Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fantasy Christmas List - A Blue Dahlia What if?

Even Santa can't answer every Christmas wish, but I started thinking about what I might ask for if that were possible. Sure, if you could have anything, world peace would be at the top of the list. Every pageant contestant knows that. After the obvious ones, though, what might it be interesting to have Santa summon up?

Well, I've been talking to students about film noir of late, and something hit me. What literary or film fantasy Christmas gift might I ask of Santa? Besides how Edwin Drood was really supposed to turn out?

Well, wouldn't it be cool if we could get a definitive cut of The Blue Dahlia as Raymond Chandler originally intended it?

As you probably know,  Dahlia is an original screenplay by Chandler, creator of Philip Marlowe and the template for tough-guy voiceovers to infinity.

Chandler worked as a screenwriter as well, contributing to adaptations of Double Indemnity and many others, and The Big Sleep was adapted as a Bogie and Bacall vehicle.

John Houseman, Professor Kingsfield but also producer of Blue Dahlia, and others have spelled out the bumpy production path of Dahlia.

It was filmed in 1945, and star Alan Ladd was about to be inducted into the U.S. Army, so things were moving fast.

Chandler's story was to focus on Ladd as a soldier returning from World War II. His wife is murdered at roughly the time he discovers she's having an affair, so he has to solve the crime to clear himself.

Ladd's war buddies, played by future sitcom stars  Hugh Beaumont and William Bendix, were to join in the action of the story. In Chandler's original plan, Bendix's character, injured in battle and prone to rage and forgetfulness, was to be the killer.

The plan was to have him discover the affair as well, kill in a fit of anger then forget his actions.

With the bus for the induction office waiting for Ladd, filming began. Then military officials stepped in and asked for rewrites.

A serviceman responsible for a murder at the height of WWII didn't seem like a good idea. A new ending had to be devised. The story of how Chandler completed the script and invented a new suspect is legendary. Read some of it on Wikipedia.

The original ending didn't end up on the cutting room floor. It was never shot. Chandler arrived at a new ending with some help from, well, help out of a bottle.

So if I could ask Santa for a fantasy Christmas present, it would be for a "writer's cut" of the film. It would be interesting to see  the original ending, where Bendix is confronted and the sad truth revealed to his uncomprehending mind.

It would have made for a tighter story and a better final product overall, perhaps not a perfect film, but one closer to the original vision.

Too bad decisions to revise were made before the cameras rolled.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

That would be pretty cool.

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