Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Blue Dahlia

Okay, Eunice . . . I know.  I'm on a classic movie kick of late.  That's okay.  A good movie is a good movie, right?  Jes' like a good book is a good book.  Doesn't matter who wrote it.  Or when.  If the damn thing is good . . . well, sister . . . . it's good!  End of discussion.
Naw, not really.  Let's talk about 'The Blue Dahlia.'  In my last blog I said that Robert Mitchum was just about the perfect tough guy.  Especially in the movie, 'Out of the Past.'   And I still do.  But I gotta tell'ya, old girl, Alan Ladd in 'The Blue Dahlia' is just about as good as good can get when it comes to tough guys.

Ladd wasn't nearly as large as Mitchum in a physical sense.  But for projecting on film an iron-will toughness and a savvy, street-smart observer of the human condition, Ladd could hold his own with anyone.  Ladd, among his other talents, had this grin that was kinda like the grin a kid gives to his dad after wrecking the family car.  You know, that kinda grin that says,"Yeah, dad.  I did it.  And willing to take the beef over it."  That grin can get you into trouble--but it has a habit of getting you out of a trouble as well. 

That kind of an actor, working off a great script, makes for memories that never go away.  And the writer for this flick was none other than the master of hardboiled writing, Raymond Chandler.  Chandler was already famous as the creator of Phillip Marlowe--the quintessential tough guy private eye.  I can easily believe the theory that Alan Ladd was the perfect example Chandler had in mind for Marlowe.  That's just my opinion, mind you.  Take it for what it's worth.

Chandler as a script writer was hard to get along with.  A bit wordy in his scripts.  Took forever to get one done.  And to be honest with you, old dog, 'The Blue Dahlia' is the only movie I think Chandler completed.

But there were a couple of other actors in this flick that should be remembered.  One, I believe, probably one of the most underrated American characters actors to ever come down through the afternoon matinee B-reels.  William Bendix.  The guy was just an amazing talent.  He could do drama.  He could do comedy.  He could be a sweetie, a flake, a nice married man . . . but in this film he could be flat-ass crazy.  Mean-crazy.  And sadly few people remember his name.

The other actor in the movie is actually an actress.  Long blond hair.  A body that just made you ache every time you saw her.  A woman with mistique, dearie-o.  Veronica Lake.  She and Ladd teamed up in a lot of Ladd's movies.  That made an interesting pair.  Lots of movie historians lambast her for not having a real talent in acting--but I'm not buying that line, Eunice.  I think Lake was very, very good.  And damn easy on the eyes.

So okay; I can see it in your eyes, Eunice.  "What's all this movie talk got to do with writing?"  Well here it is, kid.  In a nutshell.  Writing novels is an exercise in verbal imagery.  The fewest amount of words to create the most vibrant of mental images you can within a reader's mind.  How do you do it?  Lots of way.  Be a good wordsmith.  Write concisely.  Create a great plot.
And use old movies as visual stimuli for yourself.  If you can 'see' main characters in your own head with  sharp images, you should be able to describe them succinctly.  That's why studying old movie classics, as well as modern movies, should be very important to a writer.

1 comment:

  1. That is a fantastic picture. Pre dates all those 'post nam' films, like Taxi Driver, too.