Our “Blue” choices this time are two films you should definitely see: 1946’s The Blue Dahlia and 1953’s The Blue Gardenia. Let’s start with the former, which brought audiences one of classic Hollywood’s renowned pairings.
They were one of the hottest duos in the 1940s, rivaling even Bogart and Bacall.
Alan Ladd once said of himself that he had the face of an aging choirboy.
Born in 1913 in Hot Springs, Ark., he endured a hard scrabble childhood that more than occasionally left him malnourished. He was undersized as a result (his nickname was “Tiny”). At 5-foot, 6-1/4-inches, the fully-grown Ladd was indeed one of the shortest leading male figures in Hollywood history.
Although never a favorite of critics, he was hugely popular with general audiences who flocked to see the seven movies he made with favorite costar, Veronica Lake, from 1942 to 1946.
At least one of these — The Blue Dahlia with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler — is a film noir classic that stands up well to this day. Because of Chandler’as handiwork, it has been deemed an important postwar noir, and tells the tale of a World War II veteran (Ladd), who returns home to discover that his wife has been cheating on him.
Then, he is charged with the wife’s murder. Lake plays the beautiful and mysterious wife of a sleazy nightclub owner who insinuates herself with the psychologically fragile GI to track down the real killer. Chandler’s handling of murder’s solution with surprise you.
The Blue Gardenia stars Anne Baxter as a winsome young woman who received a “Dear Jane” letter from her fiance, off fighting in Korea. She decides to accept a blind date with a man who had been squiring her roommate.
The man (played entertainingly by Raymond Burr) takes her to the Hollywood restaurant named the Blue Gardenia, and plies her with drinks. Then back at his apartment, he assaults her. She panics and strikes out. When she later discovers that her passionate suitor has been murdered, she blames herself.
The movie was directed by Fritz Lang, no less, one of at least four he made in Hollywood in the Fifties. A solid cast includes Ann Sothern, Jeff Donnell and Richard Conte, as an enterprising reporter who helps the Baxter character sort things out. A nice bonus is a soundtrack spotlighting Nat King Cole’s smooth rendition of the title tune in a Nelson Riddle arrangement.
Then check out a little masterpiece called The Red House.
Any film that stars Edward G. Robinson is aces in our book. This one, the 1947 psychological thriller The Red House, is certainly worth a look. Directed by Delmer Daves, the setting is an isolated farm run by a handicapped farmer (Robinson) and his sister (Judith Anderson). Also on hand is their adopted daughter (Allene Roberts).
Oh, yes, let’s not forget those moans and yells that come from that mysterious red house sitting in the woods that the farmer assiduously avoids. There’s a complicated story there. We’ll leave it at that in hopes you will track down this solid thriller. Cast includes Rory Calhoun, Lon McCallister and Julie London.
An unheralded sleeper.