Slough Cooperative Film Society Slough Cooperative Film Society

The Society has been showing the best of world and independent cinema in Slough for 70 years

 

22nd May 2018 DATCHET VILLAGE HALL

IN A LONELY PLACE

USA 1950 98 mins


Dixon Steele Humphrey Bogart Director Nicholas Ray
Laurel Gray Gloria Grahame Writers Andrew Solt,
Brub Nicolai Frank Lovejoy Edmond H.North
Capt. Lochner Carl Benton Reid Cinematographer Burnett Guffey
Mel Lippman
Sylvia Nicolai
Mildred Atkinson
Art Smith
Jeff Donnell
Martha Stewart
Editor
Music
Viola Lawrence
George Anthell

The place is Hollywood, lonely for scriptwriter Dixon Steele, who is suspected of murdering a young woman, until girl-next-door Laurel Gray supplies him with a false alibi. But is he the killer? Under pressure of police interrogation, their tentative relationship threatens to crack - and Dix's sudden, violent temper becomes increasingly evident. Ray's classic thriller remains as fresh and resonant as the day it was released. Nothing is as it seems: the noir atmosphere of deathly paranoia frames one of the screen's most adult and touching love affairs; Bogart's tough-guy insolence is probed to expose a vulnerable, almost psychotic insecurity; while Grahame abandons femme fatale conventions to reveal a character of enormous, subtle complexity. As ever, Ray composes with symbolic precision, confounds audience expectations, and deploys the heightened lyricism of melodrama to produce an achingly poetic meditation on pain, distrust and loss of faith, not to mention an admirably unglamorous portrait of Tinseltown. Never were despair and solitude so romantically alluring.

Geoff Andrew at www.timeout.com

In a Lonely Place poster

In a Lonely Place was directed by Nicholas Ray in 1950, with a screenplay by Andrew Solt and Edmond H.North that adapted a story by Dorothy B.Hughes for Columbia Pictures. With Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame as lead actors, the film was presented as a yet another Bogart thriller.

Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a screenwriter who invites a young girl over to his home in order for her to tell him the story of a novel that he is supposed to adapt. The girl is murdered on her way home and Dix becomes the primary suspect, although his neighbour Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame in what was probably her best role in a feature film) provides an alibi for him. A relationship starts to develop between them, but Laurel remains increasingly unsure of whether he actually committed the crime or not.

The plot might seem indicative of the typical film noir tropes. The presence of Bogart was enough to highlight this genre-link, since he was the one that had reached its most remarkable peak. It didn't matter that he was the potential murderer in the film. By then, he had gained more complexity in his acting abilities and had previously been cast as vicious characters or even as killers, so it might be a possible option. However, Nicholas Ray and his screenwriters used this generic convention to hide a set of ideas that transcended a mere film genre.

For starters, In a Lonely Place develops a discourse about the film industry, and it's not a positive one. Ray was always an outsider in that world, and eventually his career would be prematurely killed off because of that. The film business is portrayed as a nest of money-grabbers, ruthless businessmen that feel no respect for old professionals (like the "thespian" played by Robert Warwick) and that don't have any trouble with adapting a lousy best-seller because it's profitable instead of trying something more artistic. And the alternative is not much better: Dixon Steele, the only character that defies this status quo, is a troubled, violent man who is not able to propose a different ethical approach.

It's precisely Steele's violence what constructs the film's main topic: abuse, because In a Lonely Place deals with abusive relationships, and mistreatment against females. Bogart and Grahame were absolutely superb in their roles, because they perfectly assumed a subversion of the archetypal roles of the film noir genre. Steele is seen at the beginning as the normal Bogart character: tough, cold, but with apparent sensitiveness inside. However, as the story advances, he will reveal himself as an extremely violent man, ready to quickly resort to punching and kicking his producer, his agent, any bystander and, of course, his girlfriend. Gloria Grahame also manages to portray a very subtle evolution. She starts as a variation of one of Lauren Bacall’s typical characters, as self-assured and strong as them, but soon she begins to become overwhelmed by the deranged Dixon. In a Lonely Place provides strong evidence about how good both actors could be.

Overall, In a Lonely Place offers the view of "progressive" Hollywood (both Ray and Bogart were spokesmen against the witch-hunt led by Senator Joseph McCarthy) and on abuse against women, which is very interesting to analyse in the light of our contemporary stand on it and the allegations against industry members over the past seven months, because it basically shows women's fear but fails to openly denounce it. But, especially, the film remains a monument to Gloria Grahame and her importance within classic film history.

Luis Freijo at www.redbrick.me