Aspiring actress Elizabeth Short came to Hollywood in the 1940’s to make a splash and see her name in lights. Instead, she ended up dead.
Director Brian De Palma (Scarface 1983) and Josh Friedman who wrote the screenplay has brought James Ellroy’s novel The Black Dahlia to the big screen. This crime film has most of the qualifications to be categorized as noir, the amazing blues music score, the style, the snappy talk, and a look into life's raw and unsavory side. Unfortunately, the story line gets muddled. Actress Mia Kirshner portrays Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Short who became better known in death as The Black Dahlia, dead starlet, than she ever had in life as Elizabeth Short, actress.
The Black Dahlia film focuses on Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) who are good friends, ex-boxers and the police officers assigned to the Betty Short case. The two detectives interaction changes with one another and Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), Lee’s girlfriend, after they start looking for answers to Short’s grisly murder. The case becomes an all consuming obsession with Lee and Bucky falls for socialite Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank) who looks like the dead woman. Short never seems to be the center of the story before or after her death when she became known as The Black Dahlia. However, her essence is always hovering. The black and white film clips of Elizabeth's interviews are interesting and offers us a small glimpse of the young woman. In the movie she appears to be somewhat unfocused, her respones vague and her attention span is extremely short.
While this film does not rank with some of De Palma’s other films, it should get a mention for Mark Isham’s music score. Isham is also responsible for the music from the Academy Award winning film Crash (2004). Other’s in the cast are Mike Starr, Rachel Miner and Victor McGuire. If the actress portraying Hilary Swank’s very strange mother looks familiar to you but you are having a hard time placing her in that garish makeup, just think 3 Men and a Little Lady (1990), Fiona Shaw was cast as Elspeth Lomax, head mistress of the private girls school in that film. She is seen again as Aunt Petunia Dursley or simply Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies.
Did you know?
*Hilary Swank won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in Clint Eastwood’s Oscar winning film, Million Dollar Baby (2004). Eastwood won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing with and shared the coveted Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year Tom Rosenberg and Albert Ruddy. Actor Morgan Freeman won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
*Scarlett Johansson was the voice of Mindy in Sponge Bob Square Pants (2004) Johansson also appeared in the 1998 movie The Horse Whisperer.
*Elizabeth Short’s murder was never solved. The real story is a terrifying and cautionary tale. Check out for crime details. Crime Library/Dahlia
Read James Ellroy's book The Black Dahlia