Wednesday, January 15, 2014
JANUARY 15 = "The Black Dahlia" is Found Dead in L.A.
"Bette was a porcelain China doll with beautiful eyes -- think of them as blue, but sometimes would change depending on color she wore, and became greenish."
- Anna Dougherty, Medford Classmate
“Elizabeth Short was a pale, pie-faced, blue-eyed, dark-haired Irish Protestant girl from the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. She was by all accounts imaginative, flighty, given to prevarication, she may have been a habitual liar; she was certainly a romantic. She was a tormented, sweet natured, love starved, lost little girl who never got the chance to grow up. Her dream was entirely silly, and it was the dream of countless other fatuous girls of the American 1940’s – she wanted to be an actress, she wanted to be a movie star.
We’ll never know if she had talent.”
- James Ellroy, author of "The Black Dahlia"
"It's going to be so wonderful, darling, when all of this is over. You want to slip away and be married. We'll do whatever you wish, darling. Whatever you want. I love you and all I want is you."
- Elizabeth Short, in an un-mailed letter to her "fiance'" dated May 8, 1945.
Elizabeth Short. Her badly mutilated remains were discovered in a vacant lot in Los Angeles on today's date, January 15 in 1947. She soon became known as "the Black Dahlia". Beyond that, what can one say about her? So much of what one can or perhaps cannot say about her is summed up in the fact that I have been obliged to place the word "fiance'" in quotation marks above. So much of what I have read about her in the past few days while researching her story has been stated as clearly settled fact in one seemingly authoritative source, only to be dismissed, or brought into question in another source. So please bear with me as I say a lot of words or phrases like "apparently", or "seems to", etc. in the coming paragraphs. Also: since this subject is primarily about the murder of a young woman and the subsequent mutilation and dismemberment of her body, some of the details which I will be discussing are graphic to say the least, so WARNING: READERS DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Elizabeth Short Moves to Hollywood
Beautiful Young Beth Drifts, Looking for Love.
While in Florida, Beth developed a flirtatious manner and a model-like appearance and bearing. With her alabaster white complexion, her flashing blue/green eyes, and her full mane of black hair, she presented a striking picture to the world. Her friendly, easy-going manner, and sweet smile made her very popular with men - a fact which she knew and cultivated. She spent two months living with her father. Cleo was a difficult man, expecting his daughter to be a house-keeper and general servant to him. But Beth was enjoying the company of young men, and spending a lot of time on evenings out with them. So they fought, and either Cleo ordered her to leave, or she had had enough of domestic servitude and she left of her own accord. Either way, she left Vallejo to move to southern California. She acquired a job at the PX at Camp Cooke. Naturally popular with the GIs, she was voted "Camp Cooke's Cutie of the Week" in the Camp Newspaper. But in September of 1943, she was out partying with friends, and was arrested for underage drinking (back then you had to be 21). She was sent back to Medford by the local authorities.
Elizabeth Short Disappears Into the Night
In July of 1946, Elizabeth returned to Los Angeles. She seems to have embarked on a fairly transient existence, living with friends, boyfriends, and acquaintances, never staying at one residence for more than two weeks. Continuing to date men and hanging around theaters and swanky restaurants and looking for work in the movies, she wound up at the home of her friend Dorothy French. She wore out her welcome though, by staying out late, sleeping into the afternoon, and making no effort to find work. She spent much time with a boyfriend whom she called "Red". One afternoon, a man and a woman came calling for Beth at the French home. Clearly frightened, she refused to answer the door. She would not tell Dorothy what she was afraid of, but called Red to come and get her. Red, who turned out to be a married man named Robert Manley in Los Angeles on a sales trip picked her up and the two then drove around for awhile spending the night in a motel, although Manley later claimed that Short would not sleep with him. On the afternoon of January 9, he dropped her off at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. after helping her to check her luggage at the Greyhound Bus station. She told Manley that she was to meet her sister at the Biltmore, although her sister said that she had no such appointment. Manley had to go, so he left her there. She was observed making phone calls before finally leaving at 10:00 p.m.
Elizabeth Short Becomes "The Black Dahlia"
READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!! You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!
"The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles"
by Donald H. Wolfe, Harper Collins Publ. New York, 2005.
"The Black Dahlia" Dir. by Brian DePalma, Universal Studios, 2006.