Bogie probes the darkness…”In a Lonely Place”
For most moviegoers thoughts of Humphrey Bogart cause classic images to flicker across there virtual movie screens. Along with the images there’s that Bogey voice…and classic lines.
Rick Blaine “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Sam Spade “It’s the stuff that dreams are made.”
Rick Blaine “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
Phillip Marlowe “My, my, my! Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains! You know, you’re the second guy I’ve met today that seems to think a gat in the hand means the world by the tail.”
General Sternwood: How do you like your brandy, sir?
Philip Marlowe: In a glass.
In a Lonely Place is not a movie that garners the same reaction as say…Casablanca or To Have and Have Not…The Big Sleep or even The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. What In a Lonely Place does have is a Bogart who plumbs the depths of his soul and creates one of his darkest and most electrifying performances.
As the name of the movie appears we see Bogey’s eyes and they grab us immediately. There’s a sadness as if there in mourning, and darkness that reveals something more. He plays Dixon Steele a cynical, sarcastic and self destructive screenwriter who was big…once. Now he hasn’t written anything for years because if he can’t feel anything for project will then…forget it. He’s two men in one, decent and kind to an old actor friend of his and then instantly cruel and unfeeling with an explosive and disturbing temper.
Out at night as usual Bogey as Steele meets his loyal agent who persuades him to take a bestseller home and read it. Leaving, Steele refuses until a young hatcheck girl volunteers to come to his apartment and tell him the story. He agrees and plays the perfect gentlemen. As they enter the courtyard of his apartment he eyes a new neighbor who gives him the eye back. After the hatcheck girl Mildred recites the story to him, he gives her cab fare and sends her home. Only problem is the young girl…never makes it home. She turns up dead and Dixon Steele is suspect number one. His one friend a cop questions Steele who answers in an unemotional and matter of fact way…
“I don’t see why the rest of my story should worry you, unless you plan to arrest me for lack of emotion”
His story is backed up by his new neighbor an aspiring actress played by Gloria Graham. Her name is Laurel and she’s intrigued by the famous writer. Soon they are dating and quickly falling in love. He’s happy and they banter while out at the beach…
Dixon Steele: Oh, I love a picnic. Acres and acres of sand and all of it in your food.
Laurel Gray: Stop griping. Just lie still and inhale.
Dixon Steele: What, sand?
Laurel Gray: No, air – and don’t let it go to your head.
Steele is over whelmed and begins writing again with a vengeance. He also uses the emotion of his new relationship to write the screenplay all Hollywood wants and creates some heartbreaking lines…
“I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”
Still there’s an unsolved murder and the cop, played by Frank Lovejoy knows how violent Steele can become. He warns Laurel, who then witness’s a crazed Steele almost kill somebody on the road.
He also asks Steele to come over for dinner and is alarmed at his ability to describe a murder…point by…point. But he’s a writer right? That’s what they do, but wasn’t he enjoying himself too much when he was describing the murder?
Could he really be a cold blooded murderer? Is Laurel in danger?
In a Lonely Place is skillfully directed by Nicholas Ray who in five years will direct James Dean in…Rebel Without a Cause. Gloria Graham and Frank Lovejoy are excellent in there roles as is everyone else. But this is Bogey’s movie and he carries it without a hitch, blowing up his image with a thoughtful and layered performance of a man who doesn’t believe that true happiness can ever really happen…even in the movies.