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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...and this movie proves it. Watch out Adam Sandler because Bogie beat you
to the punch (literally). This is not one of Bogart's more famous works,
but for fans of his romantic works, it's a must. There are some great
snappy one-liners. The bittersweet ending comes as a surprise. The tense
final few minutes are theatrical directing genius, but it also works pretty
well for film.
The only thing missing was a motivation/explanation for Dix's short fuse, but juxtaposition of Bogart's fury and Gloria Grahame's gentle, faithful love is spell binding. Gloria Grahame is a perfect leading lady for Bogart. It's a pity this combination wasn't repeated, because their chemistry rivals Bogart/Bacall, and Bogart/Hepburn for sure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Humphrey Bogart gives his most compelling performance in Nick Ray's
classic and generates more on-screen heat with co-star Gloria Grahame
than in any of his other justly famous cinematic couplings. The fact
that it also manages to make a statement about Hollywood and, by
extension, the very concept of the "macho loner" glorified by Bogart in
so many of his films just makes it all that much more unforgettable.
The very first thing you hear in this film is a passing character calling out to Bogart "Dix Steele!". Right way I find this amusing because of the connotations of his name and the fact that it's such a perfect "Hollywood" name from the period. Dix is a guy who takes a hat check girl home so that she can tell him the story of a book he's supposed to adapt and ends up the prime suspect for her murder. His alibi is provided by a lovely new neighbor, Laurel Gray (Grahame, director Ray's wife at the time). The scene where they flirt with each other in the midst of police interrogation is sexy, intelligent, and surprising. It also engages some of the major themes in the film early on in the scene Bogart wonders aloud whether the investigation is supposed to determine if he's guilty of murder or of being insensitive. "I didn't say I was a gentleman, I said I was tired". Steele's attitude here is basically his classic screen persona tough, cynical, and defiant of authority. One of the cops, Brub (Frank Lovejoy) is Steele's old war buddy and one of the film's strongest scenes is the one where Steele encourages Brub and his wife Sylvia to act out the murder scenario. Jeff says "he's a sick man" but Brub demurs, basically describing the Bogart persona's appeal "he's just exciting, that's all! He's different from other men." The really impressive thing that the film does is that it actually brings us at least closer to Sylvia's perspective by the end, deconstructing the appeal of Bogart's macho noir persona while at the same time maintaining his humanity to the extent that we really feel awful for him because we know this is his last chance in life and that every twist of the story is pushing him that much closer to the bitter loneliness that will occupy the remainder of his life (in this respect it differs greatly from films like "Kiss Me Deadly" which merely satirize the macho persona without humanizing it). And there's no melodramatic outside cause for the tragedy; it's all internal to Dixon Steele's character his inability to internalize stress and his tendency to act out with violence against anyone who happens to be in his way when he gets angry.
The love story between Grahame and Bogart's characters is extremely convincing. I like how after Laurel "confesses" to finding Bogart's face "interesting" in the interrogation scene, he invites her to come see him and initially thinks she might accompany him on his date with his cop friend's family. It's the first sign of the character's vulnerability, and for the remainder of the film Ray brilliantly uses Grahame's female prerogative to undermine Bogart's arrogant style. Even the scenes that could become maudlin are handled in a convincing way. When Dixon's agent Mel Lippman (Art Smith) comes by and is amazed to see Dixon working on a script feverishly, Grahame's performance carries the necessary feminine affection to make us believe in their brief idyll. Grahame is the whole package, and it's remarkable how she comes off the screen as a flesh and blood woman instead of the kind of "dolls" and "molls" that usually inhabit suspense films from the period. And likewise Bogart's character feels truly real to me in a way that none of his other characters do. I'm not talking about the style of acting, it's really in the writing and the fact that Bogart is able to take advantage of the writing by fully inhabiting this character (which some say was the closest to his own personality he ever played). It's not one of those films where you're supposed to guess whether he's really "good" or "bad", even though superficially that seems the case; I think this story is too sad and the character too pathetic to deserve either epithet. And ultimately even the question of "did he, or didn't he, murder her?" becomes irrelevant because Laurel and the audience become convinced that he COULD have killed her, and this destroys the possibility of trust in their relationship.
Nick Ray made at least two other timeless masterpieces, "Johnny Guitar" and "Rebel Without a Cause". All 3 deal with loneliness and the stress placed on relationships by the conflict between traditional concepts of "manliness" and personal concepts of love and belonging. And all 3 show Ray's ability to work with a small ensemble of actors and approach potentially conventional dramatic situations in ways that are not only new but also startlingly intimate and personal. I don't usually issue recommendations, but anyone who hasn't seen all 3 owes it to themselves to seek them out, because speaking from my own heart these are movies that have the potential to enrich our own lives without moralizing, Ray has created at least through a handful of personal films a body of work that affirms life in all its beautiful weirdness. Only he could have created a film like "In a Lonely Place" that brings out so many emotions without being manipulative. He knows how to let us come to the characters instead of forcing the characters on us, and he does not allow even one scene to be a "throw-away" absolutely every scene in this movie enhances the quality of the film and the experience of watching it is enhanced with each repeat viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is rarely shown - and more's the pity for that. IN A LONELY PLACE is
the forgotten great performance of Humphrey Bogart, as screenwriter and
psychotic Dix Steele. Bogie had played his loner against the world in
many varieties before - but his film characters had an edge to them.
This was due to their cynicism (usually due to watching the realities
of the world, or of actually experiencing them). At the worst he had
been Fred C. Dobbs, whose gold fever greed destroys him, and almost his
partner Curtin in THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRES. Yet aside from Dobbs
most of his best performances were ones where the audience did
sympathize with him.
IN A LONELY PLACE gives him a role that is almost as dark as Dobbsie was. Dix is one of two men who have been suspected of a brutal murder of a woman whom Dix dated. At the start of the film we are made aware that Dix is really bad tempered - he gets into a mild fender bender and almost ends up beating up the other driver. Throughout the film, the screen writer and Nicholas Ray remind us of Dix's temper - it flares up repeatedly. It even turns on his friends - Mel Lippman (his agent and friend - Art Smith) says the wrong thing, and almost gets throttled. This makes us aware of Dix possibly being the killer of the woman.
Dix meets Laurel Gray (Gloria Graham), and a hot romance develops. And we watch the film show the slow growth of fears and suspicions in Laurel regarding Dix's temper and his actual innocence, and Dix's realization that Laurel trusts him less and less. The film spirals to their final painful confrontation - and it's ironic conclusions of shattered hopes. Fred C. Dobbs may have ended up dead, but only in IN A LONELY PLACE did a Bogie character end up shattered.
Bogart gives a real actors performance in his production company
Santana's first picture In a Lonely Place. The title describes the
mental state of the lead character Dixon Steele - played by our
favourite Humphrey Bogart.
He seems to be more himself in this movie, than in any other role he played before or since. Dixon Steele is a famous Hollywood writer going through a low patch for a few years now. He is also a very violent man with a short fuse. He is suspected of the murder of a hat check girl early on in the movie but is provided an alibi by neighbour Gloria Grahame. They both fall in love and Steele actually seems to be cured and starts writing again. But....
I won't delve further into the plot, but this is Bogie's most personal performance and worth a detailed viewing. You'll begin to understand the talents of this actor much more by watching this film. There are several memorable scenes and some great dialogue but this film is more realistic and less stylish than classic noir's like Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, Maltese Falcon or Out of the Past.
The end is great....a true noir ending.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was sold on release as 'The Bogart Suspense Picture With The
Surprise Finish'. It's plot does revolve around the highly tense 'Did
he really do it?' premise of a murder mystery, yet 'In A Lonely Place'
is really more focused on psychology and human behaviour than anything
else. The 'Who killed Mildred Atkinson- was it Dixon Steele?' angle is
more of a MacGuffin in the way that it moves the plot along and gives
purpose, but ultimately is of little concern to the viewer. We are more
concerned with the Dixon Steele (Bogart) and Laurel Gray (Grahame)
relationship, and how it has been affected.
Bogart's performance is mesmerizing; there is very little trace of acting here, it is real and he seems to drawing from demons within. It's not 'The Method', it's just sheer brilliance by an amazing film actor. Steele appears to be always on the brink, ready to boil over. Bogart conveys this expertly with his actions and mannerisms. Gloria Grahame, a truly underrated actress, is also wonderful as Laurel Gray, the woman who falls in love with Steele, but finds she can no longer trust in the course of the film's events. I will make the perhaps startling suggestion that Bogart and Grahame actually share better on-screen chemistry than Bogart and Bacall. There, I said it. It's true. It's a simmering, tender yet dangerous romance that Steele and Gray (note the surnames- an interesting likeness) experience, and Bogart and Grahame are absolutely believable in their roles.
This film is about trust, and what happens when trust is lost in a relationship. It's also about the loneliness that everyone inevitably experiences; particularly the artist, the writer, that Bogart's character is. It's about Steele's loneliness before Laurel came into his life, and how his situation will be hopeless if she leaves him or doubts him ever. Very powerful noir.
It is one of the best noirs I have ever seen, and very underrated. I notice that the TIME Magazine has included it on it's list of 100 greatest films of all time. Finally, some recognition! Ray's direction is amazing, the atmosphere is brilliantly maintained and the performances are perfect, so it puzzles me why this film is not better known (especially with Bogart's name and all). It's considered by many a Bogart fan to be the film in which he gives his best performance, so it's a must-see for all film goers. A frightening noir because of it's emphasis on human drama, 'In a Lonely Place' is right up there with 'Out Of The Past' and 'Double Indemnity'.
It's also a powerful satire and critique of show business and it's false values. Steele, the screenwriter, is the bitter outsider to the game, caustically observing the trappings of his position. One feels Bogart is drawing upon his own early struggling experiences in Hollywood when capturing the essence of Steele. Dix's dry comments to hat-check girl Mildred and his amazing bitterly earnest replies to critical film producers speak of a noir with a higher purpose than just the usual murder plot with style. This is a noir with wit, and outlook.
See It! 10/10.
Humphrey Bogart's part in In a Lonely Place perfectly makes such an
interesting case as to what is capable in his skills as an actor, and
as a star. Nicholas Ray's film doesn't so much challenge as it does
confront a certain style of POV in how the character(s) may be seen in
the film, and it very much has a lasting impact to this day. Early on
in the film we're seeing it all through Dixon Steele's perspective, a
down-on-his-luck type who in this case happens to be a screenwriter.
After a woman he asked over to his place leaves, and gets killed later
on, he's pulled in as the chief suspect. The investigation goes on, but
in the meantime he falls for his alibi, a woman neighbor he glanced at
that night (Gloria Grahame). Now so far we've gotten, more or less, the
'star' side of Bogie, where he's a decent enough person, even through
the way that he says the lines is his style of gruff, low-key. So far
we're on his side with this, and the director too goes to lengths to
make the police-side moments to be as they are in any given number of
noirs where there's always the overly suspicious head detective.
But then suddenly, the perspective changes really from Bogart's character to Grahame's. Suddenly, as her character types up his new, 'inspired' script in a matter or weeks, the relationship for her- at first with a firm tongue-in-cheek and kind adoration in part to the writing- starts to take a turn. Here's where the character of Bogart's starts to get interesting, as the past record of violent outbursts starts to add doubt not just for his girl, but for the audience as well. As he was much as at home playing tense, on-edge gangsters and the like in the 30's as he was in star turns in the 40s, here's a role where he gets to both, but in line with the director's dramatic requirements. Here he creates this film just on structure with a keen apt for the suspense of it all. It isn't even a 'whodunit' as much as it is a look at the environment of how 'loneliness' is often most crushing when it incurs loss and pushing others away. And the climax that is reached is meant as an emotional one, as the real peak is revealed. In a Lonely Place is great for what it gives its actor(s) to do with the material, and along with an accompanying, varying style, it's exemplary of subverting expectations. You may get the rough side of Bogie as well as the side that's near charming. But this time the implications of connecting and feeling for one another are just as strong, if not stronger, than the mystery portion that pushes further on them.
Saying all this, of course, doesn't mean that the film isn't quite the entertainer, too; moments of humor are pecked in with a side character and with some of the (typical for a Bogart star role) finely tuned bits of dialog. It's a film that tells a love story and has the mix of very touching moments with the uglier ones, has some grit on the edges that adds to the subversion of the material, and puts conflicts where elsewhere would be shuffled around by others. In short, it's a highlight in both of the careers of the director and star.
Film noir is a part of cinema that has been sorely missed since it's
decline in the sixties, but it's always nice to view a classic from the
era; and this film is one of the best of the genre that I've seen.
While many film noir's focus on crime only, this one fuses crime with
romance and the result is a film that is both thrilling and touching.
The film also seems keen to give a commentary on Hollywood, with it's
comments on the sort of people that live there along with criticisms of
certain methods. The film is very pessimistic, which is a part of the
film noir tradition and the pessimistic outlook of the movie blends
excellently with the stylish black and white cinematography. This film
marks a different sort of role for the great Humphrey Bogart as well,
as it shows him in a more vulnerable, and more importantly darker, role
than what we are used to seeing him portray. The plot includes mystery
and suspense, and it follows Bogart as the girl that he invited to his
apartment is found dead.
The story of In a Lonely Place really picks up when Bogart comes into contact with his neighbour, a mysterious young woman whom he promptly falls in love with. This romance forms the backbone of this dark movie, but even though the romance is usually a positive thing; director Nicholas Ray even manages to keep this aspect of the story firmly in the shadows. The film is a great example of professionalism throughout, with the direction, screenplay and acting all being flawless. It's nice to see an actor of Bogart's immense talent in this sort of role, as it really allows him to put his back into it and the result is a fine performance from one of the greatest actor's of all time, which is a treat to watch. The plot is full of criticisms of Hollywood in the 50's, and this will be of interest to film fans as this was an important period of time for movies. On the whole, this movie is a fascinating piece of cinema. It is captivating from the moment it starts and you will be drawn to it all the way though. My only slight criticism is that it could have spent a little more time on the mystery side of it's plot, and a little less on the romance; but that's a small criticism. Otherwise, this is an excellent piece of cinema.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a successful screenwriter who has not
present anything worthwhile for a long time. He is a very violent man, with
a bad temper. His agent asks him to read a book and prepare the screenplay,
and he invites the receptionist of the restaurant where he is habitué, who
had read the foregoing book, to go to his home and present a summary of the
book. The girl had a date, but she decides to go with Dix. After midnight,
he gives her some money for the cab and she leaves his apartment alone. On
the next day, the girl is found dead and Dix becomes the main suspect. He
goes to the police station, with his neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame),
and she provides his alibi. Then they fall in love for each other, but
Gloria can not trust in him completely. With the support of Gloria, Dix
starts working as never, and prepares an outstanding screenplay for his
agent. Meanwhile he proposes her to get married with him, and although
Gloria is in love with him, she can not rely on him. This movie is
magnificent, having Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in an outstanding
performance. The story is wonderful, and the direction and actors are
magnificent. The restored black and white photography is overwhelming. My
vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): `No Silêncio da Noite' (In the Silence of the Night')
In a Lonely Place straddles two genres just as the timing of its
release straddles two decades. It has the elements of the classic 40s
film noir tradition and it also anticipates the revival of the
melodrama genre which would become so popular in the fifties in the
hands of directors like Ray and Sirk.
It also contains one of the most schizophrenic of screen performances by Humphrey Bogart. He alternates between the classic Sam Spade persona that defined his screen image and the insecure, psychotic character he played so well in films like The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Caine Mutiny.
A must watch for Bogart fans and also for its skillful fusion of film noir and melodrama.
Screenwriter Dixon Steele is very very talented, he also drinks too
much and is prone to outbreaks of shocking violence. Thus the studios
are reluctant to hire him, but thru sheer determination, his agent
manages to get him a coveted writing assignment to adapt a popular
novel. The main players in the proposed picture meet up at a restaurant
to talk things out, but with Dixon being Dixon it all goes wrong and
violence curtails the evening. Tho not really keen to read the novel he
is to adapt, Dixon accepts an invitation from the hatcheck girl to read
for him as it's her favourite book, they both go to Dixon's home and
nothing untoward happens between the pair, he bids her farewell and
puts out for her cab fare home. The next day the police show up at the
door requesting Dixon accompany them down to the station, turns out
that the poor hatcheck girl was murdered and dumped on the roadside,
Dixon of course is the chief suspect. But a glint of light appears in
the form of Dixon's beautiful neighbour, Laurel Gray, who provides
Dixon with a solid alibi, this sets in motion a relationship between
the pair that might break or make either one of them.
In A Lonely Place is a fabulous picture, not nominated for any academy awards (incredible in light of Bogart's stunning portrayal as Steele), and tagged on its release as being too bleak to be a winner, it's now rightly considered one of the best films of its type and contains some of the best work from those involved. What always amazes me with the film is how its two halves are so very riveting for different reasons, the first half we are trying to understand Steele's conflict with himself (a wonderfully complex character), he is our sole focus of attention. Then the second half as Laurel and Dixon enter into a full blown relationship, we find ourselves in Laurel's place, as Dixon grows ever more erratic, we join Laurel in her unease, it feels like a coiled spring waiting to unleash itself. It's quite an achievement that director Nicholas Ray molds the pictures halves together and dabs them with darkly affecting visuals, whilst all the time taking us up and down as to how we feel about Dixon Steele and the girl he has clearly fallen in love with.
This is not just about the actors (Gloria Grahame as Laurel is also as fabulous as Bogart is) and its director tho, a tip of the hat has to go to the source material by Dorothy Hughes and Edmund H North and the adaptation by Andrew Holt, the ending here is different to the one in the book, but personally I think this one works better because it has a quandary cloud hanging over it, not in a short changed way, but in a deeply unnerving way, the kind that sets you pondering over a cold glass of beer. Terrific stuff here for those willing to invest undivided time with it, a film that is now rightly revered as a classic, so just as Dixon Steele is up on that old knife edge, the makers are asking you to hop up on that edge alongside him, do it and you wont be disappointed. 9.5/10
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