The Black Dahlia (film)
|The Black Dahlia|
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Art Linson
|Written by||Josh Friedman|
|Based on||The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Editing by||Bill Pankow|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||122 minutes|
The Black Dahlia is a 2006 American neo noir crime film directed by Brian De Palma. It is drawn from a novel of the same name by James Ellroy, writer of L.A. Confidential and starred Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank. The film is based on the murder of Elizabeth Short and had its world premiere as opener at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival on August 30, 2006. Wide release was on September 15, 2006. Despite being both a critical and financial failure, the film was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 79th Academy Awards but lost to Pan's Labyrinth.
In Los Angeles, California, on January 15, 1947, police officers Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), investigate the murder of Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner). As he is investigating, Bucky learns that Elizabeth was an aspiring actress, although she had not had any big breaks in her career. However, Elizabeth had become desperate for money and was paid to make a "stag" film with a friend of hers, Lorna Mertz. Through questioning a former roommate of Elizabeth, Bucky is told that Elizabeth liked to hang out with "sisters" or lesbians. He goes to a lesbian nightclub and meets a woman, Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), who looks like Elizabeth. She tells him that she knew Elizabeth well, but because she is from a prominent family, she insists that her name be kept out the papers. In exchange for his silence, she promises him sexual favors and the two sleep together. Through his own investigation of the murder, Lee becomes obsessed with the case and trying to track the killer. His obsession leads him to become erratic and slightly abusive towards his longtime girlfriend Katherine 'Kay' Lake (Scarlett Johansson), who is also Bucky's close friend.
Through Bucky's relations with Madeleine, he meets her father, Emmett Linscott, her mother, Ramona, who is addicted to prescription medication, and her sister, Martha. A few days later, after having an argument with Lee about an old case, Lee and Bucky have a fight and Bucky leaves. He later goes to Kay and Lee's home looking for Lee, only to find him gone. He questions Kay as to where Lee is and she confesses that there was a tip about a drug deal involving a recently released convict, Bobby DeWitt, that Lee had helped send to jail. Bucky goes to the location of the drug deal, and is involved in an altercation with Bobby DeWitt on the main stairs in the atrium of the building. DeWitt gets away, and Bucky chases him up the stairs, only to find DeWitt shot to death. Bucky looks up to see that it was Lee, standing on the stairs across the lobby, who had murdered Bobby. Bucky sees a shadowed figure holding a rope sneak up behind Lee, and Bucky calls out to warn him. However, the shadowed man is able to wrap his rope around Lee's neck. Lee fights back until he and his attacker are both backed up against the railing of the stairs. Bucky is in shock and is unable to help Lee. As Lee continues to struggle, another shadowed figure walks up to Lee and the man with the rope and slits Lee's neck, causing the men to fall over the railing and onto a fountain several floors below, leading to the death of both. While dealing with the grief of losing Lee, Kay and Bucky sleep together and begin dating.
Bucky is still intent on solving Elizabeth's murder, along with Lee's, and his search for answers leads him to an old housing site that Madeleine's father helped build. In one of the houses, Bucky sees the set that was used to film the pornographic movie that Elizabeth was in. Bucky also finds a barn on the property, which is below the Hollywoodland sign and a drawing of a man with a Glasgow smile drawn on the wall with blood. It is also the picture that Madeleine has in her parents' house. The same smile that was carved into Elizabeth's face during her murder.
Bucky then accuses Madeleine's father Emmett (John Kavanagh) and Madeleine of murdering Elizabeth. However, Madeleine's mother Ramona (Fiona Shaw) reveals that she was the one to kill Elizabeth, one of the reasons being that she looked so much like her Madeleine. A few moments after her confession, Ramona kills herself in front of Bucky, Madeleine, and Emmett. A few days later, Bucky goes to the Linscott's house again, and after speaking with Madeleine's sister, he discovers that it was Madeleine who had murdered Lee, as Lee was trying to blackmail her father, as he was desperate for money. Bucky finds Madeleine at a motel, and although she insists that he won't shoot her because he would rather have sex with her, he tells her she is wrong and shoots her dead.
Bucky later goes to Kay's house, and when she opens the door he sees a crow cawing by Elizabeth's body on the front lawn, then realizes that it was only a hallucination. Kay tells him to come in and closes the door as the film ends.
- Josh Hartnett as Police Officer Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert
- Scarlett Johansson as Katherine 'Kay' Lake
- Aaron Eckhart as Police Officer Lee Blanchard
- Hilary Swank as Madeleine Linscott
- Mia Kirshner as Elizabeth Ann Short
- Mike Starr as Detective Russ Millard
- Fiona Shaw as Ramona Linscott
- Patrick Fischler as Deputy DA Ellis Loew
- James Otis as Dolph Bleichert
- John Kavanagh as Emmett Linscott
- Troy Evans as Chief Ted Green
- Pepe Serna as Tomas Dos Santos
- Angus MacInnes as Captain John Tierney
- Rachel Miner as Martha Linscott
- Victor McGuire as Sgt. Bill Koenig
- Gregg Henry as Pete Lukins
- Jemima Rooper as Lorna Mertz
- Rose McGowan as Sheryl Saddon
- Steve Eastin as Detective
- Ian McNeice as Coroner
- Richard Brake as Bobby DeWitt
- William Finley as Georgie Tilden
- Joost Scholte as Madeleine's GI
- Fatso-Fasano as Dealer
Development and production 
The film was originally in pre-production with David Fincher attached as director and Mark Wahlberg attached to play Lee Blanchard. Wahlberg was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with the planned filming of The Italian Job. Fincher originally envisioned "a five-hour, $80-million mini-series with movie stars."
When De Palma became director, he replaced Wahlberg with Aaron Eckhart shortly before shooting began in April 2005.
This film was shot in Los Angeles, California and in Pernik, Bulgaria, at an estimated cost of $50 million. Only a handful of exterior scenes were filmed in Los Angeles; MacArthur Park, Pantages Theatre (and adjoining bar The Frolic Room) at Hollywood and Vine, and the Alto-Nido Apartments are perhaps the most recognizable landmarks. A standing set on the backlot of Nu Boyana Film Studios in Sofia, Bulgaria, was used to represent Leimert Park.
Scenes from the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs appear in this film.
Critical response 
David Denby of The New Yorker described it as "a kind of fattened goose that’s been stuffed with goose-liver pâté. It’s overrich and fundamentally unsatisfying... There are scenes that display De Palma’s customary visual brilliance... (b)ut the movie is so complicated, the narrative so awkward, that when the pieces of the puzzle fall into place we get no tingle of satisfaction." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine commented "De Palma throws everything at the screen, but almost nothing sticks." J. Hoberman of The Village Voice stated that the film "rarely achieves the rhapsodic (let alone the delirious)."
However, Mia Kirshner's performance as Elizabeth Short was praised by many critics. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com, in a largely negative review, notes that the eponymous character was "played wonderfully by Mia Kirshner..." Mick LaSalle wrote that Kirshner "makes a real impression of the Dahlia as a sad, lonely dreamer, a pathetic figure." J. R. Jones described her performance as "haunting" and that the film's fictional screen tests "deliver the emotional darkness so lacking in the rest of the movie."
Box office 
The film opened on September 15, 2006 in 2,226 theaters. It came in second place over its opening weekend (losing out to Gridiron Gang), with an estimated $10 million gross box office. It ended its theatrical run after domestically grossing $22,545,080, and grossing $26,787,612 in foreign theaters for a global total of $49,332,692.
As approximately 50% of box office receipts go back to the studio, this film is a considerable box office failure, coming up short (by half) of its $50,000,000 budget.
- Rachel Abramowitz (2007-02-27). "2 men, 1 obsession: the quest for justice". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- David Denby (2006-09-18). "Inescapable Pasts". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- J. Hoberman (2006-09-05). "Ghost World". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
- Stephanie Zacharek (2006-09-15). ""The Black Dahlia"". Salon.com. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
- Mick LaSalle (2006-09-15). "'Black Dahlia' may look good, but it's noir lite". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
- J. R. Jones (2006-08-29). "The Black Dahlia". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
- The Black Dahlia at Box Office Mojo
- Official film site
- The Black Dahlia at the Internet Movie Database
- The Black Dahlia at AllRovi
- The Black Dahlia at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Black Dahlia at Box Office Mojo
- A Dark Moment in the Harsh Hollywood Sun - The New York Times, February 5, 2006