Humphrey Bogart has never been better in Nic Ray’s atypical noir about love, doubt and violence.
Dir. Nicholas Ray
1950 | USA | Drama/Romance | 93 mins | 1.33:1 | English
PG (passed clean)
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
Plot: A potentially violent screenwriter is a murder suspect until his lovely neighbor clears him. However, she soon starts to have her doubts.
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate – Self-Destruction, Anger, Love
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
What a dream pairing it was for Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame (Nicholas Ray’s wife at the time), who bring an undeniably strong chemistry to the big screen in Ray’s early noir.
Made only two years after his directorial debut, They Live by Night (1948), In a Lonely Place has frequently been regarded as one of the Hollywood auteur’s finest efforts.
It’s an atypical noir, with a premise that goes into rather dark territory as Bogart’s Dix gets pegged back by his volatile temper and a penchant for violence towards anyone who crosses him.
He’s a talented screenwriter, though without a hit in years, plus his refusal to write formulaic scripts for money doesn’t endear him to the community. Enter Grahame’s Laurel, his next-door neighbour whom he becomes smitten with.
In a Lonely Place is a romance story set against a murder investigation in which Dix is the prime suspect, but Laurel could provide him with an alibi.
“I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”
Themes of love, doubt and violence are intertwined in a narrative that sees Bogart giving arguably his greatest performance as a vulnerable, temperamental man who doesn’t know he is just one fatal action away from having his life change irreversibly.
On the other hand, Laurel presents him with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change his—and her own—life for the better.
Ray’s film is slightly short and I wanted more—I felt it could use another act before the devastating denouement. Still, it’s a solid work with a fair share of suspense and unpredictability.
Ray would go on to make great films in the Hollywood system later in his career such as Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Bigger Than Life (1956).