary's Baby, another movie where a mother is forced to accede to evil to protect her child.
The director as actor
Polanski rewrote the past in 1974. Three years later he rewrote his own future.