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THE BLACK DAHLIA

About The Production
Possessing the Black Dahlia: Betty's Journey to the Silver Screen "Who are these men who feed on others? What do they feel when they cut their name into somebody else's life?” —Detective Bucky Bleichert

Elizabeth "Betty” Short was born July 29, 1924, in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Like many young aspiring actresses in boom-era World War II, she was chasing a big dream: to make it in Hollywoodland. At the age of 19, she headed west to California, bouncing from her father's home in Vallejo to the city of Santa Barbara before heading south to L.A.

During her time in the city, her tale briefly reads like that of many an ingénue.

She auditioned for a number of screen tests, lived for a time at the Chancellor Arms Apartments and was rumored to have frequented hotspots like the Pig & Whistle on Hollywood Blvd., the Formosa Café on Santa Monica Blvd. and the Biltmore Hotel on Grand Ave. Indeed, it was at this very hotel, on January 9, 1947, that Betty was allegedly meeting a gentleman friend. It was the last time she would be seen alive.

Because of Betty's raven hair, her penchant for dressing in black, habit of wearing a beautiful flower in her hair and the 1946 release of the Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake film The Blue Dahlia, she was given a nickname to tease her in life and own her in death. People became fascinated with her lurid tale, one seemingly plucked straight out of a Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett novel. Indeed, most who became involved with the case became obsessed with either saving or trashing the Dahlia's reputation.

The gruesome murder of the young girl took Hollywood and the country by storm in 1947. The entertainment capital was filled with mob bosses, dirty studio executives, corrupt cops and people willing and ready to take advantage of a young woman…and the juicy details of her murder. For months, the L.A. Examiner, Los Angeles Times and every rag that could make up or scrape up a story about Betty splashed headlines below their mastheads—from "Who Killed Betty Short?” to "Black Purse, Shoes: Hot Dahlia Leads.” Hers would become a story of Hollywood legend…and occupy one young boy's imagination for a lifetime.

Betty entered the mind of novelist James Ellroy when he was just a child. Only 11 years old when he received Jack Webb's crime anthology, "The Badge,” from his father, the L.A. native was entranced by Webb's 10-page summary of Elizabeth Short's demise. His mother, Jean Hilliker, had been strangled only months before in a brutal (and to this day unsolved) crime, and the boy's inability to openly grieve her death transferred into an obsession with the Dahlia.

Ellroy, like many others before and since, would chase the story of this iconic Hollywood girl for years. He recalls, "I bike-tripped to the Central Library. I scanned the Dahlia case on microfilm and gorged myself on vanished L.A. I time-tripped '59 to '47 L.A. I made L.A.-now L.A.-then. I began to live in the dual L.A. that I've lived in ever since.”

In fact, Ellroy would wait to write his seventh novel—the first of his L.A. quartet—1987's "The Black Dahlia,” until he "built story-telling muscle” with his earlier works, "Brown's Requiem,” "Clandestine,” "Blood on the Moon” and "Suicide Hill.” The author admits he "needed to brace myself for life in L.A. '47.”

For Ellroy, the Dahlia wouldn't rest with the end of his book. He would go on to write a 1996 novel entitled "My Dark Places,” a memoir of his mother's 1958 murder. "I had to go through a very long journey with Elizabeth Short and write ‘The Black Dahlia' before I could get to my mother. Elizabeth Short was always the fictional stand-in for my mother. And my mother and she transmogrified, it was quite a heady brew. They are as one, in my mind, much of the time.”

Screenwriter Josh Friedman was originally taske

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