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Who Is the Black Dahlia? (1975)

Dramatization of an actual homicide investigation. In 1947 Los Angeles, a police detective tries to solve the shocking and grisly murder of 22-year-old aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, ... See full summary »




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sgt. Harry Hansen
Sgt. Finis Brown
Capt. Jack Donahoe
Bevo Means
Dr. Wallace Coppin
Police Matron (as Gloria De Haven)
PX Manager
Miles Harmonder
Lee Jones
Mrs. Fowler
Susan Winters
Diane Fowler
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Dramatization of an actual homicide investigation. In 1947 Los Angeles, a police detective tries to solve the shocking and grisly murder of 22-year-old aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, whose nude body was dumped in a lot after being bisected with surgical precision. The detective interviews people who knew Short, who was called "The Black Dahlia" because of the black outfits she wore. Written by <genekim@concentric.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Before he could hunt her killer, he had to learn who "The Black Dahlia" was - hard chick or easy mark...home girl or party girl!





Release Date:

1 March 1975 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Chi è Black Dahlia?  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Lucie Arnaz accepted the role of Elizabeth Short over the strong objections of her mother Lucille Ball. See more »


Arc lights reflected in door as Beth leaves bus station. See more »


Susan Winters: Look, we're kinda "one for all and all for one" here, you know?
Elizabeth Short: Don't let me change a thing. I probably won't be here very long, anyway.
Susan Winters: I guess none of us is permanent, huh?
Elizabeth Short: [Very darkly] No. Grandmama used to say, "Nothing alive and pretty is ever permanent". Grandmama was right, I guess.
See more »


Version of The Devil's Muse (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

Strong cast and 40s atmosphere bolster unsolved crime story
1 March 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Lucie Arnaz does wonders with the part of murder victim Elizabeth Short in this TV-movie "Who is the Black Dahlia?" (1975). Her performance, a very strong cast and a good feeling for the 1940s make this film a quite watchable 70s neo-noir.

The story opens with Short's mutilated corpse being found in a field, followed up by flashbacks that detail her life and show aspects of the police investigation. Of the two, the parts that show her life, her shattered dreams and her apparent descent into a tawdry life are by far the better done and more engaging. The police parts of the story are more standard and suffer from several flaws that make them less interesting.

Whereas most reviewers here applaud the acting of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in this film, I think he's the weakest in an outstanding cast. He's quite uncomfortable in the role of a downbeat sergeant, especially early in the movie. By contrast, Ronny Cox and Macdonald Carey seem much more natural and at home. Early on, Zimbalist lacks conviction in his role. He gets more into it as the story moves on. This may be exacerbated due to the relatively closed-in and static nature of the police parts of the story. The TV-movie format imposes limitations on many aspects of a production and director Joseph Pevney cannot overcome all of them. For example, the substitution of verbiage concerning the girl's body is repetitious. The camera has to focus on the faces of Zimbalist and Cox, who register disgust. It doesn't work too well.

These flaws come with the TV-turf, but they're easily outweighed by the more opened-out parts of the film in which we see Lucie Arnaz interact with her relatives and those whom she stayed with, or as we see how various men (sailors and soldiers) crudely came on to her. She combines a mixture of vulnerability, disillusionment, innocence, hope and sharp retorts and does it believably. Among the amazing supporting cast, Donna Mills is a standout as a minor actress, Frank Maxwell is fine as her distant father, and Mercedes McCambridge is her solicitous grandmother. In less filled out parts appear Henry Jones, John Fiedler, Brooke Adams, Linden Chiles and Tom Bosley.

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