28 March 2014

Deleted Scene: Horseshit

Noah Cross philosophises with Jake.
walking toward the main house -- a classic Monterey. A
horse led on a halter by another ranch hand slows down
and defecates in the center of the path they are taking.
Gittes doesn't notice.

Gittes pauses, not certain he has heard correctly.
I said horseshit.
Yes, sir, that's what it looks
like -- I'll give you that.

143 Cross pauses when they reach the dung pile. He removes
his hat and waves it, inhales deeply.
Love the smell of it. A lot of
people do but of course they
won't admit it. Look at the
Gittes glances down out of politeness.
(continuing; smiling,
almost enthusiastic)
Always the same.
Cross walks on. Gittes follows.
(not one to let it

What? Oh, damn near -- yes.
Unless the animal's sick or
(stops and glances.
-- And the steam rising off it
like that in the morning -- that's
life, Mr. Gittes. Life.
They move on.
Perhaps this preoccupation with
horseshit may seem a little
perverse, but I ask you to
remember this -- one way or
another, it's what I've dealt
in all my life. Let's have

This scene was shot, as evidenced by the photos included above, as well as this account from Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer, reporting on a screening of Chinatown in San Pedro:
"So I was disappointed when Towne turned out to be a no-show, but then the substitute guest, Chinatown cinematographer John Alonzo, turned out to have an absolutely amazing revelation to make–a bombshell. About a lost scene from Chinatown, one that was filmed but had to be dropped. But one that, to my mind, offers a powerfully eloquent, beautifully oblique expression of its vision. One that speaks to the war of the prigs against popular culture as well.
The way Mr. Alonzo describes it, the lost scene was part of a sequence late in the film, I believe the one in which Jack Nicholson, as private dick Jake Gittes, confronts John Huston, as the obscenely rich, richly obscene Noah Cross, that monster of terror and appetite beneath the facade of rough-hewn elegance. According to Mr. Alonzo, the lost scene had Huston telling Nicholson to kneel down in the driveway as he gestures toward a mound of recently deposited equine excrement. At which point Huston says:
“This is horseshit, sir. But in the morning it rises with such power!”
Rises with such power! He’s speaking on a literal level about the steam rising off the horseshit. Apparently, according to Mr. Alonzo, it was the inability of the camera to capture the steam on film that led to the scene’s omission. Sad because, in a more metaphoric way, it’s a perfect expression of the relationship between nature and culture: Art, like that rising steam, is an etherealized emanation from the muck and ferment of human nature."
- Ron Rosenbaum, 'As Bubba the Clown Departs, the Hour of the Prig Descends', 
The New York Observer, August 21, 2000

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