The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall, 1946)


Alan Ladd (Johnny Morrison), Veronica Lake (Joyce Harwood). Screenplay by Raymond Chandler. Directed by George Marshall. Rating: PG. Running time: 96 minutes.

Bizarrely relaxed noir ‘thriller’ which could do with a good kick up the backside, The Blue Dahlia goes through the motions of carving out a murder mystery with the help of a handful of suave stars without once feeling like there’s any rush to reach a resolution. This isn’t the result of lazy filmmaking; it’s definitely intentional. It’s just a little odd trying to work out why. Johnny Morrison is suspected of murdering his wife, though the more likely culprit appears to be the man she was having an affair with whilst Johnny was fighting abroad, who she seems to try and blackmail in a cryptic telephone conversation. Other possible suspects include Johnny’s bad-tempered, mentally fragile friend, also returning from war due to injury, or the crafty security guard who monitored the housing complex. Johnny in particular comes across particularly blasé about the situation facing him where he’s on the run for a crime we know he did not commit. He lies back on a bed pondering his chances in front of a jury without a care in the world. Bursts of energy breaking the style come only in the shape of surprisingly frequent and fierce fist-fights, but they do little to alter The Blue Dahlia’s laid-back approach. Veronica Lake is, of course, gorgeous, and also surprisingly independent for a femme fatale. But for all its style this doesn’t manage to feel great, the potential for tension – perfectly compatible with looking cool – too easily passing by. The last let down is the eventual conclusion, which completely fails to convince in its rationalisation of events, though apparently this may have to do with backhanded Hollywood political interests tweaking the story, rather than it stemming from any flaws in the logic of Chandler’s writing itself. A final disappointment, even if not the fault of the filmmakers per se, from a film with visual promise whose pace and story fall short.

One Response to “The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall, 1946)”

  1. 1 This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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