The Blue Dahlia (1946)
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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."
Ladd would give considerably more sophisticated performances in his later years, but he strikes all the right ultra-tough chords, and although Veronica Lake is a rather wooden actress she is remarkably beautiful and as a team the pair has considerable chemistry. The standouts in the cast, however, are Da Silva, who gives the role of the heavy a surprising interpretation, and William Bendix, who plays Ladd's war-wounded buddy to great effect.
THE BLUE DAHLIA lacks both the moodiness and grittiness of truly great film noir, so it is not in the first rank of the genre--but it is no less enjoyable for that. The film cracks along at a rapid pace with plenty of action and a surprise twist or two that will keep you guessing to the very end. Ladd and Lake fans will love it, and any one who likes the hardboiled style will be in for a real treat. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
A good film to watch to either expand your knowledge of the film noir genre,
bask in Lake's glow, or to simply enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon...a classic of its genre. 9/10.
War vet Alan Ladd comes home to find his wife playing around, gets accused of murdering her while being picked up by Veronica Lake. They indulged in some snappy laconic Chandler-banter but that's as far as their relationship seemed to progress. Murder and mayhem follow Ladd while monkey-music followed his buddy William Bendix. I always wondered: how on Earth did Buzz settle down afterwards, especially when rock & roll came? Everyone has angles or axes to grind, is edgy, dislikeable, seedy or all three, the house-peeper particularly coming in for a lot of stick. Some savage and clunky fight scenes might surprise especially at the Old Cabin when juxtaposed with the romantic nightclub scene. The atmosphere throughout is perfect as was only possible on nitrate film stock. The only thing I never liked was at the climax after Hendrickson asks "You didn't think you were going to walk out that door did you?" - a heavily contrived and swift ending follows.
It was a stranger to me a long time ago, but has been a firm friend of mine for decades now. Did the horticulturists ever succeed in creating a real blue dahlia?
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.
A bit too contrived, but a nice film noir.
It's the story of a ex-pilot who comes back from the war to find his wife has become a party girl and their son died because of her drunkenness. The same night that he leaves her, she is killed and he becomes the prime suspect.
The plot is quite good with plenty of twists and turns. All the characters are quite believable and the supporting cast does an excellent job - in particular William Bendix. There is also a lot of subtle humor.
This is one of seven outings for Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. I had seen him in Shane before and he's quite good here. Veronica Lake, who I had heard a lot about, has a small role and she does not play a femme fatale. I'd like to see some more of the Ladd-Lake outings given my impression from this one.
By the way, anyone who says this is a murder-mystery and not a noir doesn't know what they're talking about! The camera-work and lighting are excellent. You have the seedy hotel rooms, most of the filming is night-time and indoors L.A. and Ladd plays the lead who finds himself set-up for the fall. One note of criticism: the confession scene where the killer is confronted didn't really ring true and was overacted.
Johnny returns from the war, traumatised from completing too many missions, only to find that his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) has become a heavy drinker and is having an affair with Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva) the owner of a night club called "The Blue Dahlia". Johnny's anger increases when she tells him that their son was killed in a car crash which she caused by driving when she was drunk. They quarrel so loudly that the house detective calls by to ask them to keep the noise down. Afterwards, Johnny collects his case and initially confronts Helen with a gun but then calms down and throws it in a chair before leaving.
Johnny unknowingly meets Harwood's estranged wife Joyce (Veronica Lake) when she sees him standing at the roadside in heavy rain and then drives him to a Malibu beach inn where he stays overnight. They arrange a morning walk on the beach together but this plan is quickly dropped when reports of Helen's murder are broadcast and the announcement is made that the police are looking for Johnny. He immediately leaves the inn but returns later, meets up with Joyce and tells her that he's got to find the murderer before the police find him because, if that happens, they won't bother to look anywhere else. He initially suspects Harwood but eventually when the police are able to determine the time of the murder, they are able to eliminate both Johnny and Harwood as suspects before the real culprit is identified.
"The Blue Dahlia" is a fast moving and thoroughly enjoyable thriller with a series of plot developments which propel the action along with great pace and purpose. Raymond Chandler's Oscar nominated screenplay contains typically sharp dialogue and was the only one in his career which wasn't adapted from a novel. Some entertaining devices are used, such as, the existence of two characters (Johnny & Harwood) who each use two identities and two couples (Buzz & Helen and Johnny & Joyce) where the individuals are already tenuously linked but initially meet by chance in circumstances where they don't know each other. The theme of doubles also emerges elsewhere in the story as it contains two "cheap blackmailers" (Dad Newell & Corelli), two women (Helen & Joyce) who irritate Buzz with their habits of picking petals off flowers and two men (Johnny & Harwood) who both dump Helen on the same evening.
Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake have great on-screen chemistry and deliver very good performances in their ultra-cool style. The stand out performance, however, comes from William Bendix who strongly displays all the tension, anger, confusion and erratic behaviour that he suffers as a result of his injuries.
Johnny Morrison and two of his pals have just come back from serving in the Second World War. Not long after, Morrison's wife is found dead and has been murdered. Morrison is the prime suspect for her murder and starts to go on the run because of this. He meets somebody else in the process and falls in love with her, despite his wife's death. Towards the end, we find out who really murdered Mrs Morrison...
This movie is shot well in black and white and certainly has some gripping moments.
The cast includes the excellent Alan Ladd (Shane), Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Doris Dowling as Mrs Morrison and Hugh Beaumont.
If you are a fan of mysteries or just old movies, The Blue Dahlia is a must. Fantastic.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
It almost lives up to its reputation. Returning Navy hero Ladd finds that the wife he left behind has turned into (or always was) a faithless party girl, who killed their young son in a drunken accident. He walks out on her, later to learn she's been murdered. Hunted by the police, he's befriended by Lake, who turns out to be rather intimately involved in much of what happened....
Many noirs suffered from studio-imposed "happy" endings but generally kept their integrity until the closing few frames. The changes wrought on The Blue Dahlia, however, severely compromise it. Chandler's original killer was to be Ladd's war-buddy Bendix, the loose cannon with a steel plate in his head, erupting in pounding headaches and blackout rages whenever he hears "jungle music" -- the sexually liberating beat of postwar prosperity. Rejecting this ending as an insult to the gallant men who had won the war, Paramount, pressured by the Navy, forced Chandler to resort to a lame "the-butler-did-it" conclusion. Unfortunately, that compromise splashes back through the length of the movie, making little sense of Bendix' performance -- even of his presence, except as the rankest of red herrings -- and turning what might have been a topical and disturbing film noir into just another glossy '40s murder mystery.
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, tho, that it's still very easy to recommend to like minded fans of the genre and its dark alley offshoots. 7.5/10
This is a pretty good noir with a solid, effective performance from Ladd and excellent work by both Bendix and da Silva. There are plenty of suspects, too - viewers will have their pick. Though "The Blue Dahlia" is a decent noir, it's the frenetic post-war energy that makes it watchable rather than the story, which as one reviewer here pointed out, has the strange coincidence of Johnny being picked up by Mrs. Harwood. The other odd thing to this viewer, anyway, is the fact that the Bendix character is so obviously brain-damaged from the war (he has a plate in his head), yet no one seems to really pick up on it, or at least acknowledge it, until later in the film. He's told to pull himself together and allowed to drink. Meanwhile, loud music drives him nearly insane, and he suggests getting on a bus, not remembering he just got off of it.
The Veronica Lake role is criticized - it's true she doesn't have much to do; it's also true that not many people liked working with her; and that she wasn't the world's greatest actress (Raymond Chandler called her Moronica), but she and Ladd made a great, if short, team, and she was always beautiful to look at and listen to.
All in all, worth watching for one of the great noir teamings and some good performances.
The trouble is the story meanders after this promising start, while Ladd fades somewhat into the background, and Chandler's screenplay seems unsure what to do with Veronica Lake. After all, what's the point of the lengthy diversion with the two "heist" guys and the fleabag hotel, or Dad's blackmailing of Harwood, both of which detract from the central plot of who killed Helen. Marshall's direction doesn't help either. Note the deliberate pauses in too many of the dialogue exchanges that slows down the action when what's needed is more snap to match Chandler's often clever lines. Then too, for what seems like noir material, there's not much matching atmosphere. Ultimately, the movie's really more of a meandering thriller than a compelling noir.
There are compensations, however. Bendix really delivers as the brain-damaged ex-sailor. His scenes are the movie's real core and have lost none of their original force as he struggles painfully to fight through the mental fog that the war has cost him. This may be the only post-war film to portray the ravages of his type of injury, albeit in a non-rehabilitative context. We wonder what will become of him. I gather the screenplay originally set him up as the culprit, but navy authorities objectedtoo sensitive for returning vets, I would guess. It may also be worth noting that even though Buzz's injury evokes sympathy, he's none too likablesomething of a surprise given Hollywood's tendency to sentimentalize. Nonetheless, he's often belligerent and abusive toward strangers, a boldly realistic move on both Chandler's and Bendix's parts.
I guess no commentary would be complete without remarking on the Ladd-Lake pairing, perhaps the most perfect visual match-up from Hollywood's so-called golden era. They're like two exquisite blond dolls with wryly brittle personas to match. I'm just sorry the script got sidetracked into not giving their pairing the amount of screen time they deserved. And speaking of visual perfection, was there ever a better embodiment of an unfaithful wife than Doris Dowling with her cruel eyes and drop-dead sexy gown. No wonder she cuts through even Buzz's mental fog. With her unusual appearance, it's too bad Dowling left Hollywood at the height of the Mc Carthy investigations. Too bad also that Ladd's career was plagued by his lack of height 5'5''. In fact, like Cagney 5'6", Ladd could project the authority of a much taller man, a real tribute to his abilities. Nonetheless, note how in giving a description of Johnny (Ladd) in the movie, all his physical characteristics are included except his height!a rather glaring omission.
Anyway, the movie remains an interesting period piece, even though it lacks the coherence and snap of a first-rate thriller.
Chandler's ungentlemanly treatment of Lake (calling her Moronica Lake and deriding her acting skills couldn't have earned him very many points), may account for the reason why she appears blank in a few scenes, but she pulls the role off and she and Ladd make screen magic, as always. She and Dowling are beautifully costumed by Edith Head. On a rather morbid note, this film's title was the inspiration of giving murder victim Elizabeth Short the moniker, "The Black Dahlia". And the similar turns that both Ladd and Lake's lives would take is very ironic and sad - both would see their careers slide, suffer from depression and die relatively young as a result of alcoholism. If there ever was a screen couple who ran neck and neck, it was these two!
A worthy DVD contender (what the heck is taking so long?) and let's hope when such a day comes, plenty of extras will be included!
Alan Ladd plays a World War II pilot who comes home only to find an unfaithful, unpleasant, drunken wife waiting for him. She has made a mess of her life while he was away, and it is no surprise that she soon turns up murdered. The husband is suspected, and is pursued by the police, with a mysterious blonde (Veronica Lake) also taking an unexplained interest in him. Ladd and Lake are pretty good in the leads, and William Bendix is very good in a difficult role as Ladd's shell-shocked pal. The film goes pretty heavy on the "noir" atmosphere, and now seems just a little dated or static, but the atmosphere does fit well with the story.
This will primarily be of interest to those who already like films of the era, but for those who do, this is an interesting story that you'll want to see.
The plot is a sort of sour take-off on "The Best Years of Our Lives" with three returning servicemen heading back into civilian life. While Fredric March came back to perfect wife Myrna Loy, Ladd finds an unfaithful Doris Dowling drunkenly laughing in his face over being responsible for the death of their son. Ladd threatens her with his gun but, in another contrivance, leaves it and her behind as he walks out into the rain. The next morning wifey is found shot dead with Ladd the obvious suspect. With help from Lake, he eludes the police and tries to ferret out his wife's killer, another contrivance as she meant nothing to him and his motivation is a pale copy of Bogart's logic from "The Maltese Falcon."
The solution to the mystery is no great shakes, but the movie plays well because of some crisp dialogue by Chandler, plus interesting and well-acted supporting characters. William Bendix shines as a wounded serviceman with mental problems, Howard Da Silva as a smooth gangster with a hidden past, Will Wright as an extremely sleazy bungalow peeper and blackmailer, and Tom Powers as a sarcastic cop.
All in all, I expected it to be better, but certainly worth a look for fans of old crime movies.
Alan Ladd returns home from the service along with two war buddies (Hugh Beaumont and William Bendix). Bendix's brain is a bit scrambled due to a head wound he got in the war and he seems a bit punchy throughout the film. Beaumont is on hand mostly to keep an eye on Bendix. As for Ladd, he's returning to his old ball and chain--leaving the other two in an apartment they rent together. However, Ladd is shocked to see that his darling wife is a good time girl and it seems pretty obvious she was playing the field while he was in the service. To make things worse, he finds out that his dead son died because his wife was too busy partying to watch him and naturally Ladd hot foots it outta there. Soon after this, the dame gets it and it's assumed Ladd done it due to their big blow up at the apartment. When Ladd finds out he's wanted, he takes it on the lam and intends to prove he was innocent (I always wanted to use 40s lingo in one of my reviews).
As for the quality of the film, it's pretty good. Ladd is at his laconic best and watching him fight off a couple thugs late in the film was a treat. Veronica Lake, a frequent co-star with Ladd, is on hand and she actually underplays it a bit. Howard Da Silva is a slimy jerk in the film--something he really excelled at during the 30s, 40s and 50s before finding a new image as Ben Franklin in 1776. As for Beaumont, he's just fine though I do think Bendix played the brain-addled role perhaps too broadly--it certainly was NOT a subtle performance. The best lines in the film, though, came from none of these guys but were very clever Film Noir one liners from the cops--they came off as the typical smart but very cynical law men--very, very typical of the style of Raymond Chandler who wrote the story. Like other Chandler films (THE BIG SLEEP, DOUBLE INDEMNITY and FAREWELL MY LOVELY), the biggest star of the film was the writing and incredibly great dialog that made the film very enjoyable indeed.
The only negative about the film is that Chandler's original story was changed and frankly I think having the brain-injured friend (Bendix) be the killer would have been a lot better. Pinning it on the house detective made little sense--as they really had no proof he'd done it and it required a "Perry Mason moment" (i.e., a guy confessed out of the blue with no evidence that he'd done it). Very sloppy, but you certainly can't blame Chandler for this--blame some stupid studio hacks that were afraid to hurt the image of the US military since the guy was supposed to be a returning vet who was injured in the line of duty. Had they kept the original vision, it would have scored even higher.
This is one of four great hard-boiled forties thrillers starring the terrific pairing of Ladd and Lake (the others are This Gun For Hire, The Glass Key and Saigon), both of whom are sensational. This one has the added distinction of being written by Raymond Chandler, and it's a great twisting whodunnit full of intrigue, surprise coincidences and ulterior motives, shot through with his wonderful hardball dialogue (when local bigshot Eddie Harwood asks, "Am I under suspicion ?", world-weary Captain Hendrickson replies, "I dunno. How do you feel about it ?".). The characters are all tough-talking, street-smart players, angling for their part in the drama, and the interplay between them is tremendous. The photography is crisp; simple and stylish at the same time (for example, the shot looking through the chair legs) and all the elements are skillfully brought together by Marshall. A nifty, expertly-written thriller, produced by the great John Houseman (Letter From An Unknown Woman, The Bad And The Beautiful).
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.
This is good entertainment, I recommend it with a 7/10.
The ever loyal and ever dangerous supporting characters (William Bendix, Howard Da Silva) are the perfect compliment to the lead role(s). It is extremely refreshing to view a film that is very intense, yet clean enough to watch on regular television network stations. Watching Alan Ladd play the role of a man's man never gets old. Who could ever grow weary of watching Veronica Lake's portrayal of a sexy, attractive, intelligent woman who carries a strong since of right and wrong.
Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd both bring chemistry to the screen. The plot is well thought out as it leaves the viewer guessing until the very end. Not your typical bad guy good guy film. If you haven't seen this you are really missing out on an excellent movie...
The story is classic noir: Johnny Morrison (Ladd), war veteran of the South Pacific, returns home to find his wife (Doris Dowling) has been unfaithful. He walks out on her, and shortly after she is found dead. His war buddies Buzz Wanchek (William Bendix) and George Copeland (Hugh Beaumont) believe he is innocent, but everything points towards to Morrison...
The screenplay has some vintage Chandler lines, and characters like Bendix's disturbed veteran and Wright's marvelously smarmy house peeper could have jumped out of his Philip Marlowe novels. However, the ending is weak due to interference from the U.S. military, but the movie as a whole still packs a sizable punch. Director Marshall serves his material admirably and cinematographer Lionel Lindon gives us some very dark and atmospheric shots. Acting wise, Bendix takes the top honours, but Ladd and Lake are both very good, as is Howard Da Silva, owner of the eponymous "Blue Dahlia Club" .
This film noir is one definitely to check out.