Superman vs. the Black Dahlia of local crime stories have two movies to look forward to later this summer, both claiming to be “Hollywood’s most notorious unsolved mystery.”

Hollywoodland stars Ben Affleck as George Reeves, the original TV Superman who was found dead of an apparent self inflicted gunshot to the head (for the morbidly curious, the exact location is 1579 Benedict Canyon). Adrien Brody plays the private investigator hired by Reeve’s family to investigate if the 1959 death was a suicide or foul play (an official inquiry concluded Reeves shot himself, but this is still debated). Hollywoodland is scheduled for a September 8th release. (trailer available at Yahoo!). week later, on September 15th, Brian DePalma’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia finally brings Elizabeth Short to the silver screen… or at least Mia Kirshner’s portrayal of her. Short, who had moved to Los Angeles with the hope of becoming a famous movie star, was found cut in half in an empty lot off Norton Ave. in January 1947. Ellroy’s novel is a fictional account of the criminal investigation that followed, which remains an unsolved and open case nearly sixty years later. (more on the Black Dahlia case can be found at 1947 Project blogger Larry Harnisch’s site “Heaven Is Here”.)

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Both films feature at least a handful of actual Los Angeles locations along with foreign stand ins (A large part of Hollywoodland was shot in Canada, while The Black Dahlia used sets in Bulgaria).

The Hollywood Stock Exchange is currently predicting that neither film will be a blockbuster. A very light $11.75 million opening is being handicapped for Hollywoodland, while The Black Dahlia is expected to pull in $27 million.

While George Reeve’s death is eternally linked to Superman, Elizabeth Short’s case is certainly the more gruesome, if not fascinating, of the two cases. Regardless, having two films about Hollywood lore is going to be decadent treat.

But the question is open for debate… what is Hollywood’s most notorious unsolved mystery?

(George Reeves headline from Wikipedia… Black Dahlia poster from Cinema Empire.)

4 thoughts on “Superman vs. the Black Dahlia”

  1. For the most comprehensive, non-fictionalized version of Elizabeth Short’s story I recommend Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder — by John Gilmore. He digs into the mystery so deep I had nightmares.

  2. Thanks, Michelle. However, Larry Harnisch would take issue with calling “Severed” accurate – many of Gilmore’s claims, such as Short being a prostitute, have no basis in fact. That said, Severed is what got me interested in the story, and certainly a great novel, but if anyone is interested in the story I wouldn’t take it as gospel…

  3. When I saw the trailer for the Reeves flick, I think they teased “most notorious” before saying what it was about and my mind immediately lept to Dahlia . . . .

    The locations are depressing however. Please tell me there was some plot-reason to use Bulgaria for Dahlia. Otherwise . . . just play yuck. Frankly, the fact that it was shot in Wyoming is what makes me unable to really completely get behind Brokeback Mountain. When a location is so integral to the point of the story, shooting somewhere else is nearly insulting.

  4. I know for a fact that they used a number of practical locations around LA for Dahlia. I believe they shot outside of her Cherokee flophouse, and am certain they used the Alto Nido exterior and lobby for other scenes.
    With a period piece, sometimes it makes more sense to find another place that better looks like the setting from the day, so in this case it might be excusable. But with more modern pics, where Toronto substitutes for New York, etc, and other locations are used for the saking of being cheap, I get offended…

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