An Interview with John Gilmore
Author of Severed: The True Story of The Black Dahlia Murder, Gilmore gave an interview in 1963 about his interest in this case. I have edited to make the blog less lengthy, and where details are added that I believe to be unnecessary. I add my own comments in italics until the last two paragraphs of my blog.
As to the inspiration and curiosity [about Elizabeth Short] on a personal level: I met Elizabeth Short when I was about eleven years old. She came to my grandmother’s house believing the Short side of my family might’ve been related to her family, and she was seeking information regarding her father. Obviously this was during the time when Elizabeth, her sisters and mother believed he was dead or simply picked up and left.This meeting became a haunting sort of memory following her murder months later. Like everyone in Los Angeles, I had been fascinated with the case…. (a remarkable connection between Short and Marilyn Monroe was through Gilmore, although there is no telling if Short was dead when Gilmore knew Monroe. Gilmore was also involved with the Strasbergs and was involved with the Actors Studio).
….however, I continued my investigations, feeling I had gone too far to turn back. At that time many people linked in some way to Beth Short were still alive. I wasn’t a cop. They could talk without fearing whatever they said “might be held against” them. This confirms for me that somebody – or somebodies – knew “too much” and fearing for their lives, refused to come forward with a witness statement. My publisher was interested in what I’d been doing with the Black Dahlia case, and this was how the concept of a book first came about. I had no idea then that it would take me another twenty years before the many pieces of the puzzle began to take shape enough for a picture to emerge. Even then, it was and is a study in shadow.
After many years of associations with press and police, I knew that whole field lived in a different place–like where they operated was on the face side of the moon. Where I had to go was to find what I was looking for was on the dark side.The Black Dahlia case is a world in shadow–a night world where things and people move in the dark, where motivations and individual psychologies are riddled with inconsistencies and ambiguity. But I was hooked–it became a peculiar juggling act of odd shapes and strange chunks, seemingly without pattern. I’d jumped into a dark, lonely lake and was going to the bottom without knowing what I’d find. All I knew was that I had to keep going. It became an obsession, they say, because I was chasing something I knew not what–only that I knew that it was.I have usually referred to Elizabeth Short as “Beth” since that’s what she called herself–what she was known as. Back east, her relatives knew her as Bette, but she called herself “Beth.”
The motion picture rights to Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder had been under option by Edward Pressman Films for six years but the project was dismissed. Then Chris Hanley was then producing Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder, for Edward Pressman Films. Novelist Colin Wilson stated it is “the best book on the Black Dahlia–in fact, the only reliable book.” I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read it and for reasons I explain at the end of this blog, I don’t plan on it. A brief sample from Gilmore’s book:
A murder scene has its own special kind of life for a detective, its own signature. Even though the girl had been murdered elsewhere and the body brought to the lot, the spot where she was found was a “sacred setting”, as Hansen called it. Time and circumstances could be read from even the most seemingly insignificant piece of evidence – elements that could shed light not only on the victim but on the murderer. The success of closing a case could be jeopardized from the start by a bunch of curiosity seekers hungry for the gory details.
“Homicide is a union that never dies,” Hansen would say. “A bond is formed that finds the two subjects in a set of circumstances that’re tighter than a marriage wedding – tied together into infinity. Nobody needs it being busted up from the outside.
“That’s why I say it’s sacred,” because it’s ground that’s been walked on only once and it’s never crossed again. You can get married three times to the same individual but you can only kill them once, and it’s an irreversible act. And where it’s taken place and where you find the body is damn near the same thing because they both were there – the one that’s dead and the one that’s alive. Even when we catch that living one and hopefully put them to death, there is still that union that tied them together. And it’s still as irreversible as the very second it happened…”
Gilmore admitted he had no idea who could have killed Elizabeth Short. He has stated that it is a “murder mystery that will never be solved.” The book is the “true story” of the Black Dahlia. Gilmore’s previous words are rumoured to be the truest about Short that will ever be published but I disagree. It may be that he recounts some facts with preciseness, but his opinion of Short and how she became the killer’s victim border on the inane. He stated he had access to Short’s closed autopsy reports and the reports reveal she had defective genitalia, rendering it impossible for her to have sex. I’ve read that information before and I’ve read many publications that state this statement is false. Miller wrote: The SEVERED book went so far as to state, “STRANGE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER VICTIM WAS NOT A BEAUTIFUL FEMME FATALE, BUT WAS A MAN.” Seriously. Talk about trying to sell a fiction (I’d place Gilbert’s book in that category).
He also made many degrading statements about Short in his book, including the label “crippled” (due to her supposedly deformed genitals). But far worse than this, was is his statement that Short helped to orchestrate her own death: “I think [the killer] was there at the right time, at the right place, as if to say, take my hand– the spider and the fly. And I think she was a willing fly. She was willing herself into the crime…”
It seems to me that the killer committed more than enough atrocities against Short. She doesn’t need John Gilbert adding extreme insult to extreme injury. Well, he was an actor himself, one of those Hollywood “types” who clearly cannot be trusted. I would suggest if you read his work you do so with a large grain of salt in mind.