In a Lonely Place is easily one of Humphrey Bogart’s best roles, effortlessly performing a very personal role in the midst of a noir piece that is unlike any other in his career. When screenwriter Dix Steele is accused of murdering a woman he barely knows for no reason whatsoever, besides a penchant for snapping in short-fused violence, he has to convince his intimate circle that he is innocent of a terrible crime… that he may or may not have committed for no reason besides the thrill of the act. This “(unique) romantic and doom-haunted noir drama” was a fantastic flick (Newman).
We watched In A Lonely Place on Criterion, #810.
This movie was definitely not what I was expecting. We have watched a few noir films from this time, and this one is by far the bleakest. Humphrey Bogart gives a performance with such a huge range – he’s charming and witty in one scene, and threatening and violent in the next. His character changes with little or no warning and with great ferocity. The story keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, as you race to figure out who committed the murder set up at the beginning. Is Gloria Graeme in danger with Bogart? Is Bogart being set up? You will change you mind back and forth as this movie makes you doubt what you know, what you think you know, and what you hope is (or is not!) true.
The theme and style is a great blend of the very best of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s thriller/film noir vibe. I loved the set and the look of Bogart’s apartment. I liked this movie particularly because many of the characters are flawed. There is no happy ending or easy resolution to this movie. The actors were not hesitant to make themselves prickly or unlikable.
I really enjoyed this film, and that is unusual for me because in many instances I have thought that Bogart was an actor with a relatively limited range. Up until this point, I have seen a man who has kept his reputation as a performer perhaps only as far as nostalgia has been able to take him. But in this piece, I was impressed at the range and talent in his characterization of Steele. In one of the Criterion special features we watched, it was apparent that this might have been because it was a character that really helped him process and perform in a manner that was somewhat close to who he was as a person – and it makes sense how this would diverge from the character he usually seems to have ready to go in his back pocket.
I enjoyed this movie. The writing and direction were on point. Some of my favorite elements had to do with some of the exterior shots and the design of the sets that managed to heighten the setting frozen in time a little more intentionally than many of the films from the era. The set itself was based on and duplicated real places where the piece was set, and that certainly helped with this feeling of genuine celluloid reality.
For this film, I did not read Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel, but I was interested to read in Schneider that the ending differs from the original text in one key way. Also, the process and mental mise en scene of the career, art, and anxieties of writing is perfectly captured in this film more than any other than I have seen to this point – except perhaps in Jonze/Kaufman’s Adaptation.
Check out this great article from The Library of America’s The Moviegoer, In A Lonely Place: Film Noir as an Opera of Male Fury by Carrie Rickey (linked above)