Forget it, Jake its Chinatown.
That famous line, uttered by one defeated private eye to another at the end of director Roman Polanskis 1974 film Chinatown, is an important point in the popular conception of the private investigations business.
The phrase, ranked No. 74 on the American Film Institutes 100 Years ... 100 Quotes list, has become a plaint of sorts for the person who attempts to take on an institution in a confusing and unwinnable scenario. In this case, its a private investigators contentious relationship with law enforcement officials entangled in a web of money and power in pre-war Los Angeles.
But what is its connection to reality?
Private investigators interviewed by the Times, including Wayne W. Corsa chief investigator with the Jefferson County district attorneys office said quarrelsome interactions between private detectives and local law enforcement are pure fiction.
Theres a lot more accountability than people think, said Mr. Corsa, a 33-year veteran of the state police.
Movies and books about the investigations business are more about entertainment than education, according to Mr. Corsa, who said he didnt set out to be a police officer, but after several years on the job, it became a part of his personality.
Its like a lot of things. Your job becomes your life, and your life becomes your job. I dont know if its a positive thing, but thats the way it was for me, said Mr. Corsa, whose sonorous Long Island baritone still persists despite decades living in upstate New York.
He said the fallibility of memory stands out in his line of work.
I need to corroborate what youve said, Mr. Corsa said. Its the nature of the business. ... I have to go back and investigate.