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Raymond Chandler wrote his first original screenplay for this film. According to modern sources, shooting began before Chandler finished the script, which had to be submitted to the Navy Department for approval. In Chandler's published letters, he says that he "threatened to walk off the picture, not yet finished, unless they stopped the director from putting in fresh dialogue out of his own head. As to the scenes of violence, I did not write them that way at all...The broken toe incident was an accident. The man actually did break his toe, so the director immediately capitalized on it." Chandler also noted that the Navy Department altered the outcome of the story. In Chandler's words, "What the Navy Department did to the story was a little thing like making me change the murderer and hence making a routine whodunit out of a fairly original idea." According to Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA urged the studio to remove the suggestion of "Johnny" jabbing his thumb in "Leo's" eye and asked that a closeup of "Corelli" being beaten up be omitted and that the line "When I was a kid in Chicago I saw a cop shoot a little white dog to death" be changed or omitted.
Much of the film was shot on location in Hollywood and the surrounding Los Angeles area, including the Hollywood bus station and a row of Cahuenga Boulevard USO centers and canteens frequented by servicemen; Cahuenga Pass; a site near the Griffith Park Observatory; the Sunset Strip and the Bel Air Bay Club in Beverly Hills; the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica; Malibu and Encino. Hollywood Reporter news items list Grady Sutton and Ray Teal in the cast, but they were not in the released film. Chandler was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). This film marked Alan Ladd's first screen appearance since his discharge from the army. Ladd and Veronica Lake were first teamed together in This Gun for Hire. The Blue Dahlia marked the third time they were featured co-stars. In 1942, Paramount released The Glass Key, which also starred Ladd, Lake and featured William Bendix. For further information on the popular co-stars, see the entries for This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key below.