Chinatown movie poster

Perhaps the ultimate upset in the history of the Golden Globes: Chinatown won the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, over The Godfather: Part II ... Which, by the way, went on to win seven Oscars, including best picture of the year. And yet Chinatown held its own in film history. The members of HFPA must have agonized when it came to vote for one of these two masterpieces. Tough choice: Roman Polanski's film, from Robert Towne's sublime script, won four Golden Globes (out of seven nominations); Best Film - Drama, Polanski for Best Director, Jack Nicholson, Best Actor, Towne for his screenplay (he also won the Oscar, the only one for Chinatown). The 32nd Golden Globes were held on January 29, 1975, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Faye Dunaway plays Evelyn Mulwray: suspicious that her husband, chief water engineer for the city of Los Angeles, is having an affair, she hires private eye J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Nicholson) to investigate. Gittes does what he does best – prying and spying – but when Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web involving murder, incest, political corruption and foundational Los Angeles history. A hard-boiled affair inspired by the best LA crime writers, Chinatown became a template for many neo-noir films to come. Dunaway was nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes, but lost to Gena Rowlands for A Woman Under the Influence, while John Huston, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the role of the powerful and incestuous father Noah Cross, lost to Fred Astaire for The Towering Inferno.

That glorious 1975 Golden Globe year was indeed one full of impressive nominees in the Drama category for Best Actor: Jack Nicholson (winner) had to contend against Dustin Hoffman (Lenny), Al Pacino (The Godfather: Part II), Gene Hackman (The Conversation) and James Caan (The Gambler). A few years later, in 1992, Jack Nicholson directed and starred, again as Gittes, in a sequel of sorts, The Two Jakes. It was not as successful, but Nicholson's winning performance in Chinatown is still remembered as "the key in keeping the film from becoming just a genre crime picture,” a critic wrote.