Guest Author - Amber Grey
Hollywood - as much as it is a glamorous place, oftentimes referred to as a state of mind and a promise land for most who want to see their dreams come true, Hollywood can be ugly. And most of that ugliness can be seen in the morbid, unsolved mysteries of its heyday with most of the victims or suspects having ties to the motion picture industry. Some of them were hoping for their dreams to come true and see their names in lights. One of those aspiring youths was 22-year old Elizabeth Short, who's murder made her immortal for all the wrong reasons and will forever be known as "The Black Dahlia."
It was on January 15, 1947 that an unknown female called the police, reporting someone's body in a vacant lot. When the police followed the tip to the location, they were met with the gruesome remains of Elizabeth's body, amongst the other violent details being that her face was carved into a "Glasgow Smile." Once the story hit the newspapers, Short's character and her background was splashed across the headlines. The sensationalism of the story brewed a heap of lies to keep the public's interest stirring - Short's reputation of being a classy, soft-spoken young lady who never drank, smoked or even swore was being turned upside down. Short was characterized as a "prostitute", a woman who was now being blamed for her own killing because of her supposed "lifestyle."
As for why Short was given the infamous nickname as the "Black Dahlia" - it is said it was because she was known for her natural black hair and because she always wore the color black. It was also reported that the killer called the editor of the "Los Angeles Examiner" a few days after Short's body was found. They later sent items to the newspaper belonging to Short including an address book with the name Mark Hansen on the cover. The killer called themselves "The Black Dahlia Avenger." When the police investigated Hansen, it was made known that the address book was given to Short by Hansen and that he himself had no criminal record or violent background. Therefore, he was never charged for the murder.
Although Short's acquaintances told the papers that she was an aspiring actress and that she was looking forward to a screen test at one of the studios, none of the studio heads acknowledged that they knew of Elizabeth Short. In the ongoing investigation, there was an untold number of men and women who confessed to murdering Short, thanks to the publicity surrounding the case contributed by the LA Times. However, none of the initial 60 suspects that were interviewed were tried for Short's murder.
Although it was never a part of the official investigation, one theory, by a friend of Short's, pointed to Orson Welles as Short's murderer. A woman by the name of Mary Pacios, of whom Short babysat when she lived in her hometown of Massachusetts, wrote a book titled "Childhood Shadows: The Hidden Story of the Black Dahlia Murder." In it, she pens about the possible relationship Short might have had with the Citizen Kane creator and amongst her detailed hypothesis, Pacios mentions a scene that was cut from Welles' "The Lady of Shanghai" (1947) that included parts mannequins shown in the similar fashion as Short was found.
Hollywood had its own obsession with this unsolved case with a few adaptations of its own. A mere three years afterwards, a radio program titled "Somebody Knows" ran an episode about the "Black Dahlia." In 1975, there was a television movie, "Who Is The Black Dahlia" (1975). And in 2006, "The Black Dahlia" was a motion picture adaptation of James Ellroy's novel of the same name. It was directed by Brian De Palma and starred Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johanssen and Hilary Swank.