In a Lonely Place

Editor’s note : this review is a translation of one of the first reviews to ever appear on this blog back in 2009. Those were less than a 150 words long and were written immediately after the viewing of each film. This is as aforementioned a translation and a longer edit of this original film review.

In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)

A potentially violent screenwriter is a murder suspect until his lovely neighbor clears him. But she begins to have doubts...

One of the many films of the 1950’s that is considered as part of the Film Noir genre with crisp black and white, legendary director Nicholas Ray, and Humphrey Bogart. Add to that Ray’s wife at the time, Gloria Grahame, and you have a great film on paper.

The opening scene is a piece of anthology by itself in Bogart’s filmography, his character Dixon Steele, a drunk screenwriter on a dry spell, is in a bar and gets to punch a man, insult another one, and gets into a fistfight. All of that at noon. He represents the wounded man that Bogie always succeeded to portray in films. The perception of this actor can be compared with this character as a man that is mysterious and a bit rude like a wild animal that struggles to be around his peers.

To cast Laurel Gray, Humphrey Bogart wanted his wife Lauren Bacall for the role but she was tied by her studio and couldn’t be released to shoot In a Lonely Place. Instead, Nicholas Ray suggested his wife at the time Gloria Grahame who ended up having the role. However, during the production, Ray found Grahame in bed with his son Tony of a previous marriage. The adultery resulted in the divorce of Ray and Grahame, she later married Tony in 1960. Imagine, the set where you have a Bogie that wanted his wife to play opposite of him but the studio wouldn’t and then cast the future ex-wife of the director that sleepped with his own son. It was probably boiling just as the tension of the story was.
There’s a tension and a level of acting in this film that is in part probably due to the actual drama of the story of the makers that helped to be as convincing. Nicholas Ray was already a tormented man and the events that occurred during the shooting of the film must have fueled him with a special energy because In A Lonely Place is one of Ray’s masterpieces.

Nicholas Ray, Burnett Guffey, Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame
source: www.criterion.com
The aesthetics of the film are beautiful and minimalist with a keen sense of economy and efficiency by photographer Burnett Guffey. He was no Gordon Lewis but will be one of the most important figures of the Film noir genre and its credits roll with films like Bonnie and Clyde, Birdman of Alcatraz, and From Here to Eternity among others. His touch will make this small set of apartments look vibrant and unique.

Back when I first watched In a Lonely Place it was a film that was in high esteem but I don’t recall if it was already available on DVD format. It was a foreign copy of the film that was handed to me and it was a love at first watch to be completely honest. Even if I was still astounded by Rebel Without a Cause, In a Lonely Place would have a dear place in my cinematic memory. The ultimate Bogart performance and one of the most genuine Film noir. 

Recently, the prestigious Criterion Collection released In a Lonely Place and I am wondering about the results of the transfer on glorious 2K Blu-Ray because even the bootleg copy I got was superb, it might elevate it to a whole new level.

Criterion Blu-Ray Cover

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