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Daily film recommendation: 'The Blue Dahlia' (1946)

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Airing on TCM September 1 at 12 AM EST

There’s a funny story that goes along with the making of “The Blue Dahlia”. Novelist Raymond Chandler was hired to write the screenplay for a film noir; despite several of his novels being adapted into films before, this was the first time he wrote something specifically for the screen. Midway through, Chandler got writer’s block. The former alcoholic decided the only way to finish the screenplay was if he got really drunk, and requested a case of scotch from Paramount producer John Houseman as payment. In a few weeks, Chandler, after much heavy drinking, finished the script.

True or not, “The Blue Dahlia” is one of the best movies in the film noir genre, and the best one starring genre fixture Alan Ladd, for whom the role of Johnny Morrison was written. Morrison returns home from a Navy mission to find his wife Helen (Doris Dowling), kissing Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva), the owner of the Blue Dahlia nightclub. Johnny punches Eddie and leaves, but the next morning Helen is found dead; realizing that he is a likely suspect, Johnny goes about tracking down who really killed her.

This was the third movie costarring Ladd and Veronica Lake, who plays Joyce, Eddie’s estranged wife who is attracted to Johnny. The two were a popular pair, mainly because Lake was actually quite shorter than the 5’6” Ladd. “The Black Dahlia” also costars William Bendix, Will Wright, and Hugh Beaumont. Ladd’s cold, hard expressions—though not so cold that he isn’t a likeable hero—particularly suit him in this role

“The Blue Dahlia” is everything you could want out of a good film noir: moody characters, stark black-and-white cinematography, and a plot filled with thrilling confrontations and twists.

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