Re: RARA-AVIS: The Blue Dahlia

Date: 02 Dec 2005

In a message dated 12/2/05 11:34:58 AM, writes:

> After going through more boxes that I thought I would have to (it wasn't
> in the one it was supposed to be, of course), I found my copy of The
> Black Dahlia screenplay.  It was published in 1976 by the Southern
> Illinois University Press.  Along with the screenplay, the book contains
> a memoir by the film's producer, John Houseman (originally published in
> the August 1965 issue of Harper's), and an afterword by Matthew J.
> Bruccoli.
> So here are their versions of the story of the movie:
> Alan Ladd was going back into the Army in three months and Paramount
> wanted to shoot a new movie with him before he went.  But they had no
> script.  At about that time, Houseman had lunch with Chandler, who
> complained he was stuck on a book and thinking about converting it into
> a screenplay.  The two went to Chandler's house, Houseman read the 120
> completed pages and Paramount bought it for what Houseman called "a
> substantial sum."  In three weeks, Chandler turned what he had completed
> into 70 pages in script form and the studio started shooting with Alan
> Ladd and Veronica Lake.  For a while, he stayed barely ahead of them,
> but the filming threatened to catch up to him at page 93, where he
> stalled.  Finally, Chandler, who had been sober for a while, came up
> with a plan.  He couldn't write at the studio sober, but he could write
> at home drunk.  So he gave Houseman a list of what he'd need -- round
> the clock secretaries, a doctor on hand (for "vitamin" shots), etc.  He
> didn't eat a thing and stayed drunk for eight days, but completed the
> script, the last line of which was: Did somebody say something about a
> drink of bourbon?
> Houseman never mentions the required ending change, strongly implies but
> never explicitly says, that Chandler didn't have an ending, didn't know
> who did it, and that was why he stalled, first on the book, then on the
> script.  Bruccoli says different.  He says Chandler knew who the killer
> was from the beginning, but the Navy overruled him, since at the the
> time, all servicemen conduct in movies had to be approved by said
> services.  In a 1946 letter to James Sandoe, Chandler wrote:
> Yes, I'm through with The Blue Dahlia, it dates even now.  What the Navy
> Department did to the story was a little thing like making me change the
> murderer and hence make a routine whodunit out of a fairly oiginal idea.
> What I wrote was a story of a man who killed (executed would be a better
> word) his pal's wife under the stress of a great and legitimate anger,
> then blanked out and forgot all about it; then with perfect honesty did
> his best to help the pal get out of a jam, then found himself in a set
> of circumstances which brought about partial recall.  The poor guy
> remembered enough to make it clear who the murderer was to others, but
> never realized it himself.  He just did and said things he couldn't have
> done and said unless he was the killer; but he never knew he did them or
> said them and never interpreted them.
> Two other script changes were made.  An actor playing a thug broke his
> toe during filming, so they worked that into the film.  Also the last
> scene was changed.  Instead of going off with his friends to get that
> drink of bourbon, Alan Ladd left his friends behind to go off with
> Veronica Lake.
> Chandler's final estimation was:
> In less than two weeks, I wrote an original story of 90 pages.  All
> dictated and never looked at until finished.  It was an experiment and
> for one subject from early childhood to plot-constipation, it was rather
> a revelation. Some of the stuff is good, some very much not.
> I also found out today that The Blue Dahlia has not come out on DVD.
> I'm pretty sure I have it somewhere on tape.  Guess I've got to move
> some more boxes.
that's a GREAT story. better than the one in The Blue Dahlia, or at least the one filmed. on a side note, for those of us in L.A., a stage version is playing in Venice at the Pacific Resident Theater thru Dec 18. it got a fairly decent review in today's L.A. Times. I'm thinking of checking it out myself

John Lau

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor --------------------~--> Life without art & music? Keep the arts alive today at Network for Good!

RARA-AVIS home page:
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 02 Dec 2005 EST