The Blue Dahlia 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. Tamed by a brunette – framed by a blonde – blamed by the cops!
Engaging Early Noir
Although riddled with improbabilities, Raymond Chandler’s tough story and script is well served with a glossy look and the hard-edged performances drawn by director George Marshall from a superior cast. THE BLUE DAHLIA concerns a recently discharged military man Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) who returns home to find his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) has been as unfaithful as the day is long–and is presently carrying on with club owner Eddie Harwood (Howard da Silva), over whom her hold is not entirely romantic. After stomping out into the rain, Morrison learns Helen has been murdered, and must race to prove his innocence before the coppers pick him up.
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.
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