One of the most famous scenes in “Chinatown,” which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, occurs when Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) has his nose slit by director Roman Polanski.
What many people don’t realize is that something like this actually occurred at a party in 1944 during a brawl between actor Jon Hall and bandleader Tommy Dorsey on the balcony of Dorsey’s apartment at 1220 Sunset Plaza Drive. Hall, who was attacked by several men, needed 50 stitches to his head and face. His nose was broken, one of his nostrils was slit, he was stabbed in the throat and bruised on the back in the area of his kidneys, The Times said.
I just saw Chinatown again, twice, last weekend. I am almost ready to put it on my list of ten best American films.
“Chinatown” holds up quite well after repeated viewings, while I see more weaknesses in “L.A. Confidential” every time I watch it.
Agreed! ‘Chinatown’ is ageless, and its fiction casts a large shadow on reality. ‘L.A. Confidential’ seems pretentious and clunky by comparisson.
Dorsey and his wife, MGM starlet Pat Dane, and mobster Allen Smiley, their next-door neighbor and an aide to Bugsy Siegel, were charged with two counts each of felonious assault in the attacks on Jon Hall and Eddie Norris. Each charge carried a sentence of 10 years in prison. Jon Hall appeared at the trial, which got underway after Thanksgiving, wearing a translucent protective device on his nose similar to the one Nicholson wore in “Chinatown.” The trial was the sort of media circus we’re familiar with today. Its result is predictable to us now, too: Charges against the Dorseys and Smiley were dropped on Dec. 7, 1944, which meant that the identity of the person who wielded the knife was never adjudicated. Witnesses alternately accused Tommy, Pat and Smiley of doing the slicing. However, on the day of the fight, Norris told a Times reporter he’d seen Smiley carrying a knife into the Dorsey’s apartment seconds before Hall was cut, and in its coverage of the assassination of Bugsy Siegel in June 1947, the Times said Smiley, who happened to be sitting nearby when Siegel was shot, was thought to have been the “knifeman” in the Battle of the Balcony.