The Black Dahlia has become so thoroughly transformed into a myth about what happens to nice, small-town girls in big, bad Hollywood (“achieving in death the fame that eluded her in life”) that it’s almost impossible to write about the killing or the investigation with any accuracy.
It’s a complicated case to begin with, and matters have been made even worse by highly fictionalized “true” crime books and a craze of “daddy did it” claims -- I know of three purported “killer dads” but this is a thriving cottage industry and there may be more.
The latest errors appear in a Jacket Copy post on the videogame L.A. Noire:
On the movie “The Blue Dahlia”:
“And it was playing in theaters when actress Elizabeth Short was murdered in January 1947; journalists looking for a hook to talk about the unusual killing called her the Black Dahlia.”
Well, no. First, Elizabeth Short wasn’t an actress – it’s a stretch to even call her anything but a wannabe actress. Elizabeth Short wanted to be an actress the way people want to win the lottery.
Second, “The Blue Dahlia” was long gone from theaters by January 1947.
Third, and this is one of our beloved myths: Reporters nicknamed the case. The Herald-Express frequently nicknamed killings, like the “Red Hibiscus Murder,” and in fact tried to nickname the Black Dahlia as “the Werewolf Murder.” Elizabeth Short got the Black Dahlia nickname from customers at a drugstore lunch counter in Long Beach as a takeoff on the title of “The Blue Dahlia.”
Then we have:
“we know the Black Dahlia was left naked, washed of all blood, elegantly coiffed and cut in two.”
Another favorite Black Dahlia myth is that the killer gave her a complete makeover: hair, nails, etc. Unfortunately, morgue shots of Elizabeth Short are all over the Web and it’s easy to determine that this is ridiculous.