July 2, 2024 – Mr. Towne’s Academy Award was part of a phenomenal run. He was nominated for best-screenplay Oscars three years in a row; his “Chinatown” win, in 1974, came between nominations for “The Last Detail” and “Shampoo,” both directed by Hal Ashby. He had also worked as an uncredited script doctor on “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) and “The Godfather” (1972).

He was widely regarded as a master at writing dialogue, though he was less gifted at meeting deadlines — he was notorious for delivering long, unshapely scripts way past their due dates. The film historian David Thomson called him “a fascinating contradiction: in many ways idealistic, sentimental and very talented; in others a devout compromiser, a delayer, so insecure that he can sometimes seem devious.”