When Johnny comes home from the navy he finds his wife Helen kissing her substitute boyfriend Eddie, the owner of the Blue Dahlia nightclub. Helen admits her drunkenness caused their son's death. He pulls a gun on her but decides she's not worth it. Later, Helen is found dead and Johnny is the prime suspect.
Alan Ladd ... Johnny Morrison - Lt.Cmdr., ret.
Veronica Lake ... Joyce Harwood
William Bendix ... Buzz Wanchek
Howard Da Silva ... Eddie Harwood
Doris Dowling ... Helen Morrison
Tom Powers ... Capt. Hendrickson
Hugh Beaumont ... George Copeland
Howard Freeman ... Corelli - Motel Operator
Don Costello ... Leo
Will Wright ... 'Dad' Newell
Frank Faylen ... Man Recommending a Motel
Walter Sande ... Heath - Gangster
Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) and his two friends (including a good and funny William Bendix) are coming back in town after serving in the navy during WWII. While his two friends find a place for themselves, Johnny returns to his home to see his wife and his son he hasn't seen for years. There, his wife is having a party with a dozen of friends in which her lover, Eddie Harwood, is also invited. After an argument, during which Johnny threatens his wife with his gun (after learning that she is unfaithful, alcoholic and that their son is dead by her fault), he leaves the place and his gun, judging that she is not worth a killing, to find a hotel for the night. That same rainy night, she is killed with Johnny's gun. For the Police, he becomes the first suspect of this crime.
I've heard a lot about this movie (a classic of film noir with the legendary couple Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake) without being able to see it for years. I just saw this movie tonight at the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis. Overall the movie is good thanks to a good plot (the scenario is signed Raymond Chandler, not quiet a coincidence). At first, I found the acting very poor and dated. Especially during the argument between Alan Ladd and his wife (played Doris Dowling). This was quiet a surprise for me because I met this actress in Othello (in which she has a small part) directed by Orson Welles, a director who generally hires only good actors. But as soon as you get into the story, the acting and the dialogues get better and you really want to know the name of the murderer (really I could not guess it!). After the plot, the scenes between Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake are what make the movie worth to remember. Frustrating enough for the most romantic of us, you won't see them kiss each other during this movie, even at the end (this was probably not allowed on screen at the time when the movie was made). It is also hard to tell if the Dahlias in the movie were actually blue since it was filmed in black and white. Finally, yes, Veronica Lake is very beautiful.
Here's another one of those classic favorites that I am still hoping gets transferred to DVD. It's been long overdue.
This is another Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake film (their third of the decade) but William Bendix steals the show as a G.I. who suffered brain damage in World War II. He is something to see and his wise-cracking lines are some of the best ever delivered in a film noir. He had a short temper and insulted everyone he came in contact with. I just laugh out loud at some of his stuff.
Doris Dowling is effective as a nasty woman and it's always fun to see Hugh Beaumont in a role other than the dad in "Leave It To Beaver." Howard da Silva and Will Wright also are entertaining in their supporting roles. Also, for you TV trivia fans: see if you can spot "Lois Lane" (Noel Neill) in here.
Never as gorgeous as billed, Lake still had a unique look and voice but she plays it pretty straight here, character-wise. I like her better when she wisecracks as she did in some of her other films.
This is a pretty good crime story. Nothing exceptional, but at least it keeps you guessing. You're never quite sure until the very end "whodunnit."
The trailer for The Blue Dahlia advertised the film as Ladd, Lake, and Bendix. Not a mention about Raymond Chandler, maybe he wanted it that way.
The Blue Dahlia has mystery writer Raymond Chandler writing an original screenplay and Chandler delivers a good movie for the most part. Nice suspenseful noir film, but it could have been better.
The main weakness in the plot is Veronica Lake. Chandler couldn't stand her and called her Moronica Lake as a reflection of her acting ability. In fairness it's a poorly defined role and her meeting with Alan Ladd in this film is too too coincidental. I guess you had to give the star a love interest, but the idea that Ladd is hunting for the killer of his wife and just happens to come upon the wife of his number one suspect is way too unreal.
The number one suspect of the killing is Howard DaSilva. If I had to name the best performance in this film it would have to be DaSilva. He's the dapper, elegant owner of a Hollywood nightclub, but he exudes a menace that chills you. His best scene in the film is paying off blackmailer Will Wright. He pays him, THIS TIME. Wright gets the message he'd better not come back for more.
I believe it was Raymond Chandler who also said that Alan Ladd was a small boy's idea of a tough guy. That is unfair to Ladd who delivers a more than competent performance here as the returning war veteran who's on the hunt for his wife's killer while being suspected of the crime itself.
Check out Alan Ladd's scene at the farm with DaSilva's thugs. Very similar in the way they end up to how Bogart handled the baddies in The Big Sleep.
Bill Bendix gets in the top billing with stars Ladd and Lake because he's also a radio star because of the Life of Riley Show. Bendix and Hugh Beaumont are Ladd's wartime buddies and Bendix never was bad in any film he did. He shows signs of post traumatic stress at a time when that diagnosis had not been invented.
* Shortly after this film released, a young woman named Elizabeth Short was murdered in Los Angeles. The local newspapers dubbed the case the "Black Dahlia" as a morbid twist on this film's title. Unlike the movie, the Short murder case is still unsolved.
* When Alan Ladd was called up for military service, production on the movie (then still in the screenplay stage) had to be rapidly stepped up. According to a near-legendary story, screenwriter Raymond Chandler offered to finish the screenplay by working drunk: in exchange for sacrificing his health to produce the requisite pages on time, Chandler was permitted to work at home (a privilege rarely granted to screenwriters) and was provided two chauffeured cars, one to convey the completed pages to the studio and the other for his wife. Chandler turned the script in on time. Many now believe the "drunkenness" was simply a ruse by Chandler to wrangle extraordinary privileges from the desperate studio.
* In Raymond Chandler's original script, the murder was committed by the shell-shocked Buzz. The War Office forced Chandler to rewrite the script, as it was not deemed acceptable to portray an American serviceman as a murderer.
* Raymond Chandler, who wrote the screenplay, claimed that producer John Houseman was in "the doghouse" and director George Marshall "was a stale old hack who had been directing for thirty years without once having achieved any real distinction", so Chandler went on to the Paramount set to direct some of the scenes himself.