I was still reeling from the news of the passing of two Hollywood luminaries—Arthur Penn and Tony Curtis—when I heard that wonderful character actor Joe Mantell had also passed on within the last 24 hours.
Although Mantell is nowhere near as familiar as Penn or Curtis—by name or by a lengthy and distinguished resumé—Mantell nevertheless holds a special place in our collective heart: He’s the one who tells Jake Gittes to “forget it.”
Since this very famous line (#74 on AFI’s 100 Most Memorable Movie Quotes) is part of the final scene of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), I’m unwilling to include it here as a video clip. So, instead, here’s a still from that scene and if you’d like to here Mr. Mantell (playing Walsh) utter the famous line, simply click the picture.
In truth, Mantell was doubly lucky, at least so far as having secured a place in the Lexicon of Film Quotes. Not only did he get that fantastic line from Chinatown, he also originated the character of Angie in Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, first on live TV in 1953 and again in the 1955 film version (he’s the only principal actor to appear in bother versions). Therefore, Mantell is also responsible for half of this famous and oft-quoted exchange:
Angie: So, what do you feel like doin’, tonight?
Marty: I don’t know, Ang’…What do you feel like doin’?
Here’s the clip from Delbert Mann’s film:
It may not be as famous in most circles as “Forget it, Jake,” but it is where I come from. I was stunned when I made that connection that Mantell originated both lines. (I hadn’t been that shocked by a piece of film trivia since I heard that the cute, 13-year-old chick from National Lampoon’s Animal House and Maggie, the Scottish girlfriend from Caddyshack, were one and the same.)