In a Lonely Place (1950)


In a Lonely Place (1950)I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 1950 was a very introspective year for Hollywood, in terms of the films it was releasing, looking in on it self, with the addition of this early Nicholas Ray film noir that shows he doesn’t always needs blistering saturated colours to convey the pent-up frustration that his characters feel as they are pushed into a corner. We’ve seen it before with the young lovers on the run in They Live By Night (1948), the lynch mob that hunts down a woman in Johnny Guitar (1954) to most famously the misunderstood teenager of Rebel Without a Cause (1955). It’s not just the young and women who are in these positions, older and once successful screenwriters in In a Lonely Place (1950) such as Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) who was once on-top has reached a low that he may never get out of.

Given the opportunity to turn the latest sensational novel into a film he has been given the chance to make his name again. If only he liked the material, just another melodrama that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. Inviting back a young woman who can recite the book to him, sounds innocent enough right? Not when the same girl Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) is found dead the next morning, he was the last person to be seen with her could he really be the killer? He has the temperament to do such a thing, but why would he after giving her taxi money, it doesn’t make sense. A young girl who has so much ahead of her found strangled. Steele’s only chance of being saved is an alibi that is given by his neighbour Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) who seemingly gets him off the hook.

His violent past and record leave doubt in the minds of those investigating the murder. The audience is certainly left guessing, we doubt his innocence the more we learn from Det. Sgt. Brub Nicolai (Frank Lovejoy) his old army friend investigates. Almost certain that it’s Steele that has killed the young woman. We have only Laurel’s alibi to keep him in the clear and that’s not exactly airtight as it only covers the early evening when the woman was still alive. She slowly grows close to him in classic Hollywood style, falling for his charms and dangerous ideas. Not fully aware of what he is capable of. We see him put under immense strain by the police as the is questioned multiple times. He goes over the murder himself as if it were one he wrote himself. A coping mechanism maybe or was he the killer.

As the film progresses, so does romance between the two, softening up around Laurel enough to write that screenplay he’s asked for. He has come alive in more ways than one, all his passions are awoken. Be careful what you wish for as he begins to unravel, we see the rumour’s become fact, a monster is waking up before us. Is he the killer we still ask ourselves, as we even back him into a corner. Bogart could easily play either the good the bad or the flawed guy wanting, show the range of this incredible actor whose time on-screen was prolific and dark. Opposite one of the film-noir’s classic blonde-bombshells Gloria Grahame who softens from the hardened abrasive neighbour to the lover living in fear.

Where does this fit into Ray’s work though? At the beginning of his directing career, given what was probably an assignment to complete, lucky enough to work with these two actors who made this film a classic. Looking inside Hollywood to find a dark underworld of murder, lies and mistrust. Much like Billy Wilder‘s Sunset Blvd. (1950) which delves even further into that world of dog-eat-dog. Ray has yet to come out to give us more emotion that I found in They Live by Night or as late as Bigger Than Life (1956) with all its pent-up emotion just wanting to release. He has still produced a classic of the period that still works today and shows how great Bogie can be and whats better than that?

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4 responses

  1. Another that was before my time.
    Most sadly that I will never catch up on.

    August 2, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    • Sorry to hear that, whats stopping you seek this one out?

      August 2, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      • Why … ??? not a thing young man !

        August 3, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      • Good to hear, keep you’re eyes peeled for it 🙂

        August 3, 2015 at 9:02 pm

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