Harsh Texture

The Blue Dahlia

A veteran returning from the pacific theater finds his wife has become an alcoholic moll for a two bit gangster in his absence. Soon he'll be framed for her murder

Seldom did classic noir join Los Angeles seediness with Hollywood glamor in such great proportions. Blue Dahlia marks the sixth collaboration between Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Their rapport is so breezy and charmed that it almost makes you forget about the psychotic veterans, murders, shady dealings, and multiple identities lurking in plain view. This is a world where renting a hotel room is an invitation to robbery at gunpoint.

Blue Dahlia achieves this by adding common noir touchstones to a murder mystery plot. Johnny (Ladd) returns home from the Pacific Theater along with two fellow soldiers. One of whom, Buzz (William Benedix), flies into blind rage at the sound of big band jazz (though his term is more salty). Johnny finds that his wife changed dramatically in his absence, falling into alcoholism and is now the moll of a nightclub owner with his own secrets to hide.

Invariably Johnny’s wife winds up dead and Johnny on the run. All this trouble seems to summon Lake’s blonde Joyce from a much prettier, just, world.

Journeyman director George Marshall can’t match John Huston or Fritz Lang, but he allows the world to expand to include every plot twist and treats every scene between Lake and Ladd as a much needed respite.

Published: March 24, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
Updated: March 24, 2018, 3:51 p.m.