The Blue Dahlia is directed by George Marshall and written by Raymond Chandler. It stars Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix & Howard Da Silva. Plot sees Ladd playing a navy officer who returns home to his unfaithful wife after fighting in the South Pacific. When she is found murdered he is the number one suspect, he must find who is responsible before it's too late.
Legend has it that Paramount Pictures were so pleased about the success of Double Indemnity, and in particular Raymond Chandler's writing on it, they handed the writer a contract, where, he produced this tightly wound film noir piece. Nominated for an Academy Award, Chandler had in fact had to give up his teetotaller way of life (he was a recovering alcoholic) so as to gain inspiration for the story. Also of note is that his original ending was shelved after objections by the U.S. Military Department, shame, because I believe that an already good film could have been a better one with Chandler's original denouement. Oh well, what's left is still rather rewarding to the genre faithful.
After This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key, this was the third pairing of Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake. Their working chemistry set in stone, it's nice that the film doesn't solely rely on the pair to make Chandler's material work. True enough their scenes have a tenderness to them, acting as a sort of warm place to go to when the harsher aspects in the plot hit home hard, but the film is far more than just the Ladd & Lake show. What marks it out as a worthy point of reference in the film noir cycle, is that it delves into the psyche of the servicemen returning home from the war. Observing how they were being received and showing that some of them also carried emotional scars as well as those ones gained in battle. Then Chandler mixes it in with a hard-boiled murder investigation as our wrongly accused protagonist trawls the mean streets of L.A. searching to clear his name. With that comes grungy premises' and periods of brutal violence, all cloaked moodily by the competent Marshall. Ladd does good work, very appealing yet tough, but it's Bendix who steals the movie with an intense portrayal of an ex-serviceman with psychological issues.
With the original ending and a deeper exploration of the war veterans not being warmly received on homecoming, The Blue Dahlia would have been close to being a genre classic. The script and Bendix ensure, though, that it's still very easy to recommend to like minded fans of the noir cycle and its dark alley offshoots. 7.5/10
"Bourbon, straight, with a bourbon chaser." That's Johnny Morrison's drink. Johnny's just been discharged from the Navy, along with two of his pals who were under his command. There's George Copeland (Hugh Beaumont), easy going and loyal, and Buzz Wancheck (William Bendix), big and burly, just as loyal to Johnny as George is, with a metal plate in his head, a variable memory and who sometimes goes into rages.
Johnny leaves his two pals in a Los Angeles hotel and goes to The Cavendish Court in the evening to meet his wife, Helen (Doris Dowling). The Cavendish is a high priced hotel with private bungalows, a careless attitude about parties and an aging security man who doesn't mind taking a few under-the-table dollars for various services. Johnny finds his wife, alright. He learns quickly what her philosophy is. "I take all the drinks I like, any time, any place," Helen Morrison says at one point. "I go where I want to with anybody I want. I just happen to be that kind of a girl." She's giving a drunken party at her bungalow. Before long Johnny sees her being too friendly with Eddie Harwood (Howard De Silva), a well-dressed hood and owner of The Blue Dahlia nightclub. Johnny punches Harwood and leaves in a cold rage. He's picked up by a blonde in a convertible. "You oughta have more sense than to take chances with strangers like this," he tells her. "It's funny," she says, "but practically all the people I know were strangers when I met them." The next morning he hears on the radio that his wife has been murdered with his gun, and he's being hunted by the cops.
What's he going to do? In this first-rate murder mystery, Johnny decides to find the killer himself. His wife might have been a tramp, but she was his wife. Trouble is, there are a lot of possible murderers. And the blonde who picked him up? It turns out she's Joyce Harwood (Veronica Lake), Eddie's estranged wife. Something clicks between them. When she lets him out of the car that night, they talk briefly and then he turns and walks away. "Don't you ever say good night?" she calls out to him. Johnny walks back. "It's goodbye,' he tells her, "and it's hard to say 'goodbye.'" "Why is it?" Joyce asks him. "You've never seen me before tonight." Johnny looks at her. You can see he's regretting ever marrying his wife. ""Every guy's seen you before, somewhere" he tells her. "The trick is to find you."
The Blue Dahlia has a tight, complex script by Raymond Chandler. The direction by George Marshall is efficient and fast-paced. The characters, and the actors who play them, are vivid, especially Bendix. Buzz Wancheck may be loyal to Johnny, but ticking away behind that metal plate in his head is a potential time bomb. Loud, fast music -- monkey music, Buzz calls it -- can trigger ferocious headaches and the kind of anger-fueled rage you don't want to be around. Howard Da Silva was a fine actor and his Eddie Harwood is more than a conventional gangster. He's smooth, ruthless, friendly, smart, corrupt...and he still is carrying at least a small torch for Joyce. Will Wright as "Dad" Newall turns in a great performance as the sleazy, defensive security man at the Cavendish. He's one more of the great character actors people remember by their faces and their performances, but whose name is never remembered.
This was the third of the Alan Ladd/Vernonica Lake vehicles the two made during the Forties, beginning with This Gun for Hire in 1942 and followed by The Glass Key that same year. Although they evidently didn't much care for each other off screen, on screen they generated quite a bit of electricity. Lake in high heels never topped five feet. She usually came across as sexy but no one's fool. They were blond and small. They went well together. In some way no one has been able to define, the camera found a kind of extra dimension with the two. The Blue Dahlia might not quite match their two classic films, This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key, but it still is an effective murder vehicle for two interesting stars. All three films are solid viewing even after 60 years.
Alan Ladd made no bones about being, or wanting to be, an actor. He was an easy-going guy with one ambition, to be a movie star. With This Gun for Hire he made it, and became a major star during the Forties. Even in the Fifties when the good roles were slipping by him he remained an above-the-title star. But why? He was only 5'5", slightly built and he was no actor. He's quoted as saying, "I have the face of an aging choirboy and the build of an undernourished featherweight. If you can figure out my success on the screen you're a better man than I." Here's what that first-rate film critic David Thomson, from his The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, has to say: "Once Ladd had acquired an unsmiling hardness, he was transformed from an extra to a phenomenon. These films are still exciting, and Ladd's calm slender ferocity make it clear that he was the first American actor to show the killer as a cold angel."
on 7 September 2010
Alan Ladd is terrific as always with great supporting cast. Makes you forget they are acting, so just enjoy.
on 28 December 2010
Black Dahlia or Blue Dahlia?
Well this film the Blue Dahlia preceded the real 'Black Dahlia' killing by a year, food for thought? Although there was no connection except for the 'Dahlia' name part, I guess many people who have seen 'Dahlia' style films such as L.A. Confidential and the De Palma Black Dahlia film, will no doubt be curious as to what this film has to offer.
I find these old 40's and 50's noir genre films very useful tools for research, as I like to write in this style. So I guess I look at them more analytically than just watching them as films for films sake.
Some reviewers have given less than flattering reviews to this film, but it has many good points I feel and as good as many other films of the era, it does take a whilet to get going but when it gets on rails, it goes.
There are some good scenarios and charachter back stories, the Buzz charachter for instance has a medical condition from a war injury which is treated in a kind of Christie-esque 'ABC murders' way, I won't give the plot away, but suffice to say that 'Buzz' becomes a candidiate for murder - so acquaint yourself with the Agatha Christie ABC Murdes case, which will help you understand that part of the film.
The Blue Dahlia story is pacy, remember this is 1946, not 2006, much less was permissable on screen then so the writing had to be clever. This film really has the 'Cluedo' feel about it, you know the main charachter didn't do it, so you have to work out who did.
The film delivers the climax scene in Harwood's Blue Dahlia club office which you'd find difficult to predict who the killer was, the cast charachters all weave their own little trails which are done well, the main charachter Johnny, played by Alan Ladd is well played, a man on an emotional journey trying to be thinking rationally at the same time and not knowing when someone flashing a badge at him is a real detective or some phoney.Veronica Lake as Blue Dahlia Club owner Harwood's wife is a curious enigma, cropping up on Johnny's tail all the while, you get the feeling as does he that somebody has organised this trail, what will happen next??
For an old film, the action and fight scenes are also well done, bearing in mind the constrictions of the censorship at the time.
The story ingredients are drip fed over the film and fall into place at the end, you'd almost like to see an end sequence of clips telling what the charachters did after the final scene.
A great film I think, certainly has it's place with the other Dahlia related films that followed!
This is a good "film noir" with excellent performances of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake - but somehow hurt by the ending. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
Released from duty Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) returns home to Hollywood from the fighting in the south Pacific, bringing along his buddies and medically discharged crewmates Buzz Wanchek (William Bendix) and George Copeland (Hugh Beaumont). He is apprehensive of return home, because his marriage was already in bad shape before even his departure.
Indeed, his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) is currently having an affair with Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva), the owner of the renowned "Blue Dahlia" nightclub. Ironically, Harwood himself, all tough guy that he is, still longs for the return of his estranged wife Joyce (Veronica Lake) as her departure left him with a broken heart... Then, very soon after Johnny's return disaster strikes - and then the film really begins...
For most of the film the scenario is quite solid, the story good and the dialogs strong and it is only normal, as the screenplay was written by Raymond Chandler in person - and he got a well deserved Oscar nomination for that one. However, when the film was almost finished, the producers decided to completely change the ending, in a very clumsy way - something which Chandler didn't like at all and it caused considerable tensions between him, the producers, the director and both main actors... In fact, to say things bluntly, Raymond Chandler insulted everybody he could and even attempted to take over the shooting of some scenes calling the director "a stale old hack". The ending is indeed the weakest part of this film and is the reason why I cannot rate "Blue Dahlia" more than four stars.
"Blue Dahlia" was the third film Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake did together and as in previous occasions they have a great chemistry on the screen and as consequence they give a great show. Supporting actors did also a great job, with special mention to William Bendix.
Sadly, during the work on this film there was also an ugly incident between Raymond Chandler, who was in those times almost permanently drunk and Veronica Lake. This gorgeous actress was at that time a happily married mother of three and when one day a morbidly drunk Chandler put the moves on her, she rebuked him loud and clear. To get even, Chandler started to badmouth her everywhere and everytime he could, infamously nicknaming her "Moronica". For many months after that Veronica Lake, who was always psychologically fragile (she was diagnosed with relatively mild schizophrenia already in her childhood), suffered a lot because of vicious insults and poor taste jokes circulated by this gifted but definitely not very nice author...
The film was a box office hit and its notoriety inspired some journalists who wrote articles about the (still unexplained today) murder of Elizabeth Short. The body of this 22-years old woman, found on 15 January 1947 in Los Angeles, was horribly mutilated and the press turned this case into a real media circus. Elizabeth Short was an attractive but otherwise rather unremarkable young woman and in order to "upgrade" her profile journalists started to call her "Black Dahlia", after the title of the film which was at that time at the top of the box office. This is however the only connection "Blue Dahlia" has with this horrible murder...
Bottom line, this is a good, solid "film noir", featuring one of most beautiful women who ever lived - therefore, even if the ending doesn't make much sense, it is still a film well worth buying and seeing. Enjoy!
This little known Film Noir classic is a little gem of a movie. Not having seen it for many years, I was pleased I purchased this because I just love the golden oldies. Alan Ladd plays a former naval officer returning from the war with two friends (one is played by screen legend William Bendix) and discovers that his wife has not only been unfaithful, but she had also caused the death of their son in a car crash driving whilst drunk. When she turns up dead, he flees from the police after being labelled a suspect and meets a mysterious blonde played by Veronica Lake who helps him to find the real killer. There is quite a twist at the end which I won't reveal here. A well thought out thriller which is enjoyable despite its dated look. A worthy purchase for movie fans who love Film Noir.
on 12 April 2015
The Blue Dahlia is a classic example of Film Noir with a script Raymond Chandler is supposed to have written while on an extended drinking binge ... in any case, even though it can't quite measure up to The Big Sleep, it is well worth watching today. Transfer quality is excellent, you will not be disappointed!
on 13 March 2015
This film is from the fortees so only people from my generation will remember the stars as they are long dead, Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd they teamed these two up together for a few films to kick start their careers
on 11 October 2015
A great film, Ladd and Lake had a magic chemistry but well acted throughout. Good story that Raymond Chandler had a hand in.
on 19 July 2013
The history of the making of the film was a BBC radio play ... I enjoyed the Radio 4 play so much, I purchased the film.