WARNING: This character article contains major spoilers for
Noah Cross is the main antagonist of the 1974 neo-noir mystery film Chinatown. He is a wealthy industrialist and secretive crime lord who was the richest and most powerful figure in the city of Los Angeles.
He was portrayed by the late John Huston.
Why He Rocks
- John Huston seriously makes the most of his little screentime as the wealthy old man, and grabs the audience's attention within both of his onscreen appearances with his smooth voice and innocent demeanor which can easily make viewers forget just how nasty he is. And as a bonus, having John Huston portray the film's big villain was an incredibly smart move, considering Huston's known for his noir films from the 40s and 50s, so having him play the role just adds to the film's allusions of the great noirs of the past.
- Like a majority of the characters in the film, he serves as a deconstruction of a film noir trope. In Noah's case, he tears apart the usual noir gunsels and low-rent tough guys that would serve as antagonists in those films. But what makes Noah different is that Noah's the richest and one of the most powerful men in town, meaning whether the detective knows the truth or not, he can do nothing and that he can't do anything to stop them.
- Another interesting point as that as bad as Noah is, the world around him is hardly any better, with the upper-crust being anti-semites, Gittes' lower-class clients being wife-beaters and basically giving a sense how genuinely a city noir setting really is a horrible world and subverting the retraux nostalgic appeal noir fashions usually attract.
- He's a talented con-artist and manipulator who takes full advantage of his senior age to pose as a gentleman who shows concern for his daughter urging Jake to track down Hollis' mistress so she could reveal the truth.
- Though he turns out to be an absolute power-hungry sociopath who believes people are capable of anything, he's able to keep his cool around the thoughts, due to his lack of guilt, morals or a conscience. So even though he's a horrible person deep down, he still has a slight coolness factor.
- He's also notable for his (infamous) lack of karma at the end of his film as the officers refuse to listen to Gittes when he tells them what Cross is trying to do, shoot Evelyn after she (non-fatally) shoots Cross, and Cross forcibly takes are "granddaughter" away, possibly to continue abuse. So in a way, he serves as a sad but true reminder of how sometimes evil going to triumph, and you can't always put a stop to it.