Joe Mantell, who died at age 94 on Sept. 29 in the Los Angeles suburb of Tarzana, may not be a household name. Even so, one of the most famous movie lines ever uttered came out of his lips.
“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown,” is Mantell’s cryptic explanation for the disturbing goings-on in Roman Polanski’s 1974 mystery classic Chinatown, a mix of murder, incest, corruption, greed, and Los Angeles history chiefly written by Robert Towne.
Curiously, Mantell’s Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for Marty didn’t lead to many more movie roles. However, he did keep busy on television, where he had originated his Marty character in a 1953 Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse production featuring Rod Steiger as Marty.
Among Mantell’s other sporadic film credits are Storm Center (1956), The Birds (1963), and Mister Buddwing (1966).