The Blue Dahlia

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Not to be confused with The Black Dahlia (film).
The Blue Dahlia
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Marshall
Produced by John Houseman
Screenplay by Raymond Chandler
Starring Alan Ladd
Veronica Lake
William Bendix
Music by Robert Emmett Dolan
Harry Simeone
Bernie Wayne
Victor Young
Cinematography Lionel Lindon
Edited by Arthur P. Schmidt
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • April 19, 1946 (1946-04-19)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office 1,063,165 admissions (France)[1]

The Blue Dahlia is a 1946 film noir, directed by George Marshall and written by Raymond Chandler.[2][3] The film marks the third pairing of stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.[4]

A Navy bomber pilot returns home to discover that his wife has been unfaithful and contributed to the death of their son by being drunk when he died. He pulls a gun on her, but decides she isn't worth killing. Later when his wife is found dead he is suspected as her killer.



Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd in trailer for "The Blue Dahlia" (1946)

The script was an original by Raymond Chandler, the first original script for the screen he ever wrote.[5] The film was announced in early 1945, and was always envisioned as a vehicle for Alan Ladd; Lake, Bendix and Marshall were also all attached from the beginning.[6] Having been classed 1-A for the World War II military draft, Ladd's career had been interrupted by war service.[7]

Halfway through the script, Chandler developed writers' block. A former alcoholic, he'd become a teetotaler for health reasons. He decided that the only way he could get inspiration to finish the script was to get drunk. Chandler had originally agreed to write the screenplay for nothing 'as a favour' to John Houseman, the producer, but instead asked for a case of scotch as full payment. As a result and for several weeks, Chandler drank heavily, and at the end of that time, presented the finished script.[8]

Chandler received a lot of deference on the set, but Veronica Lake was not familiar with him; so, upon asking about him and being told, "he's the greatest mystery writer around", she made a point of listening intently to an analysis of his work by the film's publicity director in order to impress newspaper reporters with her knowledge of a writer she had never read.[9] Chandler developed an intense dislike for Lake and referred to her as "Moronica Lake".[10]

Lake later said about her role "I'm not much of a motivating force, but the part is good."[11]

According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, it was originally intended for Buzz to be the murderer, but the U.S. military objected to the portrayal of a psychologically disturbed veteran as the killer.[citation needed]


Critical response[edit]

The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a positive review and wrote,

Playing a discharged naval flier returning home from the Pacific first to find his wife unfaithful, then to find her murdered and himself in hiding as the suspect, Alan Ladd does a bangup job. Performance has a warm appeal, while in his relentless track down of the real criminal, Ladd has a cold, steel-like quality that is potent. Fight scenes are stark and brutal, and tremendously effective.[12]

Critic Dennis Schwartz called the film

A fresh smelling film noir directed with great skill by George Marshall from the screenplay of Raymond Chandler (the only one he ever wrote for the screen, his other films were adapted from novels of others and, ironically, film adaptations of his novels were all written by other screenwriters). It eschews moral judgment in favor of a hard-boiled tale that flaunts its flowery style as its way of swimming madly along in LA's postwar boom and decadence.[13]


Raymond Chandler was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay).


The Blue Dahlia was dramatized as a half-hour radio play on the April 21, 1949 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, starring Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd in their original film roles.

The movie was also adapted into a stage play in 1989.[14]


  1. ^ French box office of 1948 at Box Office Story
  2. ^ Variety film review; January 30, 1946, page 12.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; February 2, 1946, page 19.
  4. ^ The Blue Dahlia at the Internet Movie Database.
  5. ^ Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 25 Jan 1945: 16.
  6. ^ SCREEN NEWS: Warners Pay $100,000 Down for 'Hasty Heart' Joan Blondell Gets Top Part Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 19 Feb 1945: 21.
  7. ^ Veronica Lake And Alan Ladd Teamed Again By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 11 May 1945: 5.
  8. ^ Judith Freeman, The Long Embrace, Random House (2008) pages 228-31
  9. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2001). Peekaboo: The Story of Veronica Lake. Lincoln NE: iUniverse. p. 161. ISBN 0595192394. 
  10. ^ Hare, William (2012). Pulp Fiction to Film Noir: The Great Depression and the Development of a Genre. Jefferson NC: McFarland. p. 104. ISBN 9780786466825. 
  11. ^ Change of Pace in Roles Beckons Veronica Lake: Star to Pause at Career's Crossroads Roles to Shift for Veronica Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 July 1945: C1.
  12. ^ Variety. Film review, April 19, 1946. Last accessed: January 18, 2008.
  13. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, October 22, 2005. Last accessed January 18, 2008.
  14. ^ Loving Re-Creation of 'The Blue Dahlia' SYLVIE DRAKE Times Theater Writer. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Feb 1989: OC_D6.

External links[edit]

Streaming audio[edit]