“A potentially violent screenwriter is a murder suspect until his lovely neighbor clears him. However, she soon starts to have her doubts.”

Director: Nicholas Ray
Writers: Andrew Solt, Edmund H. North, Dorothy B. Hughes
Staring: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid
Release Date: August 1950

In A Lonely Place (1950) looks at a man’s ego with a magnifying glass and then sears to the audience how fragile it can be.

Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a struggling screenwriter who is in need of an inspiration and a vice. His world, which was already tumultuous is thrown for more of a loop when he is accused to have murdered a women that he met for a brief evening. His main alibi comes at the behest of Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), his beautiful and mysterious neighbor. She defends him, and soon the two form a working and romantic relationship.

The question is whether or not the unevenly tempered Dixon can be trusted. The shadow of his possible ability to kill casts doubts that even the most trustworthy people must hide from. The dangerous blend of love and lack of trust crews a boiling pot that’s constantly having its pressure ratcheted all the way up. Actions taken by Dixon raise goosebumps on those around him, and most notably of Laurel.

Come the end of the movie, Laurel is forced to make a choice. This decision sends the last 15 minutes of In A Lonely Place in a tension filled frenzy that has both main actors shining amongst the ugly mud. The audience gets a double dose of Distrust and fear from both Laurel and Dixon, making the movie’s finale feel like a tight-wire act.

It is shocking to me that Bogart only won one Academy Award, and he was only nominated for three. I should start to make a point to see The African Queen (1951), since that is the one he won for. This is turning into a retrospective for me on Bogart: I have seen The Maltese Falcon (1941) which was good, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948), which was excellent, and Casablanca which is as iconic as it deserves. I need to expand me repertoire of Humphrey Bogart.

In A Lonely Place, Bogart places unhinged so well. This is the first role I have seen of him where he is not a subdued personality with immense sorrow or regret weighing him down. In A Lonely Place, the pressure of his inflated ego makes Dixon as ugly as a rabid bear at times. His anger though, is not always present, for he ebbs in and out of immense reliability for attention.

The main counterpart to Bogart’s Dix character is Laurel, who is played by Laurel Graham. The only thing I saw her in was It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), but I have to be honest that I do not remember her character of Violet Beck vividly.

It turns out that I like Nicholas Ray as a director as well, or he just knows how to pick movies that fit iconic characters. Ray also directed Rebel Without A Cause (1955), which was nominated for three Oscars and has James Dean and eating up the screen like a hungry kid on Halloween.

In A Lonely Place has a lot going for it, but none more so than its script. It is a screenplay that includes writing a screenplay itself (which automatically gets me interested), but it also has lines that are worth remembering and quoting.

“I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”

Dixon Steele talking with Laurel Gray

The moment this line comes in the movie is remarkable for it shows so much of Dixon as a character. He appears to be a creator that only manifers his best work when he is under the most stress and when he is at his most animalistic state. Dixon is a man that used to be coveted for his immense talent in writing, but when he is doing his best work, he is simply horrible company. That is why this movie is called In A Lonely Place. Dixon is a lonely man in all facets; when he is not working well, nobody wants to employ him, and when he is working well, nobody wishes to be in his presence at all. Laurel was the only one that gave him a chance, but that turned out to be a short-lived affair.

[tearfully] I lived a few weeks while you loved me. Goodbye, Dix.

Laurel Gray (closing line of the movie)

I add this last line above to one of the best final bits of dialogue in a movie I have seen. It fits the theme of the story like a glove. In A Lonely Place will leave you pondering the fragility of man and our often inflated ego. The gift of genius is often praised, but people don’t look at the deeper dwellings of its impact. This story, and this screenplay by Andrew Solt, Edmund H. North, and Dorothy B. Hughes are worthy of immense praise and everyone’s attention.

STANKO RATING: A- (4.0/5 Stars)


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