|The Blue Dahlia nightclub.|
That's how Raymond Chandler described the movie made from his only original screenplay in a 1946 letter. Chandler was typically critical of his work. In fact, The Blue Dahlia is a very good film noir. It's almost a classic, but a hastily-constructed ending and some sloppiness around the edges keep it from achieving that goal.
|Alan Ladd as Johnny.|
|Buzz talking with Helen (Doris Dowling).|
As a novelist, Raymond Chandler was a master at intertwining subplots into a complex mystery. His attempts to do the same in The Blue Dahlia rely too much on coincidences. To Chandler's defense, he was given little time to write the screenplay. According to producer John Houseman, Paramount was in a rush to finish the picture because Alan Ladd was being recalled to the Army. (Others have maintained that Ladd, who served a year in the Army in 1943, was never recalled in 1946 and left for his ranch when The Blue Dahlia was completed.)
(Spoiler alert on the way!)
|Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.|
Despite its flaws, Chandler's script boasts well-developed characters and sharp dialogue. I love the little touches like a thug knocking out Johnny, spotting a nice pen in his pocket, and taking it. Chandler received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Two years earlier, Chandler received his only other nomination for co-writing Double Indemnity with Billy Wilder.
|Veronica Lake as Joyce.|
While Chandler thought George Marshall was a mediocre director, Marshall keeps the plot moving along smartly. He also employs some effective long shots, such as when Joyce spots Johnny at a hotel desk and warns him about the police.
The bottom line is that The Blue Dahlia remains a memorable film noir despite its imperfections. It's just not as well-written as Chandler's Double Indemnity nor as stylish as Ladd and Lake's This Gun for Hire.