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The Black Dahlia
Murder Case

Elizabeth Short, 1945           The Story

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videos & music

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        The murder of Elizabeth Short remains unsolved. Her body was found in a vacant lot at 39th & Norton Streets in South Los Angeles, California on 15 January 1947. The torso was severed cleanly in two, and the body parts washed of blood. A fingerprint check with the F.B.I. soon determined the identity of the victim as Elizabeth Short, a 22-year-old fashion model and aspiring actress, known as Betty to her family in Massachusetts, but as 'Beth' in California.

        When the Alan Ladd movie "The Blue Dahlia" – original screenplay by Raymond Chandler – was released in April 1946, Beth's friends began calling her the 'Black Dahlia', because she dyed her hair black and had very white skin and wore lacy black clothing. When newspaper reporters heard of this, they knew a hot headline when they heard one.

        Reconstruction of Beth's last days put Robert Manley, a hardware salesman, under intense scrutiny. He was not the last to see her alive: Beth was staying in the Biltmore Hotel and was planning to return to Massachusetts with her sister; hotel personnel saw her leave alone on the 9th of January. Her whereabouts over the five days before her body was found has never been determined. Beth's mother identified the body; the burial was in Oakland, California. Soon after the funeral, the police received a package in the mail that contained Beth's belongings: purse, ID, the address book of a local nightclub owner – but everything had been washed in gasoline to remove fingerprints.

        Dozens of people confessed to the sensational crime, further straining the resources of the Los Angeles homicide team. The primary real suspect, Jack Anderson Wilson (alias Arnold Smith), was a petty crook and alcoholic, who often fell asleep while smoking a cigarette, setting small fires. The police tracked him down in 1981, only to find that he had finally burned to death, along with any possible evidence that was in his flophouse hotel room.

        Eventually the prurient fascination of the newspapers and the public moved on. The case remains on the back burner until some new writer stirs up renewed interest. The ghastly crime-scene photos were finally made public in Kenneth Anger's 1984 book "Hollywood Babylon II". James Ellroy, author of "L.A. Confidential", published his version (see below) in 1987; the murder case also inspired a video game and a Third Stream jazz orchestral work by Bob Belden. Director Brian DePalma made a feature film based on Ellroy's novel, which was released in September 2006.



"The Black Dahlia" feature film
[Millenium/Signature Sept 2006]
DePalma 2006 Black Dahlia movie  Sepia & b&w-styled period drama of cops and thugs and politicos and a land developer's mad family, all circling the sensational death of a 'wannabe' actress. Directed by Brian DePalma; script by Josh Friedman, based on James Ellroy's 1987 novel {below}; starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart & Mia Kirshner {as Elizabeth Short}; Oscar nomination for Best Cinema-tography, ACE Award nomination
Universal Studios widescreen color Blu-ray [8/2011] for $10.99
Universal widescreen color DVD [12/2006] for $3.39
Universal color DVD [12/2006] for $2.89
full credits at IMDb • official movie site
Black Dahlia novel by James Ellroy  
"The Black Dahlia" [fiction 1987] by James Ellroy
Warner 8x5 pb [4/98] for $11.19
Mysterious Press hardcover [9/87] out of print/used
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [9/90] out of stock/used

Books

search books on keywords 'Black Dahlia' at Amazon

Hollywood Babylon II book by Kenneth Anger  "Hollywood Babylon II" [1984] by Kenneth Anger
Originally published in Paris, France; photographs include official (and explicit) crime scene photos of the Black Dahlia homicide; other chapters/celebs include Tallulah Bankhead, John Belushi, Joan Crawford, James Dean, Grace Kelly & Ronald Reagan
Plume mass pb [10/85] out of print/many, many used
Dutton Adult 10x7 hardcover [10/84] out of print/many, many used
Daddy Was The Black Dahlia Killer  "Daddy Was The Black Dahlia Killer: Revealed At Last - The Identity of America's Most Notorious Serial Murderer" [1995]
by Janice Knowlton [1937-2004] with Michael Newton

— very unlikely 'solution' to the Black Dahlia murder case, the accusations of a daughter
Pocket pb [8/95] for $7.19
Black Dahlia / Severed  "Severed: The True Story of The Black Dahlia" [1998]
by John Gilmore

— which makes the case that burglar Jack Wilson was the killer
Amok Books 9x6 pb [9/98] for $11.53
Black Dahlia / Childhood Shadows  "Childhood Shadows: The Hidden Story of The Black Dahlia Murder"
[1999] by Mary Pacios

— very unlikely 'solution', wherein the accused murderer is Orson Welles !
1stBooks Publg 8¼x5 pb [12/99] for $17.15
author's Black Dahlia website
Black Dahlia Avenger   "Black Dahlia Avenger: Genius For Murder - The True Story"
[2003] by Steve Hodel

— one possible 'solution' to the Black Dahlia murder case, the accusations of a son
Harper 8x6 revised edition pb [7/2006] for $11.64
Perennial 7½x5½ pb [6/2004] for $10.91
Arcade 9½x6¼ hardcover [4/2003] for $19.84
Black Dahlia Corroborating Evidence   "Corroborating Evidence: The Black Dahlia Murder - A True Crime Story" [2004]
by William T. Rasmussen

Sunstone Press 9x6 pb [10/2005] out of print/used
Black Dahlia Files  "The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, The Mogul & The Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles" [2005]
by Donald H. Wolfe

Regan Books 9¼x6½ hardcover [12/2005] for $17.79
Shadow of the Dahlia mystery novel by Jack Bludis  "Shadow of The Dahlia" mystery novel [2010] by Jack Bludis
Every cop in L.A.P.D. Robbery-Homicide is trying to find out who killed 'The Black Dahlia', while private-eye Rick Page is trying to locate a millionaire's missing wife; then Page is unwill-ingly drafted to find a young man who wronged the daughter of a crime lord. Bodies tortured in the same manner as the Dahlia soon begin to pile up, and Page finds himself linked to the cunning copycat killer; book was Shamus Award Finalist
Kindle Edition from PageTurner [9/2010] for $1.99 {sic}
PageTurner 8½x5½ pb [8/2010] for $15.99

Black Dahlia & White Rose collection by Joyce Carol Oates  "Black Dahlia & White Rose: Stories" [2012] by Joyce Carol Oates  
The title story is about the real-life murder of aspiring Hollywood starlet Betty Short, sensa-tionalized at the time of her death as the 'Black Dahlia', whom Oates contrasts with an angelic 'White Rose' persona for her (fictional) roommate Norma Jean Baker, the future Marilyn Monroe. Oates reinforces the stereotypes that have built up around them: Short is cold-blooded in her ambition, while abusing alcohol and engaging in petty theft; Norma Jean is hardworking, shy, and kindhearted. The effect is almost that of a fairy tale where the mis-behaving child gets her comeuppance - in this case, a horrific one; plus ten other stories.
Kindle Edition from HarperCollins [9/2012] for $10.21
Ecco Press 9x6 hardcover [9/2012] for $14.98

Videos & Other Media

"Who Is The Black Dahlia?" [1975 tv movie]
with Lucie Arnaz as Elizabeth Short
video/SDVD/Blu-ray not available • credits from IMDb

Black Dahlia video game  Black Dahlia video game! [1998]
Interplay/Track2 CD-ROM for Windows 95/98/Me plastforms [1998]
for $129.99 {shipped within US only}
Black Dahlia / Case Reopened video  "Case Reopened: The Black Dahlia" [History Channel aired Oct 1999]
47-minute documentary film directed by P.K. MacCarthy; written by Joseph Wambaugh; narrated by Roger Tilling; starring Jamie Lynn Hines {as Elizabeth Short}, Robert Lodge {as Joseph Wambaugh}, Larry Strauss & Josh Drennen • credits at IMDb
DVD/Blu-ray not available; indep color/b&w VHS [10/99] for $19.95
Black Dahlia music CD  "Black Dahlia" orchestral suite [2001]
by tenor saxophonist Bob Belden

EMD/Blue Note music CD [2/2001] for $12.99
awful low-budget Black Dahlia feature film  "Black Dahlia" video release [Oct 2006]
Described by Amazon reviewers as possibly the worst movie ever made; the premise is that three modern serial killers are copying the murder of Elizabeth Short back in 1947. Co-produced, co-written & directed by Ulli Lommel; starring Elissa Bree Dowling, Sutton Christopher, Christian Behm, Danielle Petty • full credits at IMDb
LionsGate widescreen color DVD [10/2006] for $3.26 {sic}
Curse of The Black Dahlia  "The Curse of The Black Dahlia" video release [A.T.I. 2007]
Sixty years after the Black Dahlia murder, an office building is erected on the site where Elizabeth Short's body was found. An employee disappears, and nightmares & hallucinations haunt co-workers, who must work thru the night to meet a deadline. CAVEAT: Amazon reviewers state that the movie is terrible but that the main actresses are hot. Produced, written & directed by Dan Goldman; starring Kate Siegel, Laura Penn, Austin Brooks, Roy Werner, Lenora Chu, Daniel Spangler & Geneva Somers
Highland Ent. color DVD [1/2007] for $5.75
credits info at IMDb • producer's website movie info

Devil's Muse movie about the Black Dahlia  "The Devil's Muse" [Bloodshot Pictures Jan 2007]
The actress hired to portray victim Elizabeth Short in a film biography experiences nightmares and seems to be reliving the last days of the Black Dahlia. Co-produced, written & directed by Ramzi Abed; starring Kristen Kerr, Gidget Gein, Julie Strain & Lizzie Strain
DVD available at B&N and at MoviesUnlimited, but not on Amazon (9/2011)
full credits at IMDb • official movie site • producer website


Links To Other Sites

Elizabeth Short / Black Dahlia entry at Wikipedia

Pamela Hazelton's Black Dahlia Website
Kyle J. Wood's Black Dahlia Page
Black Dahlia Theatre [est. 2000] in Los Angeles, CA
Mary Pacios's Black Dahlia website

Larry Harnisch's Black Dahlia website
1950 radio show 'Somebody Knows'

BlackHat Mystery Bookstore Film Noir Festival Pages


Online sales in association with  search books on keywords 'Black Dahlia' at Amazon

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