I’m finally earning my name here, because I am getting to review one of the best noir flicks there is. I have seen this movie once or twice already, but due to the unexplained fact that TCM seems to have something against Ladd/Lake films, I have been waiting years to see it again. TCM finally lifted the ban yesterday and gave everyone a treat. (Btw – if anyone out there knows the reasons why TCM seldom plays the Ladd/Lake films, I’d love to hear about it!)
Just a note to avoid misunderstandings: The Blue Dahlia is not to be confused with The Blue Gardenia (1953) (which is another great film noir you’re going to hear more about soon) or The Black Dahlia (The failed 2006 attempt at recreating classic film noir. The title of that film comes from an actual murder case that happened soon after our film was released. The newspapers dubbed the case “The Black Dahlia” to capitalize on the success of our film and sensationalize the case in the process.)
Back to the review: One of the reasons this film is fantastic is that it is based on a story by Raymond Chandler and he wrote the screenplay. The basic gist of the story of The Blue Dahlia (1946) revolves around Alan Ladd being accused of murdering his wife. He didn’t do it, of course, but he’s the only one who believes that. Although there is one other believer: Veronica Lake. Ladd has two friends who are played by superb character actors Hugh Beaumont (aka Ward Cleaver, Beaver’s dad) and William Bendix (affectionently know in our house as Bendi). You’d never think Ward Cleaver could have been mixed up with such a bunch of shady characters! It is obviously long before he met June and she reformed him. ;)
William Bendix is hilarious and sweet as the shell-shocked war vet Buzz. He has a lot of good lines, especially when he’s mad at people. Veronica Lake’s clothes in every single scene are noteworthy. The Blue Dahlia is worth watching just for her clothes alone. Then, there is the darling roadster that Ladd and Lake spend a good part of the film driving in. Now I know why I have such a partiality to 40’s roadsters. :)
The title comes from the name of a nightclub owned by one of the film’s many suspicious characters. This man always sends blue dahlias to the women in his life. Sadly, as far as I know, there are no true blue dahlias in real life. Just a figment of Raymond Chandler’s imagination.
I’ll leave you with this great bit of repartee from Ladd and Lake:
Johnny Morrison: “You oughta have more sense than to take chances with strangers like this.”
Joyce Harwood: “It’s funny, but practically all the people I know were strangers when I met them.”