Precious Bodily Fluids

The Blue Dahlia: Forget-Me-Not

The Blue Dahlia exemplifies the themes of postwar trauma and the problem of memory with the best of the mid-40s films noir. It deals with these subjects so explicitly and yet carefully as to make it overtly accessible to both past and present audiences. While we’re at it, William Bendix must simply “be” the postwar/wartime American man. His portrayal of Gus in Hitchock’s Lifeboat and as Buzz here in The Blue Dahlia make him the working class everyman, the guy screwed over by the war and living life in large part reacting to its effects on him and his beloved lifestyle. Of course, this film would certainly be better had the studio not forced Raymond Chandler to alter his script, incriminating Buzz rather than the old house detective in the murder. Buzz has a plate in his head thanks to a gift from the Krauts, giving him chronic headaches, mass confusion, and temporary amnesia. He’s still got his instincts and, thanks to the studio, his ultimate virtue. Chandler’s finale appeared to vilify Buzz, but of course it really wouldn’t have, would it? Who’s to blame when, following the worst war mankind has ever seen, a soldier with a plate protecting his brain slips into some post-traumatic stress and shoots a woman who’s done some evil to his dearly loved commanding officer? The war, presumably, and the state of a world that would assume that such men could simply move back into society without any fallout from the hell they endured overseas. In the postwar boom years, though, they wanted us to think things were going to be okay. They liked Ike and believed America to be the greatest and most resilient nation in the world. Noir, of course, flicks at the ears of this silly notion, and Chandler perhaps even more. For the record, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake offer something really interesting here for their complete lack of interest. There’s little to no personality in either of them, especially when sharing a scene with Bendix. The would-be heroes and femme fatales of this era may not be as fascinating, Chandler (above all) seems to imply, as the human catalysts for the underlying, sinister drama.


This entry was published on May 31, 2010 at 12:36 pm. It’s filed under 1940s Cinema, American film and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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