In a Lonely Place (1950)

In a Lonely Place In a Lonely Place poster
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Written by Andrew Solt and Edmund H. North from a story by Dorothy B. Hughes
1950/USA
Columbia Pictures Corporation/Santana Pictures Corporation
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant Video
#242 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Dixon Steele: I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.

This is one of the must-see movies in the film noir canon,with one of the all-time great screenplays and a career performance by Humphrey Bogart – a classic of American cinema.

Dixon Steele (Bogart) is a genius screen writer with a bit of a drinking problem and a hair-trigger temper.  His first instinct when he gets angry is to slug someone.  He hasn’t written any hits since returning from the war, which has evidently scarred him in some way.  His agent has gotten him a commission to adapt a pot-boiler novel for the screen.

After displaying his character traits by getting into a brawl with a jerk at his favorite bar/restaurant , Dix asks air-head cigarette girl Mildred, who has read the book, to tell him the story at his apartment.  The star-struck lass agrees, breaking a date with her steady to do so.  They run into Dix’s new neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahame) when they get to the complex.  Mildred stays for awhile, relating the truly vapid plot, and Dix sends her off with $20 to the nearest taxi stand.

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Mildred is found suffocated and dumped in a gully.  Dix’s wartime buddy Brub Nicolay (Frank Lovejoy) just happens to be working as a detective in the homicide bureau and comes to bring Dix, the prime suspect in to Headquarters.  Dix is amazingly flippant about the whole affair.  Laurel, who saw Mildred arrive and depart the apartment, is called in later to establish his alibi.

Dix and Laurel are immediately attracted.  The lonely Dix feels that he has at last met his match and they fall deeply in love.  Laurel inspires him to get back to work on his writing. Dix is thinking marriage.  Sadly, however, love does nothing to change Dix’s volatile nature and the tension surrounding the investigation causes him to lash out more than usual. Various incidents begin to trouble Laurel so much that she begins to think he might be guilty of the murder.  When Dix insists on an early elopement, Laurel has a heartbreaking decison to make.

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I feel so much pity for the characters in this movie.  Bogart, with his sad eyes, is absolutely convincing as a witty and sensitive man with a huge character flaw that seems beyond his control.  Gloria Grahame is heartbreaking as Laurel, who I think makes the only sane decision a woman could despite loving all the better parts of Dix.

The screenplay is by turns witty and satiric and incredibly moving.  The movie also looks gorgeous.  The pathos is heightened by the George Antheil score.  Absolutely recommended.

Trailer – cinematography by Burnett Guffey

3 thoughts on “In a Lonely Place (1950)

  1. I continue to love this movie. It is probably part of what drew me to Los Angeles, hoping to meet a less crazy Dixon Steele in a California courtyard apartment….

  2. I knew nothing about this movie before seeing it and it ended up being one of the best finds from watching the 1,001 Movies list. I agree it’s one of Bogart’s best performances and I’d list it as the very best for Grahame.

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