Name: J.J. “Jake” Gittes
Location: Los Angeles
Type of Detective: Divorce Investigator
First appeared: 1974
Memorable Phrase: “Infidelity made me what I am today.”
J.J. “Jake” Gittes is the protagonist in Roman Polanski (Director) and Robert Towne (Screenwriter)’s heralded film-noir style crime drama Chinatown (1974).
Jaded and cynical, Jake is aware that his somewhat questionable past and sleazy antics have paved the way for him in the divorce detective profession. Unlike many film noir investigators, Jake is disarmingly human and makes more mistakes than the average detective would. His odd inability to see the bigger picture puts him at a disadvantage, though he does an excellent job at producing vague excuses and using the corruption of Chinatown as a scapegoat.
In the film, Jake is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to follow her husband (or so he is led to believe), Hollis Mulwray, the head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. When he finally meets the true Mrs. Mulwray, the plot thickens and the cast works together to solve the dark mystery.
Director Polanski even makes a cameo in this Academy Award-winning film (it was nominated for 11), who was forced to leave the US only two years later. The screenplay continues to be heralded as one of the best written of all time.