A 22-year old Hollywood hopeful, Elizabeth Short, was murdered. Her body severed and dissected, the victim was dubbed 'The Black Dahlia' and the crime has fascinated the public since 1947.
Pretty Beth Short was just one of thousands of young girls who ventured to Hollywood, dreaming of becoming famous. Born July 29, 1924, in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Short longed for the bright lights and allure of stardom in Tinsel Town. At age 19 she made her move westward.
A new town, a new identity. Some say Beth Short was nicknamed 'The Black Dahlia' by her hard-drinking friends who mocked her for her dark persona. She had taken to wearing black clothes and dying her hair a darker-than-midnight black. Of course, it's also said that reporters, eager to stoke the lurid aspect of the story, created the 'Black Dahlia' nickname for effect. Gotta sell those papers! The LA Times, the Examiner, and the Herald knew how to turn a murder into increased media hype as effectively as today's cable news overdoses the public with minute-by-minute coverage of such vapid people as heiress Paris Hilton.
Like so many other sad young would-be actresses and Hollywood hangers-on, Short confused the excitement of rubbing shoulders (and what else was she rubbing?) with anyone with Hollywood connections to building an authentic life for herself. She hovered on the dark side of filmdom and connected with more villains than heroes. What kind of Hollywood connections did she have? Noted actor Franchot Tone reportedly tried to hit on Beth Short but, perhaps, it was Short who was taking aim at seducing the film star?
Beth was a drifter... never staying in one place, or with one man, for long. She lived in a series of ramshackle rooming houses in Los Angeles and Hollywood and had numerous affairs with soldiers and sailors. She was last seen alive in the bar of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on January 9, 1947. From that moment on, the rest of her life would forever be shrouded in mystery.
She was found in a vacant field of the Crenshaw District on Norton Street, north of 39th, not far from the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 15th. Her body had been severed in two, disemboweled, drained of blood, and mutilated. There were signs that she had been tortured before her death. The corpse had been placed in a macabre position with her legs spread wide apart and her arms placed at wide angles in a manner that resembled a puppet whose parts had been oddly disconnected.
The investigation into her murder was the largest manhunt the LAPD had ever undertaken. A paperboy claimed to have seen a black Ford near the death scene at 6 a.m. Was the driver the murderer? When the story was told in headlines across the width and breadth of LA, over 50 men reportedly 'confessed' to the murder. However, to this day the murder remains unsolved — and the LAPD case file is still open.
Elizabeth Short was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. She became famous only because her death brought her name into the headlines and launched a series of books, movies, television shows and endless speculation. It was a sad end for a very sad life.