Adaptations of the story go back to the 1950′s – you can see one magazine clip from 1953 where Mara Corday was signed to play the Black Dahlia. Hell. Let’s all read it:
I don’t think Mara looks as much like Elizabeth Short as she thinks she does – I think Elizabeth’s sexy, sexy, sex appeal is actually blown somewhat out of proportion – but never mind that.
What’s interesting – at least to me, is the fact that this story has been being adapted essentially since it happened in 1947. Elizabeth Short was beautiful, but she wasn’t famous (yet). She was not, for instance, Sharon Tate. She wasn’t married to someone particularly notable. And yes, her murder was horrible, but all murders are horrible.
This story is old enough to be your grandmother, but we’re still not over it.
What people say is horrifying about the Black Dahlia is the extremely graphic nature of the pictures of the body. They’re right. The pictures are graphic, and awful, awful in such a way that the woman who first saw Short’s body lying on the sidewalk thought that she was a discarded mannequin. No matter what the Nip/Tuck intro (remember Nip/Tuck?) would lead you to believe, people who are not Kim Catrall are rarely actually mistaken for mannequins. I’ll show you those pictures, but not just yet. It’s not because you’re not ready or I’m trying to build suspense or anything. It’s that I’m not googling them until I have a bourbon.
But the thing that really bothers me about the Black Dahlia, more than the pictures, more than the kind of trashy highly successful novel based on it, is that I can never seem to find a definitive account of what happened. I can’t even really tell you if the murder is any closer to being solved. There are accounts that claim that the culprit has been revealed (one woman implicated her own father and – maybe?) and others that claim that it will never be solved. That, at least, is what keeps drawing me back, fascinated, into this one particular story. So. Because some of the facts are so uncertain, maybe it’s best to begin with what we do know.