johnlink ranks IN A LONELY PLACE (1950)

IN A LONELY PLACE seems to be categorized as a film noir in just about any place you look. Calling it so is somewhat of a lazy generalization, as the film doesn’t have many of the classic noir elements. Really, this is a drama about a guy who may or may not be a terrible human being.


I watched IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) on 12.11.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

Some movies are burned by their inability to deliver a satisfying last ten minutes. These movies have a wonderful premise, a solid set up, a worthy conflict, and then just can not deliver the goods in the climax.

IN A LONELY PLACE is the opposite of those movies. Bogart doesn’t just do his thing here, he plays more than his standard antihero. He is a brooding and dark Dix Steele (is that enough of a symbolic name for you?) who has occasional bouts of being a really good guy. He is a writer whose graciousness, when sober and clear-headed, has people forgiving him when he acts piggish.

He invites a girl over for reasons which may not be noble. But Dix is selective enough that her annoying personality leads to him sending her home rather than to his bed. On the way, unfortunately, she gets murdered. Dix is brought in for questioning. Did he do it? Well it seems he has an alibi in his neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahme) who says she saw him after the girl left.

Their interaction in a police station lead Dix and Laurel to drum up a sudden relationship. They are a volatile mix, though most of the flame is provided by Dix who is incapable of controlling his temper.

IN A LONELY PLACE, then, is about anger. It’s about the lengths a man will go when wronged. It is about the threat of violence which lurks under the surface for some. It is about the fine line between a killer and merely an abuser.

Bogart is really exceptional here. It’s been said that this character was the closest Bogart ever came to playing himself. The guilt which crests across his face in the moments of realization after an outburst seem to come from a real place. He uses his years as the guy the audience wanted to be against them to suggest that this brute might be who they really are.

This is also a movie about making movies. Dix is a screenwriter, his friends are actors and producers. Laurel is an actress who seems less than serious about being an actress. Much is made of reputation versus reality. IN A LONELY PLACE appears to not trust the film industry it is born out of. Yet this, perhaps, leads to the unexpected tone of its final scene.

The final moments are quiet and violent. Dix and Laurel make the audience ache. A moment of potential redemption is sacrificed to ambiguity in the aftermath of lost control. If the rest of the film seems to foreshadow a boiling over, the end defies this temptation and gives something much more poignant.

This is one of those lesser recognized Bogart titles, but it is one which absolutely belongs on the list of his greater roles.



The classical film score in this just gets absolutely annoying. The flourishes and the not-too-subtle musical cues don’t help an otherwise grounded film. 



~ by johnlink00 on December 13, 2013.

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