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The Blue Dahlia (1946)


The Blue Dahlia
Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake

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'The Blue Dahlia' is a film noir made in 1946, directed by George Marshall, and starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and William Bendix, with an original screenplay by Raymond Chandler. The movie was a great success and audiences flocked to see it when it opened in April 1946. Raymond Chandler, for his first screenplay, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay).

Plot

Alan Ladd plays Johnny Morrison, a serviceman returning home after WWII, to find that his wife Helen, played by Doris Dowling has been having an affair with Eddie Harwood, played by Howard da Silva, the owner of a local nightclub, the Blue Dahlia. When his wife is found murdered Morrison becomes the prime suspect and goes into hiding. He receives help from his two army buddies, Buzz and George, played by William Bendix and Hugh Beaumont, and from Harwood's wife, Joyce, played by Veronica Lake.

Production

Filming began in March 1945 and the whole production process had to be accelerated as Alan Ladd was only weeks away from being called back into service by the army. Raymond Chandler agreed to write the screenplay in a hurry. He continued writing throughout the shoot and no-one knew who the killer was for many weeks.
Screenplay
Chandler was a confirmed alcoholic and he insisted on working from home so that he could drink as much as he wanted. He also stipulated that two Cadillac limousines with chauffeurs and six secretaries should be available to work for him at any time and a direct phone line should be open to the studio switchboard at all times. Paramount, amazingly agreed to all these conditions.

Raymond Chandler was forced to change his original ending in which Morrison's friend, Buzz, is the killer, after pressure from the U.S. Navy who objected to one of its men being shown as a murderer.

Many scenes were shot locally around Hollywood and Los Angeles, including the Cahuenga Pass, the Sunset Strip, the Hollywood Bus Station and the Bel Air Bay Club in Beverly Hills.

Don Costello who plays Harwood's number two, Leo, had an accident on set and broke his toe. His injury was promptly incorporated into the plot.

Casting
Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake worked well together and the public liked their on screen chemistry. This was their third pairing after 'This Gun for Hire' and 'The Glass Key' in 1942. Ladd was not a tall man and liked working with Lake who was also short in stature. He was not pleased to be working with Doris Dowling who was taller than him

Raymond Chandler detested Veronica Lake, calling her "Moronica Lake" and thought that Ladd was a "little guy's idea of a tough guy."

Main Cast

Alan Ladd ... Johnny Morrison / "Jimmy Moore"
Veronica Lake ... Joyce Harwood
William Bendix ... Buzz Wanchek
Howard Da Silva ... Eddie Harwood
Doris Dowling ... Helen Morrison
Hugh Beaumont ... George Copeland
Tom Powers ... Captain Hendrickson
Howard Freeman ... Corelli
Don Costello ... Leo
Will Wright ... "Dad" Newell

Credits

Director … George Marshall
Producer … John Houseman
Screenplay … Raymond Chandler
Cinematography … Lionel Lindon
Music … Victor Young, Harry Simeone, Bernie Wayne, Robert Emmett Dolan
Distribution Company … Paramount Pictures
Format … B & W
Release Date … April 19, 1946
Running Time … 96 mins.

Academy Awards

No Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Writing (Original Screenplay) ... Raymond Chandler