In a Lonely Place

Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart in Nicholas Ray's IN A LONELY“I was born when she kissed me.  I died when she left me.  I lived a few weeks while she loved me.” From July 17 – 23 Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame will be resurrected in a striking new 35mm black and white print of director Nicholas Ray’s haunting 1950 drama “In a Lonely Place,” at Film Forum.  The movie precedes a two week Film Forum retrospective of Nicholas Ray’s work that will run from July 24 through August 6, 2009.

“In a Lonely Place” is a noir-romance-mystery about loneliness, alienation, trust and the film business. It is telling that in the book on which the movie is based Bogart’s character is a serial killer but in the movie is changed to a screenwriter.  In fact “In a Lonely Place” has a commentary on the movie business that, 59 years later, is surprisingly relevant.  Disgruntled screenwriter Dixon Steele’s (Bogart) frustration and cynicism comes from wanting to work on good projects as opposed to making the same movie over and over as one of his more successful colleagues has done.   Hmmm…

The story concerns a love affair between Dix (as he is called) and Laurel Gray (Grahame), his neighbor.  The two meet when Laurel saves Dix from a murder rap by corroborating his alibi that he was at home at the time of the murder.  When asked by police why she was watching Steele on the night of the murder Laurel replies, “…he looks interesting.  He has a nice face.”   Dix also has a bad temper and a long record of violence most likely due to his recent war experiences and exacerbated by his cynical view of the movie business.

What is most noteworthy about “In a Lonely Place” are the performances of its two leads.  Bogart’s “raw nerve” performance is a bold, un-star-like turn.  His Dix Steele is hard-drinking, hair-triggered and paranoid with violence bubbling just beneath the surface that often spills out of him.  In fact the idea of the potential for violence in people is an idea that Ray also explored in “On Dangerous Ground” (1952) and “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), both included in the retrospective.  Grahame, not to be outdone, provides just the right touch of mystery and devotion as the woman whose past we only get glimpses of but who loves Dix, inspires his writing and over looks his flaws for as long as she can.  The film also concerns one of Ray’s favorite themes which is two lovers looking for a place to settle down.  Grahame’s final two lines of dialogue are among my all time favorite closing movie lines.

On Friday July 17 the 7:40 showing of “In a Lonely Place” will be introduced by Susan Ray, wife of the film’s director.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on July 7, 2009, in Classics, Film Forum. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Who can beat those lines. Ah, if life were really like that. If I could I would be right there with you.

    • unpaidfilmcritic

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, great lines. I hope you will have a chance to see the great print at Film Forum.

  2. You are lucky to live in NYC. So much happens there. I’m just a little jealous.

  3. This is one of my favorite films of all time…but I haven’t thought about it in years. I want to book a plane ticket right now to come see the film in all its glory at the Film Forum.

    Have you seen “Bigger than Life”? Another Ray classic, this one with James Mason.

    Thanks for the memories.

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