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Arrange the oranges

Paramount Pictures
The trident-shaped "rainmaking" device was featured in a scene in "Chinatown" that was ultimately cut from the final version of the 1974 film.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – It was at the 47th annual Academy Awards in 1975 that The Godfather Part II ran away with a number of awards, including Best Picture, besting Chinatown.

Personally, I feel that Roman Polanski's Chinatown was the better movie – but I won’t get into the details as to why at the moment.

What I want to address are orange groves.

As John Huston’s sinister Noah Cross asks, “Orange groves?”

In the film, J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) goes to the Los Angeles County Hall of Records to get information on who is buying land in drought-parched areas near orange groves.

Coincidentally, right after this scene, a whole ‘nother scene which was left on the editing-room floor was quite interesting and involves Gittes coming across a “Rainmaker” (played by an actor who looks suspiciously like Royal Dano) who is using a strange device to, well, make it rain. Oddly, in Something Wicked This Way Comes, Royal Dano's character Tom Fury is a lightning-rod salesman and sells an Egyptian scarab beetle lightning rod to young Jim Nightshade in the Ray Bradbury story which was made into a fantastic Walt Disney film in 1983.

After that scene, Gittes is in the orange groves and trespasses, seeking answers, since he was informed that water runoff was headed to the “northwest valley” and helping orange farmers there. The landowners, however, inform him otherwise and beat him up after he calls them “Dumb Okies.”

This scene has always fascinated me. The oranges clunking on Gittes’ car hood as he tries to escape. The green groves compared to the dusty, desolate landscape immediately around.

Synchromystically, in The Godfather films, including Part II, the role of the orange is a major one.

Over at, the writer has compiled a list of instances when an orange or the color orange plays a role in a scene. Oranges are everywhere!

And they are in Chinatown

In a 2013 Dust Devil Dreams post titled "Stones and oranges under a rainbow," I noted how A Clockwork Orange and the orange fruit kept coming up at that time. The former, a 1971 Stanley Kubrick film, had its fair share of occult-drenched symbolism, as did The Beatles' 1965 film Help! In fact, while taking a break to grab dinner at a local eatery, I was waiting in line to order and the song "Help!" came on. While it played, my order was taken and the total was $8.65. It was in August 1965 (08/65) that Help! was being seen in theatres throughout the world. On the Dutch album cover for the Help! LP, the Shell company logo is featured. It is considered a "sun worship" symbol and Shell shows up a number of times in another occult/esoteric film - The Ninth Gate.

Fast-forward to 1999 and the Roman Polanski film The Ninth Gate, released right around the time its twin, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, was released. There are connections between Chinatown and The Ninth Gate (starring Johnny Depp) that I didn't expect to see. At the website, the author notes the significance of oranges in connection to the secretary working for Baroness Kessler.

Notes ""When Corso arrives for his original appointment, we see that the secretary has an orange, and as he's leaving, we see that she has peeled the orange and makes a tentative effort to hide it as he walks past. On Corso's second visit, as he's running down the stairs away from the fire, he literally runs into Simone who is returning from lunch and knocks a bag of oranges from her hands, sending them bouncing down the stairs.

Continuing: "Following the rule that when some apparently random detail is repeated twice it may not be random, I looked for some symbolic function of oranges and found it in the context of the Godfather movies where it serves as a warning of imminent death. If you enter the words "Godfather," "oranges," and "symbols" in a search engine, you'll find examples and discussion about this death symbolism. I thought this was particularly ironic since it is a widely held opinion that the film many believe to be Polanski's masterwork, Chinatown, would have won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1974 if it hadn't been up against Godfather II that year. Perhaps this was Polanski's way of having a little fun with one of Coppola's recognized 'serious' symbolic devices. In The Ninth Gate, Simone doesn't die but the Baroness does."

What are the oranges trying to tell us? Are they simply a sun symbol? A warning? Or something entirely different?

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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