Another Good Story Ruined — The Black Dahlia

  Jan. 16, 1947, Examiner  

The Black Dahlia has become so thoroughly transformed into a myth about what happens to nice, small-town girls in big, bad Hollywood  (“achieving in death the fame that eluded her in life”) that it’s almost impossible to write about the killing or the investigation with any accuracy.   

It’s a complicated case to begin with, and  matters have been made even worse by highly fictionalized “true” crime books and a craze of “daddy did it” claims — I know of three purported “killer dads” but this is a thriving cottage industry and there may be more.
The latest errors appear in a Jacket Copy post on the videogame L.A. Noire:

On the movie “The Blue Dahlia”:

“And it was playing in theaters when actress Elizabeth Short was murdered in January 1947; journalists looking for a hook to talk about the unusual killing called her the Black Dahlia.”

Well, no. First, Elizabeth Short wasn’t an actress – it’s a stretch to even call her anything but a wannabe  actress. Elizabeth Short wanted to be an actress the way people want to win the lottery.

Second, “The Blue Dahlia” was long gone from theaters by January 1947.

Third, and this is one of our beloved myths: Reporters nicknamed the case. The Herald-Express frequently nicknamed killings, like the “Red Hibiscus Murder,” and in fact tried to nickname the Black Dahlia as “the Werewolf Murder.” Elizabeth Short got the Black Dahlia nickname from customers at a drugstore lunch counter in Long Beach as a takeoff on the title of “The Blue Dahlia.” 

Then we have:

“we know the Black Dahlia was left naked, washed of all blood, elegantly coiffed and cut in two.”


Another favorite Black Dahlia myth is that the killer gave her a complete makeover: hair, nails, etc. Unfortunately, morgue shots of Elizabeth Short are all over the Web and it’s easy to determine that this is ridiculous.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in #courts, 1947, Another Good Story Ruined, books, Crime and Courts. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Another Good Story Ruined — The Black Dahlia

  1. Ryan P says:

    Fascinating Read. Thank you for the article! I also look forward to playing the game, only to satisfy my curiosity for 1940s Los Angeles.


  2. Stacia says:

    Heh. I clicked on the “morgue shots” link thinking it went to a page where you explained your policy of not showing the photos.


  3. Eve says:

    I thought I already told you: MY father killed Elizabeth Short! He and my Mom were living in upstate New York in early 1947; he could easily have said “I’m going out for a pack of cigarettes,” taken a cross-country plane or train ride, cut her in half, and gotten home before Mom had the roast on the table.
    Crime solved! Next, how my great-aunt Sadie was actually Jack the Ripper.


  4. fibber mcgee says:

    As far as the Lady Eve’s great aunt being Jackie the Ripper, well, Jack the Ripper moved to New Jersey after getting all that attention in London. I think. And, oh, John McCain was born in Columbia. You can look it up. And that Palin gal was born near Moscow. YCLIU.


Leave a Reply. Note: Your IP is logged with your comment so a fake name and email address are useless.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s