In a Lonely Place (1950)
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Graham, Frank Lovejoy, Martha Stewart; USA 1950, 94 min.
Based on the novel by Dorothy B.Hughes, and scripted by Andrew Solt with collaboration from director Nicholas Ray and producer Robert Lord, IN A LONELY PLACE was the second time that Ray and Santana, the production company owned by Lord and Bogart, had worked together after Knock on any Door. Shot in the autumn of 1949 at Columbia Studios, with only three days location work in LA, IN A LONELY PLACE has become a true Film noir classic for various reasons not least because the marriage of Ray and the film’s leading actress, Gloria Grahame was on the rocks, rather like that of her relationship with leading man Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart).
Dixon Steele, a Hollywood scriptwriter, “whose last success was pre-war”, is an alcoholic, violent and ageing man. In a nightclub, his agent Mel Lippman tries to interest him in an adaptation of a novel. Steele is grumpy and bored, and asks the hat-check girl Mildred Atkinson (Stewart), to come home with him to read the final part of the novel for him while he relaxes at home. Next morning, Steele is visited by his friend and army buddy, Detective Sergeant Brub Nicolai (Lovejoy), who tells him, that Atkinson was murdered on her way home from Steele’s house, and her body thrown from the taxi. Meanwhile Steele has fallen in love with a neighbour Laurel Gray (Grahame), an aspiring actress. He wants to marry her, but after Gray experiences Steele’s violent temper she gets cold feet, only to make him keener with the famous lines: “I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I lived a few weeks while she loved me”. Steele, who has made remarks that tie him to the Atkinson murder, is in the end cleared by Nicolai, but Gray leaves him for good.
Shot by legendary DoP Burnett Guffey (Human Desire, Bonny & Clyde and Bogart’s last feature The Harder they Fall), IN A LONELY PLACE evokes the spirit of Scott Fitzgerald in that it is a film about angst and alienation in Hollywood. In the original ending, Steele kills Gray, and is arrested by Nicolai. Ray shot the new ending more or less in secret, being afraid that Columbia boss Harry Cohen would explode at the unhappy ending. But to be on the safe side, Ray directed both final sequences in three days in mid November. One critic wrote at the time of the premiere, that – “not unlike Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Nicholas Ray’s remarkable IN A LONELY PLACE represents the purest existentialist primers”. AS
NOW SHOWING AS PART OF THE BFI GLORIA GRAHAME RETROSPECTIVE | FROM 24 NOVEMBER 2017