I should have asked hard-boiled crime writer James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential,” “My Dark Places”) the obvious question during his L.A. Film Festival appearance on Monday night at the Italian Cultural Center — what is his view of alleged wiretapper and hard-guy Anthony Pellicano, and particularly Pellicano’s declaration that he’ll never rat out his clients?
Knowing Ellroy as I do (i.e., only slightly), he probably would have called Pellicano a punk and a poseur, but I won’t know for sure until the next time.
Crime-novel author James Ellroy, who’s shaved his moustache and lost a few pounds since the photo was taken five years ago.
The question I did ask was about the fictional plot of The Black Dahlia, Brian De Palma’s noir thriller based on Ellroy’s book of the same name. I was trying to get at the present-day interest among audiences in watching yet another fictional Dahlia tale on top of three or four cheapy TV movies plus Ulu Grosbard’s 1982 True Confessions**.
The Black Dahlia cow been milked too many damn times, and the teats are red and sore.
I’m especially convinced of this due to the fact that the “unsolved” murder of aspiring actress and troubled party girl Elizabeth Short has, to some people’s satisfaction (including my own), been solved.
Ellroy dismissed the “solve” as speculative on Monday night and he may be right, but read this 4.2.03 Washington Post article by William Booth about a book called “Black Dahlia Avenger” by former LAPD detective Steve Hodel, and go over all the disclosures and allegations and apparent facts.
When you’ve done that, convince me that Hodel’s father, a Los Angeles physician namd George Hodel, Jr., who ran a clinic treating venereal diseases (and who died in 1999 after leaving the U.S. and moving to Asia in 1950), doesn’t sound awfully damn guilty.
That’s right…Steve Hodel’s father.
Black Dahlia costars Hilary Swank, Josh Hartnett
L.A. Times writer Larry Harnisch voiced another persuasive theory about a man he believes was the Black Dahlia killer (a surgeon named Walter Bayley) in Vikram Jayanti’s excellent 2001 doc James Ellroy’s Feast of Death. Read Harnisch’s site for the whole kit and kaboodle.
Ellroy wouldn’t discuss Bayley or Hodel on Monday night, I’m guessing, because notions of a solve would obviously drain the DePalma film of whatever allure it may have going in, and that would obviously lessen interest in people wanting to buy Ellroy’s fictional book about the case.
Another angle is the fact that Ellroy’s interest in cops, sex crimes and the seamy underbelly of Los Angeles stems in large part from the strangulation murder of his mother, Jean Ellroy, in 1958, when James was 10.
In the mid ’90s Ellroy published “My Dark Places,” a book about an unsuccessful attempt to solve her killing. The murderer was probably a guy she was seeing on some basis, but no final investigative score ever happened. I have an idea that because Ellroy doesn’t have closure on his mom’s death, he’s not comfortable with wrapping things up on Elizabeth Short.
Universal’s The Black Dahlia, which costars Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhardt, Scarlett Johansson, Mia Kershner and Hilary Swank, is slated for release on 9.15.
Ellroy said on Monday night that he’s watched hours of dailies from DePalma’s film and said he would be doing promotion for it and, like with L.A. Confidential, that he’s fairly happy with the end result.
His favorite element in The Black Dahlia, he said, is Josh Hartnett, who plays a haunted cop named Bucky Bleichert who, along with partner Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), is assigned to look into Short’s (Mia Kirshner) grisly murder. (Her nude body was found in two pieces, sliced at the waist, on south Norton Avenue.)
Ellroy said, “Hartnett reads lines that I wrote with near perfect inflection every time.”
Ellroy is living in Los Angeles now, and that’s good. (I tried offering a link to a video piece about him discussing his return home while dining at one of his favorite haunts, the Pacific Dining Car, but it’s dead.) And he’s a lot slimmer these days than he was four or five years ago, and full of energy and in jolly spirits.
It was lot of fun listening to Ellroy’s well-honed shpiel the other night, although he’s not much of a conversationalist. Zap2it’s Hanh Nguyen has written a pretty good rundown of the highlights. You just need to scroll down a bit.
** True Confessions isn’t out on DVD by the way. What’s up with that?