In the movie L.A. Confidential, Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) introduces a newspaper reporter to Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce) and explains to the reporter "I was fortunate enough to be partnered with his father when I was a rookie."

Exley and Smith have a drink in honor of Preston Exley who was Edmund Exley's father. Edmund looks at a photo on the wall with a 8-10? year old boy (presumably young Edmund) standing in between Smith and his father, both in police uniform. Edmund proposes a toast stating "To the solving of crimes that require absolute justice." Edmund raises his glass, but Smith just watches him.

Later in the movie, Edmund Exley speaks to Sergeant Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) about his father being shot 6 times and how the crime was never solved.

Knowing that Dudley Smith was as corrupt as he was, could it be possible that he killed Edmund Exley's father? Is there any other evidence or hints pointing at that?

  • 2
    It's very possible, and in fact, likely as well. We don't know, however, and there is no way to ever know. It wasn't ever proven in the film and the story happen at the very beginnings of forensics as we now know the field.
    – CGCampbell
    Aug 15, 2015 at 12:13

3 Answers 3


I've looked in a book I read long ago, by John Truby, called The Anatomy of Story. He dissects the scenes from LA Confidential (and many other great movies) and points this out:

Scene 63/90: "Rolo Tomasi" was the name given to the man who killed Ed's father, Preston Exley. It's why Ed became a cop.

Scene 73/90: When the Captain shoots Jack, Jack's last words are "Rolo Tomasi". He noticed that some years ago the Captain supervised a case where Stensland and Meeks investigated Patchett.

Scene 87/90: (...) when the Captain shoots Bud twice, Ed calls the Captain Rolo Tomasi, the guy who gets away with it. To reinforce it, the Captain promises Ed he'll be chief of detectives if Ed arrests him and doesn't kill him.

I believe the movie as it is states that the Captain was the killer of Ed's father.

That makes Ed end the movie with his personal goal accomplished. The director could have ended the movie with "The end ... though unfortunately, Ed, you still don't know who Rolo Tomasi is".

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    What? I'm not even sure your answer makes any sense. And it clearly misrepresents the movie: there is no hint anywhere that Dudley Smith had anything to do with the murder of Exley's father. The meaning of Rolo Tomasi is someone who gets away with it in general not the specific killer of Exley's father. Exiled clearly explains the meaning and it has nothing to do with the random individual who killed his father.
    – matt_black
    Sep 10, 2016 at 23:24

Can we include the book the movie was adapted from as evidence? If no then: Ole Dudley is a good candidate, especially if Preston was as straight as his son Edmund.

If yes then: It is unlikely that Dudley did dispatch Preston (Edmund's father) as he took his own life in the book and it was the brother, Thomas brother who was killed by an unknown thief.

The Movie differs greatly on a number of areas however I don't think there is sufficient backstory spent with Preston and Dudley to point Preston's demise via Dudley. Preston is in the movie as a way of developing the link with Sergeant Jack Vincennes and Edmund over there shared knowledge of Rollo Tomassi who points the way to Dudley's undoing.


There is nothing at all in the movie that suggests that Dudley was the killer.

In fact the story that Exley tells in the movie strongly suggests that his father's death was a random murder by some unknown thief. That's why he invents the name Rolo Tomasi, to personify the unknown assailant. Nothing in the story suggests it was related to police corruption; the story suggests something random and unrelated. The way Exley tells the story strongly suggest he doesn't think Dudley or other police officers has anything to do with it.

Besides, the way the name is used has no connection at all with police corruption except to signal that Dudley has knowledge he should not have. He has never heard the story with the name Rolo Tomasi in it and assumes that Vincennes' dying words are a significant clue when all they do is reveal that he has killed Vincennes.

And why would Dudley be trying to use Exley if there was some dangerous family connection. Until quite late in the movie Dudley doesn't see Exley as a potential threat which he surely would have done if he had some murky history with his father.

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