Just don’t get too complicated, Eddie. When a guy gets complicated he’s unhappy. And when he’s unhappy–his luck runs out…
–Raymond Chandler, The Blue Dahlia
Alan Ladd and Femme Fatale Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia (1946)
Q: Was the noir-film, The Blue Dahlia the inspiration for naming Elizabeth Short, “The Black Dahlia”?
A: While we cannot be absolutely certain, based on my research and investigation, I’d say there is a strong probability that the answer is - YES.
In my 2003 review of the secret DA Files, I found a 22-page LAPD entitled, “SUMMARY OF THE ELIZABETH (BETH) SHORT MURDER INVESTIGATION. That summary begins with this opening sentence:
“This case is better known as the Black Dahlia Murder which pseudonym was bestowed upon the victim by the newspapers and was not ever an alias of the victim in life.”
I believe that statement was written in ignorance. LAPD detectives, writing the summary some three years later, were simply unaware of the original facts as presented in several different newspapers, in the days following the January 15, 1947, discovery of Elizabeth Short’s body.
The best evidence supports the fact that Elizabeth Short was in fact, called “The Black Dahlia” [though she herself and her close personal friends were most likely unaware of the pseudonym.]The name was not “invented by the press” but rather given to her, by some of the local military men who were regular patrons and saw her frequenting a soda-fountain in Long Beach, in the months immediately preceding her murder. (The name they gave her was obviously a spin-off from the noir film, The Blue Dahlia, which was showing in theatres in the summer and fall of 1946.)
No less a luminary than beloved LA columnist, Jack Smith gives us the facts taken from his original and first-person involvement in the case in 1947. Here is his retelling from his L.A. Times article of January 1975- A Dahlia by Any Other Name.
Paramount Studio Kept Waiting for Whodunit
Below is a fascinating “insiders” article on the writing of the screenplay, The Blue Dahlia, by mystery writer, Raymond Chandler as told by his friend and producer, John Houseman.
John Houseman Harper Magazine article: LOST FORTNIGHT: “The Blue Dahlia” and How It Grew Out of Raymond Chandler’s Alcoholic Dash for a Deadline.
September, 1946 The Blue Dahlia, “Now Playing in Hollywood”
In the fall of 1946, just a few months before the murder of Elizabeth Short, the film was showing at the Hunley Theatre. Ironically, as can be seen in the map below, that theatre was just one block from Elizabeth Short’s temporary residence on Hollywood Blvd., and just two blocks from Dr. George Hill Hodel’s “Franklin House.” According to DA reports Elizabeth Short moved into the Guardian Apts on October 10, 1946, which was George Hodel’s 39th birthday.
#1- George Hodel’s residence, 5121 Franklin Ave.
#2- Elizabeth Short, Guardian Apts residence, 5217 Hollywood Blvd #726 (Oct 1946)
#3- Hunley Theatre, 5115 Hollywood Blv d.