Slander, My Sweet: Raymond Chandler, John Houseman and ‘The Blue Dahlia’

'The Blue Dahlia'
Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in “The Blue Dahlia.”

Slander, My Sweet

Here are the opening paragraphs of the piece I’ve been working on for the last few months as I waited for the clamor to die down about Piu Eatwell’s “Black Dahlia, Red Rose.” It’s a deep dive into the making of “The Blue Dahlia” and John Houseman’s tall tale about Raymond Chandler going on an eight-day drunk to finish the picture.

At this point, I’m not sure what I’ll do with the piece. It’s quite long and although I could post it on the blog, I’m casting around for a venue with more exposure.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1945, 1946, Another Good Story Ruined, Books and Authors, Film, Hollywood and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Slander, My Sweet: Raymond Chandler, John Houseman and ‘The Blue Dahlia’

  1. Earl Boebert says:

    I’d try


  2. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    How about “Film Comment” or “Cineaste”?


  3. asaguthrie says:

    Hey, Larry: I’d be happy to consider your essay for posting in my award-winning crime-fiction blog, The Rap Sheet (, if you can’t find a larger, paying venue. Please let me know. Cheers, Jeff Pierce


  4. John Houseman, not unlike his colleague Orson Welles, could spin giant whoppers. Both were actors who played larger-than-life. Only one remade his own body to follow. I won’t reveal which.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mary Mallory says:

    There’s places like the LA Review of Books, Laist, New Yorker.


  6. Lawrence W Platt says:

    If Houseman indeed made it up, I’m sorely disappointed. His story of Chandler’s going on a toot to finish the script is one I’ve repeated over drinks, dinners, and taking out-of-towners on my Old Noir Los Angeles Tours. I’m devastated, I tells yez!

    P.S. How do you know Houseman made it up?
    P.P.S. Remember The-Man-Who-Shot -Liberty-Valance rule!


    • lmharnisch says:

      “Raymond Chandler got soused to finish The Blue Dahlia” is one of the most popular yarns about him and is deeply entrenched in Hollywood lore. And although it is repeated everywhere (even Chandler biographer Frank MacShane fell for it), it’s utter b.s.

      I used a number of primary sources on the film that weren’t accessible to Houseman, not that he would have bothered with them.

      However, you may be able to dine out on the new story.


      • Lawrence W Platt says:

        I don’t want to be a pest, but Houseman wouldn’t need a source. He was the producer, right? He allegedly witnessed the event. Proving a negative is pretty hard. What were the sources? Anyway, I’m going with the legend.


  7. scott says:

    Any story with Ranmond Chandler is interesting.
    One can live on wine alone but death would happen before 8 days of a hard liquor only routine.


  8. Jeanne Marie Spicuzza says:

    This is interesting, I’d love to read more.


  9. This is really interesting. Having inherited Hurd Hatfield’s Irish house in Co. Cork, the late Maggie Williams was getting ready to sell up (2007) and she offered me the run of the library to take any books that might be of interest. One I pulled out was Houseman’s “Front & Center” and I asked if it meant anything to her but that was the only volume at which she just coldly shook her head. Anyway, I’ve never read much of it but did go through the Chandler references and passages, which have always struck me as odd, especially but only because they came from someone who claimed to be his friend. They are also odd because, by their stuffy and superior insolence, they seem so out of tune with the views of most others who knew the subject. At least Hitchcock’s biographer Patrick Gilligan’s account of the disastrous last meeting of Hitch and Chandler is plausible in the context of a film project (Strangers on a Train) on which these men had completely opposing views as to its merit.


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