thatcow

Not living up to the billing

The Blue Dahlia is supposedly a classic example of scriptwriting. The writing better be good because there are times, especially in the first twenty minutes, where the actual production of the script falls over itself. The acting is off in places. A stage punch is shot from a bad angle. Little things, but they add up. For 1946, they still should have been able to get the basics down.

Three buddies return from war. One of them - Johnny Morrison - finds his wife has been carrying on in his absence, which is not actually to his surprise. He chooses not to stay with her, and she shows up dead soon of a gunshot wound.

It's a dense story, and it takes some extra concentration to keep track of the characters. For a short 96 minutes, there really isn't enough time to properly introduce everyone. There are motivations to go around, and Johnny goes through a lot trying to clear his name and (apologies to O.J.) "find the real killer(s)".

It's interesting to note that the ending was rewritten over writer Raymond Chandler's objections. It seems the US Government objected to a particular aspect, and with patriotism riding high following World War II, the studio didn't wish to push anybody's buttons (outside of their own creative people). The change made is basically the last plot twist you see. My own opinion is that, even though some of those twists are clever, neither ending really makes much of a difference. The original is the most ironic, while the new one gives the most drastic reversal we could have.

Even though this movie is disappointing in a few ways, it's on the right track. Expand it a bit so we understand the characters and their connections, clean up the earlier part of the production, and choose a third option for the ending - then we might be in good territory.

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