A Daytime Review of the 2019 Hodel Docuseries, “I Am The Night”
March 17, 2023
Birch Bay, Washington
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Top of the mornin’ to all.
I AM THE NIGHT– A Review in Daylight
I have deliberately avoided watching the miniseries I Am The Night for the past four years, knowing a “fictional version” about my family and the Black Dahlia investigation would only get my blood up after spending twenty years compiling and presenting—”just the facts.”
This weekend (March 11-12, 2023), I decided it was time to get over my reluctance to view the series, so I have just finished binging the six episodes.
Here are my thoughts/review of the series. I present them as objectively as possible, considering it is not just “close to home” but goes inside the walls and presents a “real life interpretation” of both my father (Dr. George Hill Hodel) and my mother, Dorothy Jean Hodel (name changed to Corinna Hodel in the series.)
Though 95% fictional, the series makes it clear that Dr. George Hill Hodel was the prime suspect in the original Elizabeth Short, “Black Dahlia” murder, and further, that he committed the crime. That he was a powerful mover/shaker in 1940s Los Angeles and had connections, influence, and control over local L.A. politicians and law enforcement.
The series presents a brief but reasonably accurate summary of the 1949 Incest Trial, where my father was charged with sexually molesting my half-sister, Tamar, then, age 14. That Tamar, in the trial, is painted with a “pathological liar” brush which included a defense rebuttal to the seated jury that she also, in addition to the sexual allegations, made the outlandish claim “that her father killed the Black Dahlia.” (Which in the series was presented with actual laughter coming from the jurors.) What happened in real life was that Tamar was told by the LAPD officers taking her to and from Juvenile Hall that “they suspected that George Hodel killed the Black Dahlia” and let her know that they were actively investigating him. This Tamar told an unknown person, and it got back to defense attorney Neeb, who used it to ridicule and support his claim that “Tamar was a pathological liar.”
Also included in the series was George Hodel’s connections to the L.A. Abortion Ring and his being protected by corrupt LAPD officers who looked the other way and allowed him to operate freely. (pun intended.)
Overall, the series provided extended exposure and reached out to a broader audience with the basic fact that Dr. George Hill Hodel was a psychopath that committed the 1947 Black Dahlia murder and was a major force of Evil.
From a production standpoint, on a scale of 10, I would rate the overall series as a 5.
I found the biggest problem was—Dialogue. The script was poorly written and totally out of sync with the Sixties. The conversations between the characters came off as stilted and phony. Consequently, it turned some excellent actors into bad ones. Caca in, caca out. Not their fault.
Ditto on the police procedures. The LAPD of the 1930s and 1940s was pulled out of the past, and the screenwriters had them operating in the mid-1960s. Again, totally out of sync. By the Sixties, Chief William H. Parker had mostly cleaned up the Department, and none of the on-screen brutality would have been tolerated. “The New Breed” of policemen was in full swing, but without batons. (I know, I was there.) The police corruptions and brutalities, as shown in the series, were long gone. It was as if the screenwriters were trying to steal from Polanski’s Chinatown of the 1930s and time warp it and its characters into the 1960s.
Mostly this has to do with fact vs. fiction. As I indicated, the series was about 95% total fiction.
Fact– My niece, Fauna, Tamar’s daughter, never met my father, Dr. George Hill Hodel, in life and was never followed by him or any of his confederates. He fled L.A. in 1950 to Hawaii, then on to Asia and Manila, P.I.
Fact- Fauna was never inside the walls of the Sowden/Franklin home which was sold by George Hodel prior to her birth and no longer the Hodel residence.
Fact- My mother never had contact with Fauna Hodel’s family, never interacted with Fauna’s adopted mother and only met Fauna on one brief occasion (I was present with my two brothers) when Fauna came to L.A. in search of her mother, Tamar, in the Seventies.)
Fact- Fauna was NOT the child of George Hodel and Tamar, as represented in the series. (That fiction is right out of Chinatown, “she’s my sister, she’s, my daughter.”) Tamar was already pregnant when she came to George Hodel, and the father was Joe Barrett, a 25-year-old tenant living at the Sowden/Franklin House. Tamar’s pregnancy was attempted to be aborted by our father who gave her Ergot, (documented in police/court files) that failed and he secured a Beverly Hills doctor (Dr. Francis Ballard) who performed the abortion and was arrested and charged along with George Hodel in 1949.
Fauna’s father was a Male, White, Italian who liquored up Tamar when she was sixteen, home from Juvenile Hall after the trial, and living in San Francisco with her mother, Dorothy Barbe. He had sex with her, resulting in the pregnancy and Fauna’s birth on August 1, 1951. The producers of I Am The Night knowing that DNA confirmed the truth, refused to release the information and deliberately misrepresented the truth as it conflicted with their about-to-be-released production—which falsely purported that Dr. George Hill Hodel was her father.
These are just some general observations regarding the main actors in their roles in I AM THE NIGHT.
I am a big fan of Chris Pine and consider him a highly gifted actor. His role as a has-been reporter with PTSD and a taste for cocaine and searching for the truth of who killed the Black Dahlia was totally over-the-top. Again, not his fault. Terrible dialogue and his scripted scenes went from bad to worse.
She is a great actor, but the dialogue pulled her way down from her usually outstanding abilities. Again, I thought her performance was the best of show, but again it fell back on the writing. As they say, “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shi*.”
I am unfamiliar with actor May’s prior roles but believe me; I knew George Hodel, and Mr. May’s performance was no George Hodel. The actor’s performance as GHH was a total bust. The real Dr. Hodel possessed abundant charm and wit and could fit himself into any social situation. He was loved by all. Charismatic and the life of the party. He was the last person you would suspect was a psychopath. Sadly, Mr. May’s performance as GHH on a scale of 10 was—a 3.
Dorothy “Dorero” Hodel
I wanted to like Ms. Nielsen’s role as my mother, but again, she was way off the mark. Like the rest, it was not her fault, but whoever was responsible for backgrounding and researching Dorothy Hodel didn’t do their homework. Mother was intelligent extremely literate but soft and unaffected. Men loved her for her sensuousness, coupled with her vulnerability. Ms. Nielsen played her as just the opposite, hard, bitter, and affected. She would have been perfect for the role if she had been so informed.
In the past I have referenced the completed, but never released film, “Pretty Hattie’s Baby-The True Story of Fauna Hodel” which was produced and completed in 1990, with no mention of “The Black Dahlia” because Fauna Hodel would not become aware of any Black Dahlia linkage to our family and the name HODEL until my investigation and book, Black Dahlia Avenger, published some thirteen years later in 2003.
In making IATN, Fauna, a credited producer, would cut and paste from the detailed Hodel biographies and my father’s crime signatures as presented in BDA I, (2003) BDA II (2014), and BDA III (2018) and create a whole fictional “Black Dahlia Scenario” for the miniseries in 2019.
In closing this “review” let me just say STAY TUNED.
We will be presenting, the non-fiction, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius For Murder (I, II, and III, (now in production) which will adapt my books and investigation to film.
Happy St. Patrick’s and top of the morning to you. I’ve watched this miniseries at least seven times and, speaking as a “punter,” I believe the writers deserve some credit for integrating complex, divergent themes and material into an absorbing drama. No doubt there’s a bunch of clunky stuff in there, like Jay’s PTSD, the police brutality (I think lifted from LA CONFIDENTIAL) and much besides (e.g., GHH’s Igor-ish sidekick, amateurish ensemble scenes.) There are also some bits that really paid off dramatically: the Rachmaninov scene, the trial, the Sade speech and the desert attack are all memorable for me.
I believe Jefferson Mays said in an interview that he made no attempt to impersonate the real GHH. Surely there is at least an aspect of GHH captured in his acidic Brititsh schoolmaster interpretation — the side that comes through in the Zodiac letters. Having recently read about Vernon Spencer’s prickly, imperious personality, I wonder if he had a similar “front.”
I take the “inspired by real events” disclaimer at face value. At least this show veers so far from actual events that nobody could take it as “gospel.”
Looking forward to “A Genius for Murder.”
All the best,
Well, because it was so personal for me, I was/am very concerned that “people will take it for gospel.” That is generally what happens. Take the 1981 film, “True Confessions” (an excellent film) but presents Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short, as “The Virgin Tramp” who made porn films. Then Ellroy’s fictional “Black Dahlia” book, followed by the film (which I haven’t seen) but know that he trashes her character and reputation. Fiction all, but the reading/viewing public believes what they read and see. Those are the reasons I wrote a complete chapter rehabilitating the real Elizabeth Short who was none of those things. Fauna’s life story, being raised by a Black family and believing she was Black until adulthood was an amazing story. I believe it was well captured and well told in the unreleased film, “Pretty Hattie’s Baby”. The film, completed in 1991, told the true story of Fauna’s life, and had nothing to do with nor did they even know about the Black Dahlia connections. So, to fictionalize Fauna’s life story as well as my family’s lives was a major discredit to both her original book and film and the Hodel name.
Steve, our HEALING Circle assembled and sends you a centering, cleansing breath and powerful VIBRATIONS for ancestral HEALING. Ancestral healing HEALS the wounds of past generations and links us to our forefathers and foremothers! You have wise ancestors in your lineage waiting for your connection.
We send you peace always,
Yes, thank you for sharing the TRUTH, my sister’s REAL STORY was AMAZING!!! I had so much respect for her and how pulled through it…she AND the story of our family change many times…..so sad. Truth good or bad. Is BEST.! Thank you Uncle Steve, for your bravery, certainly was not for money as I believe I AM THE NIGHT perhaps and disappointedly was, with out care to those who were harmed by our Grandfather, Tamar. It was also in cruel to give the appearance that we MUST have known that her story had been so Drastically changed.. We as a family did not shown anything other then the very first episode before the release.
Dear Dear Fauna Elizabeth,
When our Healing CIRCLE meets we will send you a cleansing, centering breath and powerful VIBRATIONS for ancestral healing! Ancestral healing is our devotion to clear negative ancestral energy from our lives and connect us to our forefathers and foreMothers for healing the wounds of the past.
Peace to you, to Steve, to brother Kel
I, for one, am glad you gave the proper time interval between original release and this review of GWTN. Most readers of your original work could easily pick up on the major defects in the story as presented by this fictionalized program. Thank you for setting the record straight on all the aspects that twisted the facts in this case for their own profit. It only makes me want to see your current project of bringing your BDA I, II and III books to fruition all the more.
I have great faith in my film director/producer and believe he will be able to “tell the story” accurately and with passion.
I enjoyed IATN as fiction. Since I read all your books I knew what was wrong. I do like that the surrealism movement was woven in. But I truly look forward to your production and how it can tell the real story.
Yes, as I say in “The Good” it did get a lot of exposure out there as to the fact that he was the real killer and had been suspected from the “get-go” back in 1947. Looking forward to being able to present a deep-dive into his crime signature of “Murder As A Fine Art” as presented in BDA I, II, and III.
To add another FACT, George drugged and abused Tamar”s second daughter, by Stan Wilson & Tamar. Not Fauna Hodel. Although Unce Steve made it quite clear my sister DID NOT KNOW GEORGE HODEL, referring to the scene of George “drugging & attacking my sister !!!! NOT ONLY DID THAT NOT HAPPEN, it is a HUGE misinformation considering that GEORGE Hodel ACTUALLY DID drug his granddaughter
DEW AKA FaunaElizabeth for more then seven hours I was drugged, stripped of my clothes posting MY body while taking pictures and touching me. It is bad enough that this happened to me, and it hurt greatly that she used MY experience in this way. I DO LOVE my sister, and never dreamed she would lie about our families past…I am very confused by this. That REALLY HUT ME… I pray to this day it was the script writer and NOT my sister’s INTENDING to MISREPRESENT the damage George caused and to whom….the lies break my heart…our life was hard enough just living it!!!
I met Fauna when she leased an apartment from me in year 1989 or 90 on Doheny Dr in LA. Sean Ferrer was the Producer of PHB and helped in getting her and Lilian settled in LA.
As stated this movie was never released. I still have the newspaper article of when it was being filmed in Reno, As a longtime friend of Fauna’s during this period there was no mention of the Black Dahlia. She told me about that connection long after meeting her while filming PHB.
The miniseries was disappointing and the story told by Fauna didn’t match up. .
Fauna and I stayed in touch all the way up to her untimely death. I often wonder what she would have thought of that miniseries. I sure miss her.
I look forward to watching whatever you are creating as I know, it will be told with accuracy and truth.
Dyan- Thanks for sharing that information. Yes, as I’ve indicated in prior blogs Pretty Hattie’s Baby as written and told back in 1990 is the true version of Fauna’s life. It did not contain, nor did she mention to you back then, anything about the Black Dahlia because she had no knowledge of the crime or our family connection to it until I published Black Dahlia Avenger in 2003. I have read those early 1990 Reno newspaper articles you reference here and think I will publish them in a blog for further clarification. Would love to see PHB completed and released. It’s a powerful story without having to fictionally add “The Black Dahlia” to it. Best, Steve
My girlfriend gave me Black Dahlia Avenger for Christmas. I have read it twice now.
Question for you, sir. Did you listen to Root of Evil? Is it true?
Yes, I was interviewed extensively for the Root of Evil podcast and most episodes are highly accurate and true.
A few small problems like the producers not allowing a segment that established by DNA that Fauna was not the daughter of George Hodel. It was recorded for the final session, but they removed it. Also, where my two great nieces, (Fauna’s children, Yvette Gentile and Rasha Pecoraro) who were inserted in the show due to Fauna’s untimely death, state they grew up hearing/knowing about thier mother’s Grandfather, George Hodel “being “The Black Dahlia suspect”. Not true Fauna did not learn about him being a suspect until some time AFTER my book, Black Dahlia Avenger, was published in 2003. But 95% of the podcast was accurate and well done by the director, Zak Levitt.
Thank you, sir.
I read Black Dahlia Avenger twice. In the part where you talk about Thoughtprints was that a course at the Police Academy? Can you recommend a book on the science of Thoughtprints?
Re. the term “thoughtprints” no not a course taught. I coined the term myself to explain how a person, place, or event can potentially connect an individual to a crime . Just like a fingerprint. See below link.
Thank you, sir.
I did a proposal to write a term paper on the science of thoughtprints using Black Dahlia Avenger and the FAQ. The teacher writes me that it is the same as profiling. I don’t think so but I can’t explain it. Is thoughtprints the same?
To add another FACT, George drugged and abused Tamar”s second daughter, by Stan Wilson & Tamar. Not Fauna Hodel. Although Unce Steve made it quite clear my sister DID NOT KNOW GEORGE HODEL, referring to the scene of George “drugging & attacking my sister !!!! NOT ONLY DID THAT NOT HAPPEN, it is a HUGE misinformation considering that GEORGE Hodel ACTUALLY DID drug his granddaughter,ME.!
DEW AKA FaunaElizabeth for more then seven hours I was drugged, stripped of my clothes, Posed. my body while taking pictures and molesting ME!! It is bad enough that this happened, but it really hurt that she used MY experience in this way. I DO LOVE my sister, and never dreamed she would lie about our families past…I am very confused by this. That REALLY HURT ME… I pray to this day it was the script writer and NOT my sister INTENDING to MISREPRESENT the damage George caused and to whom….the LIES BREAK my HEART;…our life was hard enough just living it!!!
Steve, so great to hear that the BDA books will be made into documentaries. I read the first 2 and was blown away. I can’t imagine how the revelations have affected you. You are very brave for sticking though it and finding the horrifying truth. Any info on when / where this BDA documentary will available for public viewing? Thanks.
Not sure on the timeline or details. It was paused for funding now back up and running. Will post/blog when/if I get further production details. They have lots of interview hours with me already “in the can”.
Steve and FaunaElizabeth
Our Healing CIRCLE sends a centering, cleansing breath and powerful VIBRATIONS for ancestral HEALING. Ancestral healing heals the wounds of the past. It clears away negative ancestral energy and connects us to our forefathers and foremothers.
Will the docuseries also cover your investigations from Most Evil or just BDA?
Not exactly sure. The original intent was to do both BDA and Most Evil but may be too much for the initial project. So, possibly one then the other? TBD.
Funny, I just bought and watched, I am the Night, hoping it would’ve been a great visual to your books which I’ve read. I kinda didn’t like it either, especially because the timelines were all screwed up; when I saw that George Hodel was still in the Swoden house in 1965, I was like, “What?! Didn’t he leave the country in like the late 40s and was in China and in Asia?” I had to go back and take a look at the timeline again just to make sure I remembered correctly what I had read years ago. Also, Hollywood seems to be still continuing the whole “white people are evil” narrative because it seems that all the black folks in the series and especially in “1965” were all “yes sur” and “no sur” and the police were just beating the shit out of black people willy nilly. It reminded me of the shit-job they did with the Watchmen series on HBO. Also, it seems that all the young actors were talking in “modern talk” cause many of then were saying, “I’m good”, someone that is pretty new to the “young and hip” vernacular and is fairly recent(past few years). Series was ok to mediocre, sadly. Good actors, lazy Hollywood writers. I write better.
Steve, did you ever find or locate that painting in that used to be in your father’s den that I thought was a photograph and you say was a “painting”? Just curious if you did locate it. It’s probably in some small art gallery on the West coat somewhere. Let me know if you did locate it. I still think it’s an abstract, artsy fartsy photograph blown up real big, lol. Then again, you saw it with your own eyes. Idk, for some reason it just looks like abstract photography.
No, never identified the art or artist on the wall in the livingroom/office.
I’m really looking forward to the non-fiction movie! Any idea when it might be released?
No, hoping by years end it will be all ready for editing, but hard to say. Best guess early next year but?????