Quick note. I am changing things up here very slightly. I am bringing back two of my favorite old features here with Saturday Night Noir and Sunday Morning Westerns. Technically, these will be a part of the Quick Daily Review series and will be numbered as such. I am also toying with the idea of doing themed weeks Monday through Friday, but until I settle on an idea I like that will most likely remain somewhat of a free-for-all. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy today’s quick review.
In A Lonely Place – (1950)
Director: Nicholas Ray
Dixon Steele; no there’s a name you will only find in the movies, and to find it in a 1950s Film Noir starring Humphrey Bogart is altogether fitting. It’s no Sam Spade, but it’s right there in the conversation. Despite that name though “In A Lonely Place” is a far different kind of noir than “The Maltese Falcon” was. This is not your typical tough, fast talking detective outwitting dangerous criminals’ kind of movie. This movie lacks many of the traditional trappings of cliché Noir. There are some detectives here but they play more of a supporting role. The main character is a Hollywood screenwriter, at least forty years before the Coen brothers decided to build a Neo-Noir around one in “Bartin Fink”. Dixon Steele is in many ways a fine proxy of Bogart himself, a hard drinking (alcoholic as we would say now), extremely talented, but also very temperamental personality who did not suffer fools gladly.
In this movie, Steele is given the task of adopting a trashy tabloid best seller into a movie script. The process is slow going, as Steele can barely stand to read the novel, let alone convert it to something palpable for Hollywood. Enter the lovely Gloria Grahame, Steele’s neighbor that he occasionally watches from his Bungalow window. Her character is able to inspire Dixon, and the words start flowing. In the middle of all of this Dixon becomes the suspect in a murder mystery which serves as the backdrop, and driving force of the tortured love story of Bogart and Graham. The best scene in the movie shows Bogart at his rambling, half-psychotic best, describing how he might have committed the murder had he done so, to a captive dinner party audience including his former best friend who is now a detective on the case. There are many other great suspenseful scenes like that in this movie. If you only like Noirs with wise cracking, pistol carrying, fedora sporting gangsters and Dick Tracy’s, this one may not be for you, but if you’re into the internal conflict and overall noir style and mood of film, this is one not to be skipped.