A veteran is suspected of murdering his cheating wife.
Navy veteran Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) is back home from the war with his crew, George Copeland (Hugh Beaumont) and Buzz (William Bendix). While Buzz and George plan their first night of freedom in a while, Johnny heads home to see his wife.
“Bourbon straight, with a bourbon chaser.”
When he enters the house he is met with a raucous party and his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) in the arms of another man, Blue Dahlia nightclub owner Eddie (Howard Da Silva). After the party guests leave, they begin to quarrel. She cruelly reveals that she has been cheating on him the whole time he was away and she cruelly mocks him. Calling him a killer and blaming his absence for her behavior and telling him that their child died when she crashed their car driving drunk. Enraged, Johnny draws a gun but his better judgement prevails and he leaves in a rage.
“He probably wants to beat me up.”
“That’s what I ‘oughta do.”
After his wife is discovered murdered, with his gun next to her body, Johnny is the prime suspect, he’ll have to think on his feet to avoid the police and a mugshot appointment. He also has to decipher an increasingly convoluted mass of blackmail, lies and scandal that his wife was caught up in. Assisting him is Joyce Harwood (Veronica Lake), who happens to be Eddie, the Blue Dahlia night club owners ex.
Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
The Blue Dahlia is one of seven movies that Ladd and Lake made together and it is one of the best. The Blue Dahlia is an interesting range of contrasts, beautifully shot and acted, it has the looks of an A-list production, but the story is pure film noir. Paranoid and full of betrayals and questionable loyalties. Keeping the movie from plunging too far into the dark, Ladd and Lake show their usual on-screen charisma and give the story more of a romantic feel that offsets the darkness.
Just like in his previous collaboration with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, The Glass Key, where he played mouthy hit man, Jeff. William Bendix threatens to steal the show with hilarious stunts and one liners as the unpredictable Buzz. Special note to Doris Dowling in the brief part of Mrs. Morrison, a particularly memorable performance. She plays the character as a spoiled, vicious woman who enjoys lashing out and humiliating her husband. This performance nicely sets up the rest of the story and you can see why the police would suspect him in the murder.
I told ya I had a headache!
Like The Glass Key, the story is written by a veteran of detective fiction, this time Raymond Chandler of The Big Sleep Fame. While there are several plot holes, they aren’t serious enough to derail the story. Chandlers trademark witty comebacks and tough guy dialog are heavily featured and fit the characters well.
Beautifully lit night shot.
4 gavels out of 5
This is a beautiful and stylish production with just enough darkness to be considered film noir. A few awkward coincidences and a slight slowdown in pace are easily forgiven. A very accessible movie that newcomers to the film noir genre will enjoy. The Ladd, Lake and Bendix combo is just as good as in their previous collaboration.