The Blue Dahlia (1946)
Kicking off my salute to five straight days of Alan Ladd films I thought it best to start with one of his signature styled roles opposite the woman he is most associated with on screen, Veronica Lake. This was their third pairing following This Gun For Hire and The Glass Key.
Produced by John Houseman, written by Raymond Chandler and directed by George Marshall makes for a pretty strong pedigree. Throw in Edith Head for Mrs. Lake’s wardrobe and we pretty much have an “A” feature with Ladd front and center.
Arriving by bus in Hollywood, Ladd and fellow returning veterans Hugh Beaumont and William Bendix are setting out to try and put their lives back together. After a farewell drink, Ladd heads home to his not so loving wife Doris Dowling. She hasn’t exactly been pining for her returning war hero and has taken up with Howard da Silva who happens to run the nightclub known as The Blue Dahlia.
The plot sets the stage for Ladd and Dowling to have a heated argument over her lifestyle and the death of their only child. All of which is overheard by the house detective Will Wright. Ladd hits the road and Bendix shows up sharing a drink with Dowling. Bendix had a severe head injury during the war and doesn’t take kindly to loud noises and his memory isn’t to reliable either. Things are about to real complicated when Dowling turns up murdered by gunshot.
Let’s not forget about Veronica Lake here. Ladd hooks up with her in the rain. She happens to be driving by and gives him a lift. It’s easy to see there is an attraction here. Little does Alan know that she happens to be the somewhat estranged wife of Howard da Silva. The same guy who has been playing around with his own wife while he was off fighting in the Navy. Only in the movies or perhaps in the complicated movie world of Raymond Chandler.
Ladd is of course the number one suspect and is wanted by the police. Interesting to note that when his description is given over the radio as to his looks and clothing he was last seen wearing, no mention is made of the suspects height. Hmmmm. Is that intentional or not?
From here we get plenty of Alan Ladd styled action with fists and gun play heading to the action packed conclusion. While the plot hasn’t aged too well we do get good support from Dowling as the wife gone bad and da Silva as our main Ladd protagonist. William Bendix had of course been in many Ladd films as his faithful companion and is a little too over the top here. Hugh Beaumont and Will Wright suit there roles perfectly and early in the film we also have Anthony Caruoso turning up who was a noted actor of Noir and most other genres.
As for Ladd and Lake, they would do one more film together titled Saigon. It’s the only one of their four co-starring films I have yet to see so if you have a spare copy lying around…….