In A Lonely Place (1950)

by Paul on September 22, 2012

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In A Lonely Place is a 1950 crime drama directed by Nicholas Ray. Although Ray didn’t receive overwhelming acclaim at the time, many believe In A Lonely Place to be his finest work. This film’s “unusual” subject matter made it hard to market, and it was only later that it was given more attention and acclaim.

It is a dark and romantic story about a Hollywood screenwriter, Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), who  is suspected of a murder. The only reason he hasn’t been arrested is because his new neighbor, Laurel (Gloria Grahame), has given him an untrueIn A Lonely Place alibi. They begin a love affair, and her influence on him has also inspired his writing. As their relationship evolves, Steele’s violent nature begins to reveal itself, and Laurel begins to wonder if he could in fact be the killer.

This is not the type of role we are used to seeing Bogart play. Steele is troubled and angry, but he hides it the best he can. His long time friend and agent tries to explain to Laurel that when you’re with Steele you get the whole package. The good times are good, but you have to take his deep seeded angry as well. Bogart’s performance is certainly one of his most underrated. He plays Steele brilliantly, and makes one wonder how closely he identified with this character.

Gloria Grahame was not the first choice to play the leading lady, but director Nicholas Ray convinced the studio that his In A Lonely Placewife would be able to perform beautifully. He was absolutely right. Their relationship was coming to an end, and the fact that Ray still fought to have Grahame in the role, is a true testament to his confidence in her acting. She gives the most complete and intriguing performance of her career and proves that she did have the ability to carry the leading lady role in a movie.

The story is filled with sadness. At some point I felt sorrow for every single character. It felt like real life, with all the tragedy and pain that people go through in their search for success in love and work. Nobody is going to escape their own problems, whether they are doubt, suspicion or anger.

Nichols Ray is one of the greatest “underrated “ directors. His films have an authenticity to them unlike other movies fromIn A Lonely Place the same time period. His films tackled hard-hitting subjects, and whenever possible, they took them head on. Although we want his main characters to come out ahead in the end, the choices that they continue to make often lead them down a path for which there is no return.

This is a wonderful film, although not upbeat or cheerful. It examines the inner feelings of characters, and allows two wonderful actors to give everything they have to their roles. It is one of the most real seeming movies from that era.

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