Remembering the Black Dahlia 65 years after her death

Beth Short was 22 when she died.

Today is the 65th anniversary of one of Hollywood’s most famous unsolved murders: the brutal slaying and mutilation of Elizabeth Short, also known as the Black Dahlia.

Her body, which had been cut in half at the waist, was found in a vacant lot at 39th Street and Norton Avenue in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 1947. She was 22 years old.

Born in a Boston suburb on July 29, 1924, Elizabeth was the third of five daughters. Her father abandoned the family and her mother struggled to make ends meet. In 1944, Elizabeth came to California, hoping to live with her father; after a brief stay, he told her to leave.

It’s possible that she hoped to find work as an actress in Los Angeles but, with little education or means to support herself, she was frequently on the move, looking for new opportunities and cheap places to live. A few weeks prior to her death, Elizabeth stayed with a family in San Diego. She rode back to Los Angeles with a man named Red Manley and was seen downtown at the Biltmore Hotel on Jan. 9, 1947.

The Black Dahlia case remains unsolved.

Because the case was gruesome and sensational, and so little is known for certain about her life, theories and speculation, suspects and confessions abound. Police corruption and unethical journalistic practice severely impeded efforts to find justice. Her story spurred a plethora of media coverage as well as non-fiction and fiction books, including James Ellroy’s 1987 novel, “The Black Dahlia,” which was the basis for Brian DePalma’s film of the same name, made in 2006.

While her murder remains unsolved and many details are sketchy, it seems likely that Elizabeth ran out of friends and favors, that in those bleak days of January 1947, now such a long time ago, she had very few places to turn. With that in mind and to remember Elizabeth Short, I hope you’ll join me in making a donation to a women’s charity, such as the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles, or a similar organization in your area.


Free stuff from FNB: Win ‘The Film That Changed My Life’

Winners of the April giveaway have been selected and contacted. One will receive “Blow Out,” Brian DePalma’s 1981 neo-noir thriller starring John Travolta. The movie was recently rereleased by Criterion. The other winner will receive a copy of “The Maybelline Story and the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It,” a book by Sharrie Williams.

For the May giveaway, I am giving away a copy of my friend and former colleague Robert K. Elder’s book: “The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark.” Directors include: Danny Boyle, Peter Bogdanovich, John Dahl, Henry Jaglom, Guy Maddin, Atom Egoyan, Richard Linklater, John Woo, John Landis, Neil LaBute and John Waters.

(Meanwhile, Rob has a new book out called, “It Was Over When: Tales of Romantic Dead Ends,” based on stories compiled via his web site of the same name.)

To enter the May giveaway, just leave a comment on any FNB post through May 31. The winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early June. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Your email will not be shared.

Good luck!


Free stuff from FNB: Win ‘Blow Out’ or ‘The Maybelline Story’

Gerald C. has won March’s giveaway and will receive a copy of “Sweet Smell of Success,” recently rereleased by Criterion. For the April giveaway, I have two nice prizes and will pick two winners.

John Travolta in "Blow Out"

First, the lovely people at Criterion will provide a copy of Brian DePalma’s 1981 neo-noir thriller, “Blow Out,” starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen and John Lithgow. Extras include new interviews with DePalma and Allen.

Second, eyeing up a family drama: In 1915, when Tom Lyle Williams watched his sister Mabel fix her fire-singed lashes and brows with petroleum jelly, coal dust and ash, little did he know he was making a date with destiny. Read about the building of an iconic brand in “The Maybelline Story and the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It,” a book by Sharrie Williams with Bettie Youngs.

To enter, just leave a comment on any FNB post from April 1-30. The winners will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early May. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Your email will not be shared.

Good luck!

Filmways Pictures image


Film noir’s feline stars: The cat in ‘Femme Fatale’

More on the most famous kitties in film noir

The Cat on the Control Panel in “Femme Fatale” 2002

Name: Funk Soul Furrier

Character Name: Clouzot the Control Room Cat

Funk Soul Furrier has long been famous in the south of France.

Bio: Funk Soul Furrier is a part-time actor and full-time DJ, creating the intense, kit-kat rap that critic Naught DeClawde calls “the edgiest sound yet from the alley.” His album “No Mo’ Kow-Tow to the Bow-Wow” sold 24 million copies worldwide.

With his sultry good looks and haute high-tech, Funk Soul was a natural to play Clouzot the Control Room Cat, a key staffer at the Palais du Cinema, the primary theater of the Cannes Film Festival, and setting for the suspenseful opening of “Femme Fatale.”

While he may be new to American audiences, he has long been famous in the south of France, particularly in Nice, where he owns and runs Le club de Chat et de Souris (The Cat and Mouse Club).

Since playing in “Femme Fatale,” he has landed starring roles in several high-concept cat-food commercials as well as cameos in a handful of Polish art films.

“Femme Fatale” director Brian de Palma said of Funk Soul’s performance: “His honesty and emotion just knocked me out. He did an amazing job with very little input from me.”

Image from