Film of the Week | 26th April 2021
THE BLUE DAHLIA
1.15pm Thursday 29th April
Freeview 14; Sky 313; Virgin 428; Freesat 300/301.
This fine black-and-white noir/crime film is the only filmscript written entirely by Raymond Chandler, and there are some typical snappy lines. The overall effect is weakened a little by the producers (those guys again) wanting to re-direct the conclusion so as not to reflect badly on America (as if anything could), but it is still highly effective, with top performances from Alan Ladd and from his ideal partner, Veronica Lake, and William Bendix is exceptional
I qualify the straight ‘noir’ label because the film doesn’t step far into seeing that society itself is at fault. Here the crises occur in the individuals as psychological strains. It is a ‘returning-veteran’ film, films which try to deal with the disruptive effect of men coming back from war zones where they have spent years killing and being trained to kill. Central to these films is ‘the divided male’, the guy who pulls a gun and doesn’t use it, who walks away from a girl when he should walk towards her, the ex-soldier looking for a role and trying to find himself. Male bonding remains central, however, in spite of the romance.
Chandler, who didn’t like Veronica Lake, referred to her as Miss Moronica Lake. She was tiny (four foot eleven, though she claimed to be taller), one of the few actresses who didn’t have to stand in a trench when playing opposite Alan Ladd (the woman playing Ladd’s wife in The Blue Dahlia had to be shown lying down or seated because she was taller). In The Glass Key (1942), co-star Brian Donlevy had criticised the independent Lake, so when she was asked to swing a punch at him, she didn’t pull the punch, hit him on the point of the jaw and knocked him clean out. He wasn’t happy.
The Veronica Lake Look draped hair over one eye peek-a-boo style, a style copied by young women until the government stepped in and banned it because of dangers while operating machinery when women took manufacturing jobs during the war. Lake straightened her hair, and her popularity drooped in spite of The Blue Dahlia. She hit the bottle and died at fifty.
The only way Chandler could cope with the rewrite demanded by the studio was to go back on the bottle. He was allowed to stay at home, and two limousines a day arrived, one to take away the finished pages of script, the other to provide glucose injections to keep him alive. He survived – just.
No Cadillacs with throbbing engines waiting outside with glucose and vitamins for us. We will survive without them.
Best wishes. Bill.