|“||I don't blame myself. You see, Mr. Gittes, most people never face the fact, that in the right place, at the right time, they're capable of anything.||„|
|~ Noah Cross|
Noah Cross is the main antagonist of the 1974 live action film, Chinatown.
He was portrayed by the late John Huston.
Cross is known to be the richest and most powerful man in Los Angeles during the 1930s. Being the head of the city's water department, Cross secretly exploits his position to destroy water tanks and poison wells. During the start of the film, private investigator Jake Gittes (the protagonist of the film) learns that Cross's son-in-law Hollis Mulwray has been found dead in a freshwater reservoir. Gittes also learns that Mulwray had a girlfriend and was once a business partner of Cross, who then offers to double Gittes's fee in exchange for finding Mulwray's girlfriend.
Later on, Gittes soon learn that Mulwray was actually murdered, as he came across a conspiracy plan of using the new reservoir to irrigate newly purchased properties while leaving the Northwest Valley dry. At first, Gittes suspects that Cross's daughter Evelyn is responsible; this was further intensified when a woman named Ida Sessions (who was posing as Evelyn earlier in the film) was found dead with salt water inside her lungs. He also finds a pair of bifocals that were missing from the crime scene during the murder of Mulwray.
As Gittes confronts Evelyn, she finally confesses to having a little secret: she was having unlawful relations with Cross at the age of 15, resulting in her giving birth to her sister/daughter Katherine. She also reveals that she staged the rumor of Mulwray having Katherine as his girlfriend to keep her away from the clutches of Cross. Evelyn also points out that the bifocals are not Mulwray's, since he doesn't wear them.
Gittes then decides to help both Evelyn and Katherine escape into Mexico. While having Evelyn to meet at her butler's home in Chinatown, he summons Noah to the Mulwray residence, where he produces the evidence to prove that Cross is behind the murders. Noah then admits of his true plan: to incorporate the Northwest Valley into the city of Los Angeles, which will cover up his crimes and bring the entire city enough water to produce an extravagant fortune. Cross then has his henchman Claude Mulvihill hold Gittes at gunpoint, forcing him to take him to the women.
When the three reach the Chinatown hiding place, the police are already there and they detain Gittes. Evelyn will not allow Cross to approach Katherine, and when he is undeterred, she shoots him in the arm and drives away with Katherine. However, the police fire on Evelyn, killing her (much to Katherine's distress). Cross then takes the opportunity to take Katherine for himself and leads her away while a demoralized Gittes leaves with his associates in shame, with one of them saying, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.".
It is revealed at some point in the 1990 sequel, The Two Jakes, that Katherine managed to escape from Cross's grasp, though it is unknown how she did it; either she ran away or killed Cross while doing so. Later on it is discovered that Cross died between the events of Chinatown and The Two Jakes, so it is likely she did put an end to this monster once and for all.
During the process of the villain, he is shown to be posh, elegant, luxurious, and old-fashioned at first, but over the course of the film, he becomes more dark, sinister, and manipulative. He is also very spiteful, malignant, vindictive, acrimonious, and unpropitious, as he tries to guilt trip Evelyn into handing over Katherine, claiming that he hasn't got long left. (Long left for what?) He is also a bit shy and reluctant, as he tries to avoid publicity. It is also shown that he is a coward, as he is horrified by Evelyn's death.
- Noah Cross is the only non-western villain that John Houston played.
- At the time, Houston's portrayal of Cross was controversial as it was deemed too dark.
- His design would later be used for Tortoise John in Rango.