Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

1950: In a lonely place

Nicholas Ray's IN A LONELY PLACE remains a brilliant noir from 1950 - it should be as well known as that year's other major movies like SUNSET BOULEVARD, ALL ABOUT EVE, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE or WINCHESTER '73.  

Screenwriter Dixon Steele, faced with the odious task of scripting a trashy bestseller, has hat-check girl Mildred Atkinson tell him the story in her own words. Later that night, Mildred is murdered and Steele is a prime suspect; his record of belligerence when angry and his macabre sense of humor tell against him. Fortunately, lovely neighbor Laurel Gray gives him an alibi. Laurel proves to be just what Steele needed, and their friendship ripens into love. Will suspicion, doubt, and Steele's inner demons come between them?
Poor Mildred - quickly murdered and forgotten about, so it seems. Even who did it is immaterial, as it is not about that at all, but the tortured relationship between Dixon and Laurel who provides his alilbi that night he quickly gets Mildred out of his apartment after she has told him the story of the novel he is supposed to read by morning. Laurel's apartment overlooks Dixon's and she sees Mildred leave alone .... 
They get to know each other at the police station, and things quickly develop between them. Laurel is initially attracted to him, but his violent temper, like when he beats up that car driver and almost kills him, soon causes her to have doubts .... By the time the police confirm it was not Dixon, it is too late for them ..... By turns charming, cold, romantic and remorseful, Dix Steele is as unpredictable a character as Bogie has ever played - an abusive man with a quick temper. It is a joyless view of love and fate.
Laurel is Gloria Graham, director Nick Ray's wife at the time, and it is one of her better roles. She remains one of the underrated great US actresses of the 50's (THE BIG HEAT, OKLAHOMA!), and has an electrifying chemistry with Bogie. Frank Lovejoy heads a fantastic supporting cast. The reasons for Mildred's murder are never satisfactorily made clear, but it doesn't matter. Laurel witnesses how Dixton treats his old friends and starts to worry for her own safety. The more she tries to escape from Dixon the more trapped she becomes and the more violent he gets ..... until that last telephone call. 
This is a noir that focuses on romance rather than crime and is a gut-wrenching love story,and should be so much better known, A perfect noir/twisted romance complete with those big cars driving by night, nightclub scenes and lots of shadows. One of Rays best too - up there with REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and JOHNNY GUITAR


  1. Love this film right to its dark heart. I've always found it surprising that considering how popular Bogart was at the time that the studio didn't try and soften his character more, though I'm grateful they didn't.

    Bogart and Ray wanted Betty Bacall to play Gloria's role but Warner's wouldn't loan her out so she suggested either Grahame or Shelley Winters for the role. I can see Shelley doing well by it and being a good match for Bogie but I love Gloria in this. It's not quite The Big Heat, my favorite of her work, but close.

  2. Thats interesting - the studios probably wouldn't have wanted to team Bogie and Bacall too many times. Shelley would indeed be ideal here, but Gloria has has that sort of insolent manner thats just right too.
    This and DEAD RECKONING which I discovered recently (Bogie label) was also fascinating, a noir by numbers which teamed him with that other 40s dame Lizabeth Scott.

  3. Martin Bradley16 July 2015 at 10:46

    I really need to see this again. It was never one of my favorites despite loving Bogie, Gloria and Nick Ray. It did make a bigger impression on me the last time I saw it but not enough to make me want to add it to my collection.