Black Dahlia: A Warning About Hollywood and the Black Dahlia

Who Is the Black Dahlia?
Lucie Arnaz in “Who Is the Black Dahlia?”

“Inspired by a true story?” A painful lesson about Hollywood and the Black Dahlia.

In 1975, the murder of Elizabeth Short was the basis for the TV movie “Who Is the Black Dahlia?”

Under American law, dead people have no reputation and can’t be libeled, so the production could do whatever it wanted with Elizabeth Short.

At the time, several people were still alive, which was more of a problem – scriptwise.

A few of them agreed to sign releases, like Bevo Means, who is portrayed in the movie by the cherubic Tom Bosley, and Detective Harry Hansen, played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

Several of the more prominent people in the case refused to sign releases and were written out of the movie. That would be Elizabeth Short’s mother, Phoebe, and Robert M. “Red” Manley.

Let me emphasize that if people have signed away their rights to a story, or if they are dead, a Hollywood production can do whatever it wants, using their name. The old biopics did this all the time, like MGM’s “The Great Waltz.”

George Hodel died in 1999. Tamar Hodel died in 2015. Fauna Hodel died in 2017.

You can see where this is going with regards to “I Am the Night.”  I have not seen the mini-series, but there is no reason to believe any of them will be portrayed with any accuracy whatsoever.

“Inspired?” I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, 1975, Black Dahlia, Film, Hollywood, LAPD, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Black Dahlia: A Warning About Hollywood and the Black Dahlia

  1. Jeanne Marie Spicuzza says:

    Thank you for this post.


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