Writer-director Robert Towne, who penned the script for Chinatown, died on Monday, July 1, 2024. He was 89 years old.

Towne was born Robert Bertram Schwartz on November 23, 1934, in Los Angeles, California. His career began in the 1960s as an actor and writer who worked with director Roger Corman on his popular B-movies. Towne starred in and wrote the Corman-directed The Last Woman on Earth and he worked on The Tomb of Ligeia based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe. He wrote for the TV shows The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Lloyd Bridges Show, The Richard Boone Show, and The Outer Limits.

He became a sought after script doctor who would help polish scripts, fix plot holes and other issues to get potential films closer to completion. Warren Beatty hired him to improve Bonnie and Clyde, with Towne putting the emphasis on their doomed love and improved a reunion scene to become one of the movie’s best emotional scenes.

Some of Towne’s early successes as a script doctor included polishing The Godfather, The Parallax View, Marathon Man, The Missouri Breaks, and Heaven Can Wait.

His work on Bonnie and Clyde led to Towne writing the complete scripts for three huge hits from 1973 to ’75. The Last Detail, Chinatown, and Shampoo were all nominated for Academy Awards with Chinatown taking home an Oscar.

Towne’s directorial debut came in 1982’s Personal Best and he wrote and directed Tequila Sunrise. After the success of Chinatown, he worked with director Roman Polanski again on Frantic. He did script doctoring on multiple Tom Cruise movies, including Days of Thunder, The Firm, Mission: Impossible, and Mission: Impossible II.

He wrote the script adaptation of John Fante’s novel, Ask the Dust, and directed the movie, and Towne was a consulting producer on the final season of Mad Men.