Release Date: May 17th, 1950
Directed by: Nicholas Ray
Written by: Edward H. North, Andrew Solt
Based on: In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
Music by: George Antheil
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame
Columbia Pictures, 94 Minutes
“I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.” – Dixon Steele
The thing I love about In A Lonely Place, is that it features Humphrey Bogart in his best sort of role. He has always been great but his best performances don’t come from being a straight laced macho man of yesteryear. No, Bogart shows the exceptional actor that he is in roles where he has a lot of inner conflict and is able to convey weakness and genuine character flaws. It’s roles like this one that make me feel closer to who the man was than him being the smooth talking tough guy that dominated motion pictures in his day.
Also, Gloria Grahame, an actress I haven’t gotten to know as well as Bogart over the years, was the perfect compliment to Bogart’s Dixon Steele. Her character, Laurel Gray, plays his neighbor and finds herself a bit infatuated with the handsome Hollywood writer. When he is suspected of murder, she is even further drawn to him, believing that there’s no way he did it and that he’s just a really interesting man with a lot worth exploring. As she discovers his deeper emotional issues, she feels as if she can help him just by being in his life.
Of course, things go sideways because this is a film-noir and it is directed by the super intelligent cinema craftsman Nicholas Ray. There are a lot of layers to this picture and some nice twists and reveals but ultimately, the murder doesn’t become the central point of the plot and sort of takes a backseat, as these two lovers become further infatuated with one another. Unfortunately, this is a story about romantic tragedy and has an incredibly sad ending due to the circumstances of everything that develops over the course of the film.
The sad result doesn’t make this a film not worth watching. In fact, quite the opposite. In A Lonely Place sort of exists as a lesson to the weight and power of true love and how you can cave from it, if you aren’t careful and don’t allow yourself to have trust and respect. While this isn’t one of the top Bogart pictures that usually comes off of the lips of old school film aficionados, it is indeed one of his top performances. It is the best I have ever seen Grahame but I also haven’t seen her in a whole lot – something I am trying to rectify.
I don’t know what it is about Nicholas Ray and the magic touch that he has but he takes great actors and gets even greater performances out of them. Mix that in with his stellar directing, his eye, his conscientious shots and his use of tremendous cinematography and you’ve got yourself a true auteur of the highest caliber. While his oeuvre may seem simplistic when compared to the works of Kubrick, Lynch and Scorsese, Nicholas Ray existed on a level that most directors didn’t in his day. Besides, there was a real complexity to how he created his simplicity. His films were well orchestrated understatements. It might not be immediately noticeable or go over the head of the casual film viewer but a meticulous and genuine craftsmanship is apparent in everything Ray shoots.
In A Lonely Place is pretty close to perfection and one of the best motion pictures for any of the people involved with it. While it isn’t as remembered as it probably should be, I like when a great film takes a backseat in the car ride through history, only to be discovered later, as a nice surprise for those who delve deeper and are always looking for something they might not have found without a little effort on their part.