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In A Lonely PlaceUSA 1950
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Running time 94 minutes
Although regularly referred to as a film noir, bar the presence of the eternal existential outsider, Humphrey Bogart, and the odd bit of melodramatic lighting, In a Lonely Place belongs more in the category of films that depict the heartless reality behind Hollywood’s glossy veneer.
Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a screenwriter on his druthers who is suspected of killing a hat-check girl (Martha Stewart) he had invited back to his pad to tell him about a book he’d agreed to turn into a screenplay. Although there’s no real evidence, Steele has a history of violent outbursts against both men and women and his seeming indifference to the murder makes him the cops' No 1 target, despite the word of a new tenant in his building. Laurel (Gloria Grahame, who was married to Nicholas Ray at the time but soon to be divorced, remarkably, eventually to marry Ray’s son from a previous marriage). A romance sparks up between the two but Laurel can’t shake of the nagging suspicion that Steele has a personality disorder and the cops aren’t doing anything to reassure her.
Although Ray’s handling of the material is uneven, veering between the gazing intently at the rottenness of Hollywood and incongruous near-comedic touches, he manages to fashion quite an effective little portrait of life’s ironic cruelties as an innocent girl is murdered and a couple see happiness evaporate due to their own folly. The film was made under the auspices of Bogart’s own production company and although a low-budget, even B-grade, affair he gives a typically effective performance as the washed up writer although Grahame, is far less effective and this robs the film of a good deal of its potential.