In a Lonely Place (1950) 4.71/5 (7)


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Rating: The Good – 85.4
Genre: Film-Noir
Duration: 94 mins
Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Humphrey BogartGloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy

One of the more elegant and deeply psychological films noirs, In a Lonely Place tells the story of an off the boil screenwriter, Dixon Steele, who finds himself the chief suspect in a murder case after a young woman he hired to summarise a novel for him one evening is found dead that same night. The problem for Steele, beyond the circumstantial evidence, is his quick violent temper and an offbeat humour for the issues of death and murder, elements which even his friends and new love interest Gloria Grahame (and alibi for the murder) find potentially inculpatory.

In a Lonely Place is a wonderfully sophisticated example of the doomed romance noir, as Bogart and Grahame are pulled unerringly into a spiralling relationship set against the sinister event of murder. Bogie is in rich form as the fiery writer with disturbing hidden streaks but it’s the manner in which he handles his character’s softening that strikes us most squarely. Grahame is pitch perfect as the agent of that change and the pair carry the audience along with them as Steele firstly embraces and then later, as the investigation heats up, rails against that change. The key to In a Lonely Place is its hidden depths. At all times director Nicholas Ray ensconces the viewer in an inviting and elegant production design coloured with the vibrancy of Hollywood’s golden age when needed and secluded from it during the more romantic scenes. But thanks to Bogie’s surly presence and that silky screenplay (courtesy of Andrew Solt), he’s able to stir up a torrent of dark emotions to contrast with the warmth of the outward space. The character dynamics feed this contrast with everyone from Steele’s long-suffering agent (Art Smith) to the drunken thespian he looks out for offering intriguing clues to Steele’s conflicted nature and temperament.

However, it’s the central pairing that provides so much texture to this film. An inability to trust happiness lies at its heart and Bogart and Grahame are utterly superb in how they capture the turmoil of that conundrum and the swirling inevitability of their relationship. For Grahame and Ray, this one was very personal as they were an estranged couple at the time of shooting and given that Ray insisted that Steele’s apartment resemble one of Ray’s own earlier apartments, one cannot help but suspect that he, Grahame, or both of them were exorcising by some demons here. The raw power of the picture would support that.

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