The Blue Dahlia (1946) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • An ex-bomber pilot is suspected of murdering his unfaithful wife.

  • 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.

  • Ex-bomber pilot Johnny Morrison and his buddies George and Buzz (who, with a metal plate in his head, can't stand "monkey music"), return from the war to their home town, Hollywood. In a rude homecoming, Johnny finds his wife Helen behaving like a tramp with oily nightclub owner Eddie Harwood. His marriage over, Johnny wanders off into the night, leaving his gun behind...and someone uses it to murder Helen. Dodging cops and seeking the real killer, Johnny is aided by blonde Joyce, who just happens to be the estranged wife of Eddie Harwood...

  • When Lt. Commander Johnny Morrison returns home during World War II he finds that his wife Helen has been less than faithful to him. She been seeing Eddie Harwood and generally living a happy-go-lucky life. When she's found shot in the hotel bungalow where she lived, Johnny becomes the primary suspect. He's soon on the run, assisted by Eddie's wife, Jessica Harwood. Morrison maintains his innocence and seems to be off the hook when his wartime buddy Buzz, who loses his memory from time to time, confesses. Morrison doesn't believe it for one minute and sets out to find the real killer.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Johnny Morrison, ( Alan Ladd ) Buzz Wanchek, ( William Bendix ) and George Copeland, ( Hugh Beaumont ) have arrived in California after their discharges from the United States Navy. Johnny was given leave after his heroic action in the South Pacific, George was released due to bad eyesight and Buzz suffers from shell shock and has a metal plate in his head above his ear. Johnny, apprehensive about seeing his wife Helen ( Doris Dowling ) and has not told her of his return, instead decides to surprise her. He arrives home to find a party going on and soon discovers Helen is having an affair with Eddie Harwood,alias of Bauer ( Howard Da Silva ) owner of a Sunset Strip nightclub, the Blue Dahlia. After the party guests have left, Johnny and Helen have a fierce quarrel, with Helen confessing that their young son Dickie really died in a car crash caused by her driving drunk, and not from diptheria as Johnny had been told. Angry, Johnny pulls a gun on Helen, but drops it and leaves. Meanwhile a disoriented Buzz leaves the apartment he shares with George, and ends up at a bar meeting Helen. Unaware of her identity, he goes to her bungalow for a drink. Eddie phones Helen to end the affair, and she blackmails him into seeing her again. Meanwhile, Johnny walking in the rain with his suitcase, is asked by a passing motorist if he wants a ride. The driver is Joyce Harwood, ( Veronica Lake ) who is seperated from Eddie. Neither reveals their name, and unaware, they both spend the night in the same Malibu Inn. Next morning Joyce is surprised to see Johnny and asks if they may go for a walk on the beach. While Joyce leaves to change her shoes, the lobby radio announces that Helen has been murdered and her husband Johnny is suspected. Joyce watches as a flustered Johnny quickly leaves the Inn. "Dad" Newell, ( Will Wright ) a house detective who saw Johnny and Helen fighting and witnessed Buzz and Eddie enter her bungalow, goes to the police. Buzz and George are both questioned, but Buzz can remember nothing. Johnny has checked into a cheap hotel under an assumed name, Corelli ( Howard Freeman ) the sleazy hotel manager, finds Johnny's photo of himself with Dickie and tries to blackmail him. Johnny knocks out Corelli, and discovers on the back of the photo, Helen has written that Eddie is really Bauer, a murderer wanted in New Jersey. Corelli comes to and sells information to a gangster named Leo ( Don Costello ) about Johnny's identity, who is then kidnapped. Buzz and George pay Eddie a visit at the Blue Dahlia, and Joyce introduces herself to them. As Joyce begins to pick at the petals of a dahlia flower, Buzz becomes quite annoyed, and the nightclub's loud music sets off a pounding in his head, which triggers a memory of the loud music he heard at Helen's bungalow as she picked at the petals of a dahlia. Meanwhile, Johnny escapes Leo's henchmen as Eddie arrives, he forces him to admit to the murder he was guilty of fifteen years ago. Leo tries to shoot Johnny, but hits Eddie instead. Johnny flees to the Blue Dahlia, where the police are trying to force a muddled Buzz to admit he murdered Helen. Johnny suggests they turn up the music on the loud speaker, as Buzz's head pounds, he remembers leaving Helen alive in her bungalow. Police Captain Hendrickson, ( Tom Powers ) then confronts house detective Dad with the accusation that he tried to blackmail Helen about her affair, then killed her when she refused to comply. Dad then tries to escape , but is shot by Hendrickson. As the case is now solved, Buzz and George decide to go for a drink, leaving a friendly Johnny and Joyce alone.

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