It may well be a time for a revisit to 1950’s In A Lonely Place. It’s a film worth watching again. Here’s why.
This Nicholas Ray film boasts two of film noir’s signature costars, Humphrey Bogart and the incomparable Gloria Grahame. Bogie is Bogie, and Gloria was something of a Hollywood phenomenon.
Not only did she see her share of Oscar action, but she was celebrated by the tabloids of the time for her tempestuous personal life, which was strange even by Hollywood standards. She was a great onscreen sulker, she could play sexy, smart-mouthed women better than anyone.
Grahame was justifiably renowned for her onscreen sultriness, her ability to telegraph unadulterated lust to audiences of the Forties and Fifties. But she was no bimbo. Grahame often played well grounded women betrayed by boneheaded choices in men. Perhaps her most anguished choice was Bogie in In A Lonely Place.
Bogart plays a nasty, alcoholic screenwriter under suspicion of murdering a young nightclub hatcheck girl (actress Martha Stewart) whom he had invited to his Hollywood flat to assist in writing a screenplay from a very boring novel she’s read in full. The evidence is circumstantial with red flags waved thanks to the character’s belligerence and broad mean streak.
The picture veers from standard murder mystery to romantic entanglement when the screenwriter falls for the good-looking, mature aspiring actress (Grahame) who moves in across the courtyard, and who provides an alibi for him. As the ensuing love affair deepens so do the actress’ suspicions about what actually happened to the hapless hatcheck girl — alarms prompted by the screenwriter’s frighteningly violent temper outbursts.
A central question: is Bogie’s character capable of the brutal murder or not?
Having posed that, it’s important to note that the movie’s noirish elements gradually give way to a sad and haunting romantic refrain. In spite of the violence and hardness of much of the film, ‘In A Lonely Place’ is understated and naturalistic in its portrayal of a love affair between two people who left their innocence behind long ago, notes Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style.
Bogard and Grahame give terrific performances of their variously troubled characters, taking us to a personal dimension beyond familiar “who done it” plot points.
And, there is a solid supporting cast, principally: Art Smith as the much-abused but faithful screenwriter’s agent; Frank Lovejoy and Jeff Donnell as a happily married couple who harbor doubts about their screenwriter pal; and Carl Benton Reid as an investigative police captain.
Perhaps the movie’s most emotional moment comes when Grahame buries her doomed love affair with these words: I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me.