Blue Dahlia, Black Reality

Except for its specious final minutes, 1946’s The Blue Dahlia, written by Raymond Chandler, is a smashing crime picture.  A horrid, unfaithful woman (Doris Dowling) whom no man truly loves is murdered, and Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd), her husband and an ex-military officer, tries to find the killer.  He himself is a suspect, but so is the smooth club owner Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva)—the “lover” of Dowling and the husband of a character played by Veronica Lake (my gosh, he’s cheating on Veronica Lake!?)—and the irritable, mentally unbalanced veteran, Buzz (William Bendix).

With his foursquare direction, George Marshall and his cast have delivered a sober, classy but not too classy melodrama.  Chandler’s fine dialogue means little in the mouth of Alan Ladd, dull and Shane-like as he is, but it means a lot coming from the memorable Da Silva, Dowling, Will Wright, et al.  Lake, who is serviceable, is perfect-looking; Bendix, who is unhandsome, is scary.  Have fun.

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