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In a Lonely Place (1950)
Topic Started: Apr 29 2017, 09:32 AM (180 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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In a Lonely Place (1950) Dir. Nicholas Ray
A Santana Production distributed by Columbia Pictures
93 min. / B&W / 1.33:1

An over-the-hill screenwriter brings home a young hat-check girl because she's read the book he's supposed to be adapting and he hasn't, so he wants her to "tell him the story" and I know what you're thinking, but nothing happens and she goes off on her way. The next day, her body turns up in the Hollywood canyon and he's the #1 suspect, even though his lovely neighbor across the way can see through his window and gives him an alibi. But guess what? The murder of the girl "in a lonely place" is the film's McGuffin, setting up the actual drama of love, obsession, rage, and violence between our male and female leads.

Unheralded Bogart picture (my local classic movie fan friends had never seen it, some had never heard of it) but a terrific one with a great performance by the leading man, playing a character that some felt was close to the "real" Bogie: a funny, thoughtful man prone to drunken rages. Pretty Gloria Grahame is known by nearly everybody for her many low-budget noirs or small parts in large movies (It's a Wonderful Life, most famously) and this is probably her greatest performance, as an unsuccessful actress who "likes the face" of the man across the way but discovers that he's a violent dick who rightfully scares the bejeebers out of her.

Extremely unsettling picture, not least of all because Bogart plays a borderline psychopath and the film is dark, even as noirs go (and a couple of times, Bogie is lit like Bela Lugosi, with his face in darkness and his eyes shining with maniacal light). The supporting cast, including the long-suffering agent, an extremely weird housekeeper, and a drunken actor who seems to be channeling John Barrymore, all seem to have flown in from other movies.

Backstory: Based but loosely on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes; Bogart produced it but Jack Warner wouldn't give him Bacall for the female lead and Ray nixed Harry Cohn's preference, Ginger Rogers, insisting that Mrs. Ray (Gloria, at the time) get the picture. Ray had sets built that resembled his own Southern California apartment complex and moved onto them. He also rewrote most of the picture, sans credit, inserting some juicy bitch-slaps at his chosen profession.

Million-dollar Dialog:
Director Morris Ankrum: "You haven't written a hit since before the war. And your LAST picture..."
Bogie: "So it stunk! Everybody makes flops except you! You haven't had one because you've made and remade the same picture for the last twenty years! You know what you are? You're a POPCORN SALESMAN."

The BD from Criterion is worthy of that label's esteemed brand, a gorgeous transfer that glows. If you haven't seen this one, don't overlook it.

Also on the Program

Two Porky Pig cartoons, Old Glory (with a creepy Uncle Sam) and Wise Quacks (with a henpecked, almost unrecognizable Daffy Duck); episode nine of Holt of the Secret Service; the Three Stooges in the weird Love at First Bite (the Stooges didn't play drunks very often); a Crime Does Not Pay episode about voter fraud, with Perry White and Ward Cleaver; and a Vitaphone short with a trio of harpist ladies.

Good, clean fun.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Chandu
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Champeen of Justice and Seeker of Knowledge, but rascal at heart!
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Thanks for the review, Gravy. I own this but haven't watched it yet. Thanks to you, I'll soon remedy that.
Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog. It's just little ol' me...
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