Monday, July 4, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Two Jakes (1990) - Two Drafts; Opening Sequence

[Quick Summary: Older and wiser, Jake Gittes is embroiled in a confusing case of cuckolded husband, cheating wife, and the dead man's widow.]

Scripts change from concept to production. A LOT.

This is why I generally avoid previous drafts...

...except this week, I read two drafts of Robert Towne's The Two Jakes.

I WANTED to see how Towne made changes to his scripts.
Yes, yes, yes, Towne's scripts are not always pretty on the page.

They tend to be long (140-180 pgs.), convoluted, and full of paragraphs everywhere.

But in an era of copycats, his scripts stand out: an original voice, a grasp on what's missing in today's films, i.e., drama (see essay), and something interesting to say.
GOOD NEWS: These two drafts (1984, 1985) did not disappoint: a good script, with good bones, complicated characters, everyone is guilty.

BAD NEWS: I was disappointed by how little changed (or needed to be changed) from the 1984 draft to 1985 draft.  Towne seems to have had a solid base from the start. (Sigh.)

I do not know how close these are to the final version, but I leave you to ponder the wonder of the opening shot.


The glove leather of the shoes contain feet crossed at the ankles, cocked on the heels and nestled up against one another like a pair of love birds.  From time to time the shoes separate an inch or so, then give one another a playful tap - the wire on the recorder moves continuously however, winding tautly around itself. The red light on the machine intermittently flashes to indicate sound levels.

BERMAN'S VOICE (rehearsing, but shaky and nervous): '- oh no, oh no, oh no Kitty, you told me you were going to Murietta Hot Springs and now I find you here at -'

The shaky recitatif breaks off. The shoes have separated, poised in anticipation.

WALSH'S VOICE (a stage whisper): ' - the Bird-of-Paradise Motel -'


an anxious and olive skinned man sitting in front of Gittes' desk and shoes.

BERMAN (going on): ' - the Bird-of-Paradise Motel - in Redondo Beach at two in the afternoon on October 21, 1948 with this man - '

The shoes bump rudely into one another and GITTES sits up into FRAME, visible along with his legs and shoes.

GITTES: Mr. Berman, it's very unnatural for a man to discuss what year it is when he's staring at his wife in bed with another man -

BERMAN: But my lawyer said -

GITTES: - we'll establish the date, let us worry about that. Just -

He gestures gently but firmly in the direction of the recorder."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I picked the wrong two drafts to examine for clues on "how to solve story problems."

I did learn a new word from them, though: "tryptich."

The Two Jakes (1990)(draft dated 10-28-84)
The Two Jakes (1990)(draft dated 2-25-85)

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