Monday, October 26, 2009

In A Lonely Place

In a Lonely Place (1950) is a film noir directed by Nicholas Ray and starred Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, and Frank Lovejoy.

Screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) is a bitter, hard drinking and frequently violent screen writer. He is down on his luck and has not had a hit since the war. He is asked to write a screen play based on a book.

We see the first signs of Steele's temper as he is driving to a night club to meet his agent Mel Lippman (Art Smith) when he gets into an argument with a couple in a convertible. The second signs of Steele's violence is when he gets into a argument in the nightclub. But his second episode of violence also shows a tender side to Steele, as the argument arises when Bogart is defending a down on his luck movie star (Robert Warwick).

At the nightclub, Steele meets Mildren Atkinson (Martha Stewart) a hat check girl who has just finished reading the book. Dix is too tired to read the novel, so he asks Mildred Atkins to go home with him and explain the plot. Later that night, Mildred is murdered and Steele is a prime suspect; his record of belligerence and violence work against him.

Fortunately, his lovely new neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) who Steele has never met gives him an alibi. She tells police she sees Mildred leaving alone and Steele retiring back into his apartment. But the police still find Steele to be their prime suspect. This odd way of meeting leads into a romance.

Laurel proves to be just what Steele needed, and their friendship ripens into love. At first everything is wonderful, and Bogart is even writing again, but bit by bit Grahame starts to see his dark side and begins to fear him, even suspecting that he may have been involved in the murder after all.

Will suspicion, doubt, and Steele's inner demons come between them?

Frank Lovejoy plays Detective Nicolai, an old army buddy of Steele's who at first does not believe Steele is the murderer. But after reviewing Steele's lengthy record of violence and watching Steele describe with fascination of how he believes Mildred was murdered, Nicolai also begins to have his doubts as well.

It's a fascinating movie that mixes drama, suspense and romance in a very interesting way. The movie is more about the tension unfolding between Steele and Gray and will their love survive his violent ways as oppose to who killed Mildred Adkinson. The end of the movie provides the answer to both questions.

Bogart gives a terrific performance, and while his character can be charming at times he's also surprisingly unlikeable and intense.

If you have not seen this film noir, I highly recommend it.

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