In a Lonely Place is easily one of Humphrey Bogart’s best roles, effortlessly performing a very personal role in the midst of a noir piece that is unlike any other in his career. When screenwriter Dix Steele is accused of murdering a woman he barely knows for no reason whatsoever, besides a penchant for snapping in short-fused violence, he has to convince his intimate circle that he is innocent of a terrible crime… that he may or may not have committed for no reason besides the thrill of the act. This “(unique) romantic and doom-haunted noir drama” was a fantastic flick (Newman).
I really enjoyed this film, and that is unusual for me because in many instances I have thought that Bogart was an actor with a relatively limited range. Up until this point, I have seen a man who has kept his reputation as a performer perhaps only as far as nostalgia has been able to take him. But in this piece, I was impressed at the range and talent in his characterization of Steele. In one of the Criterion special features I watched, it was apparent that this might have been because it was a character that really helped him process and perform in a manner that was somewhat close to who he was as a person – and it makes sense how this would diverge from the character he usually seems to have ready to go in his back pocket.
The writing and direction were on point. Some of my favorite elements had to do with some of the exterior shots and the design of the sets that managed to heighten the setting frozen in time a little more intentionally than many of the films from the era. The set itself was based on and duplicated real places where the piece was set, and that certainly helped with this feeling of genuine celluloid reality.
For this film, I did not read Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel, but I was interested to read in Schneider that the ending differs from the original text in one key way. Also, the process and mental mise en scene of the career, art, and anxieties of writing is perfectly captured in this film more than any other than I have seen to this point – except perhaps in Jonze/Kaufman’s Adaptation.
Check out this great article from The Library of America’s The Moviegoer, In A Lonely Place: Film Noir as an Opera of Male Fury by Carrie Rickey (linked above)
I watched In A Lonely Place on Criterion, #810.
Noir by its very definition is dark but this embraces that meaning to an extreme point and is perhaps the bleakest noir you’ll find in this peak period of the genre.
Bogart is great and rather scary in his bitter world weariness, it is in no way hard to believe he could have done what he is suspected of. Laurel was supposed to be played by Shelley Winters but she had to drop out due to pregnancy and while she would have given an interesting performance I can’t see her topping Gloria Grahame’s work. She plays the conflicted emotions that are pulling Laurel in a very subtle way. A unique and one of a kind actress.
I also like the juxtaposition of their fractured relationship with his friend’s Frank Lovejoy & Jeff Donnell’s comfortably spiky marriage which is obviously on an evenly shared keel that Dix & Laurel could never achieve.
The film is grim but endlessly fascinating.
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Absolutely on point comments. I was thinking the same thing – and there are some dark elements that I’m sure were brutally shocking to the audiences of its day, such as the photographs the camera lingers on as Steele flips through them. The only definitive noir film I think it competes with is the incomparable Double Indemnity – but the main difference is the veiled vs unveiled tension, which I think in this case kept us endlessly nibbling at our fingernails.