Actor/director Jack Nicholson reprises his role as J.J. “Jake” Gittes, a private investigator in post-war (late 40’s) Los Angeles. In the following ‘scene’ he is on his way out to see a client in the San Fernando Valley. As he drives (once again) through the orange groves, he muses about the past. Great screenwriting.
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“Time changes things, like the fruit stand that turns into a filling station. But the footprints and signs from the past are everywhere.
They’ve been fighting over this land ever since the first Spanish missionaries showed the Indians the benefits of religion, horses, and a few years of forced labor. The Indians had it right all along. They respected ghosts. You can’t forget the past any more than you can change it.
Hearing Katherine Mulwray’s name started me thinking about old secrets, family, property, and a guy doin’ his partner dirt. Memories are like that – as unpredictable as nitro, and you never know what’s gonna set one off.
Like the clues that keep you on the right track are never where you look for ’em. They fall out of the pocket of somebody else’s suit you pick up at the cleaners. They’re in the tune you can’t stop humming that you never heard in your life. They’re at the other end of the wrong number you dial in the middle of the night.
The signs are in all those old familiar places you only think you’ve never been before. But you get used to seeing them out of the corner of your eye, and you end up tripping over the ones that are right in front of you. I should have been wise to Berman’s hand-wringing act from the very beginning. It was as plain as the shoes on his feet.”
The song playing on the radio in the background is Tumbling Tumbleweeds, performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. The song was composed by Bob Nolan while working as a caddy and living in 1930’s Los Angeles.