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L.A. Confidential (1997) movie plot is as follows:

In Los Angeles, Captain Dudley Smith uses his crew to murder Dick Stensland and Buzz Meeks at the Night Owl coffee shop. He then wrongfully accuses three African American men of the crime.

What does "Confidential" in the movie title refer to?

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2 Answers 2

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The film is an adaptation of a novel, L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy.

In the novel we're given access to variety of documents from the LA Police Dept. Internal Affairs Division, literally marked LAPD 'Confidential'.

CONFIDENTIAL LAPD REPORT: Compiled by Internal Affairs Division, dated 3/11/57
Investigating officer: Sgt. Donald Kieckner, badge 688, IAD. Submitted at the request of William H. Parker, Chief of Police
Subject: Vincennes, John, Sergeant, Surveillance Detail.

This, along with the privileged information we're getting from the 'Hush-Hush' scandal magazine means we're being given access to all the confidential information available.

His date that night was one Lynette Brown, age eighteen, a dusky deelite with two juvenile arrests for possession of marijuana. Lynette told a secret Hush-Hush correspondent, "Bill like his black. He say, 'Once you had black you can't go back.' He dig jazz and he like to party slow. He really married? He really distric' 'turney?" He sure is, sweet thing. But for how much longer? There's a bunch of Thursdays between now and Election Day, and will Bad Bebop Billy be able to control his dark desires until then? Remember, dear reader, you heard it first here--off the record, on the Q.T. and very Hush-Hush.

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    Although that quote is a fascinating use of the English language (especially the contraction "distric' 'turney"), and I think I have a book or two by this author somewhere, the question is about the movie, not the book. As always, something is lost when translating a book into a movie.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 17:45
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    @Wastrel - The film is an adaptation of the book. If you want a pure film answer it's "They called the film "L.A. Confidential" because it's an adaptation of a popular book of the same name"
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 17:47
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    That might have been a better answer :-) . As I said, a lot is lost when they make a movie from a book.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 18:30
  • What's QT? 1234
    – d-b
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 0:13
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    @d-b - dictionary.com/browse/on--the--qt
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 0:37
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The movie itself explains its topic as it unfolds.

There are at least two key themes that are very clear in the movie that relate to confidentiality, indeed they drive the plot.

The magazine Hush-Hush is introduced early and specialises in revealing secrets about Hollywood stars and celebrities that most would prefer to remain confidential. Some of the secrets become important drivers of the story.

Also, a key dynamic in the story inside the police force is that many officers are corrupt. They too would prefer their actions remained confidential. Some of them later interact with other confidential behaviours known to Hush-Hush. When White and Exley "persuade" the gay DA into revealing some of the shenanigans going on, many of the known confidential facts start to interact.

So the whole theme of the movie is about how keeping certain acts confidential led to corruption and blackmail triggering violence and cover up. L.A. Confidential is a good name even if the original story had not used the same title.

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