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NOIR BASICS: IN A LONELY PLACE, 1950.




THE BOGART SUSPENSE PICTURE WITH THE SURPRISE ENDING.
THE START OF THIS YEARS NOIRVEMBER.

Nicholas Ray's noir melodrama, from nineteen-fifty, is one of the darkest, and most devastating love stories ever made. A picture that takes place on the inside of Hollywood, starring Humphrey Bogart in one of his finest roles, as Dixon Steele, a gifted screenwriter. He meets Laurel Gray, an actress, played by Gloria Grahame, on the same night that another woman he was with is found murdered. 

"IT WAS HIS STORY AGAINST MINE, BUT OF COURSE I TOLD MY STORY BETTER." 


DIRECTOR RAYMOND CHANDLER, GLORIA GRAHAME, AND HUMPHREY BOGART.

BOGART.

Bogart produced the film, with his independent Santana Productions. He would go on to give one, if not the greatest performance of his career. The opening shot of his eyes reflecting off the rearview mirror as he drives through the dark streets of a backdrop of Los Angeles, what is revealed in this simple shot is a bleak and wounded life, like that of a wounded animal. One of Bogart's trademarks, the simple, banked-down anger, is performed darker and deeper, becoming toxic, Bogart's characters are mean to a point at times, but this one is down-right nasty, almost frightening at times. This performance is tied with emotions of refined intellect, overshadowed cross, and generosity, creating a depth that brings out the best Bogart's talents. From the grotesque to the charm; mouth twitches, drunk-glitters, stiffened shoulders, and humor that is trickled in as a reaction to the murder of Mildred Atkinson, played by Maratha Stewart. 

I.

ABOUT.


Dixon "Dix" hadn't had a hit, "since before the war". While at a nightclub Mildred Atkinson is reading the book meant for him. He claims to be too tired to read the book and asks the hatcheck girl to come to his apartment to tell him about the book. She describes the book and in the process, he confirms what he suspectedthe book is horrible. He then gives her cab fare to get home. 

The murder of Mildred brings Dix and his neighbor Laurel together, as they talk to the police. With a writer's detachment, Dix seems to have accepted the girl's death as a plot device. The following morning he is awakened by an old army pal who is now one of the police detectives. Dix is taken down to the police station as he is a suspect in the murder. Though Laurel tells them that she saw the hatcheck girl leave the apartment alone, the police captain is still suspicious of Dix.

Soon after Dix and Laurel begin to fall in love. They are as any movie couple might be. The first weeks of their affair are blissful, full of easy mornings and playful intimacy. They joke, sip drinks in a piano bar, picnic on the beach, sharking cigarettes and stories. He makes her breakfast and she puts him to bed after a hard night's work. Laurel begins to assists him with his writing and he finds that old forgotten energy and goes back to work, much to his agent's delight. Just as Bogart begins to show his destructiveness, peeling the hero mask off, Grahame finds herself as the victim. With her dimpled pout, she started out as a dream girl, his ultimate dream, she is not cute nor silly, but elegant and mature. She is the default to his lash, the get out type, drawn to the dangerous hero. As the film goes on, what brought these two together in the first place, the love that brings out the best in one another ends up tearing them apart, showing both the ugly truths behind the person: Dix's violent outbursts, his jealous tantrums, and Laurel's fear. The dread of failure hangs like a wet carpet over the film, and a line spoken about Dix speaks volumes about the rest of the film: "If Dix has success, he doesn't need anything else." Laurel becomes even more overwhelmed with her fear of Dix, so much that she turns to pills to get to sleep. When he then asks her hand in marriage, as he stands there nervously, clenching his fists, pushing her for an answer, she accepts though this was a choice made out of fear for her life rather than love itself. And as they kiss, her eyes stay open, as she plans, at that moment, her escape.

"THERE IS NO SACRIFICE TOO GREAT FOR A CHANGE AT IMMORTALITY."

II.

The backdrop of the movie-world scandal gave the affair a broad, feverish depiction of the fragile, on the edge artist caught between work and love. Hints of intimate moments between the couple, in one of which our writer describes how he writes these love scenes, shows the bittersweet shadow that constantly lingers over the couple. 

The film shows the craft and mediation of screenwriting. Dix almost always seems as though he is viewing life around him in the form of a script, a thin line between movies and real life. A scene that shows this perfectly is the scene where Dix is fixing breakfast for Laurel, soon after they become entangled, "a good love scene should be about something else besides love." To illustrate this point, he used the scene in front of him, cutting at a grapefruit, as she sat half-asleep in her negligee: "Anyone looking at us could tell we were in love," though she sits as if she is sleepy, she is not, for she is more fearful than dopey. This scene that could have been in any other context, about love, was hinted around the theme: lack of trust. 

GRAHAME.


Gloria Grahame's performance of one of the most complex females in noir is moving, with her troubled intelligence, and sensual glances. She is as flawed as Bogart. A psychologically complex human who Grahme aces, making this her best performance. She walked as if she was bored, unscareable until it happened, she talked of someone who couldn't be shocked or talked down too. Grahame was aware of her looks, though she thought that her upper lip could have been fuller, co-stars and her niece have spoken about the cotton balls she used to fluff her upper lip. This effect, perhaps not too pleasant to kiss, worked in close up shots, you couldn't take your eyes away from her or her lips, you awaited, noticing every passing second until she spoke. And though most film historians and critics will almost always point out her lips and lipstick for that matter, I always found that Grahame's most potent weapon was her right eyebrow. When she arched it, it was another way of communication, dread or desire. It spoke volumes. Not even the likes of Bogart could steal the scenes.

"I WAS BORN WHEN SHE KISSED ME. I DIED WHEN SHE LEFT ME. I LIVED A FEW WEEKS WHILE SHE LOVED ME."

And it pure Bogart fashion, he wanted his wife Lauren Bacall for the part, this, of course, didn't work out, as Warner Bros. wouldn't loan her out, this perhaps was because the picture was being produced by Bogart himself, using his own studio, which was somewhat of a threat to these large studios. But, I believe Ray made the right choice on casting his own wife instead, even though they would go on to separate through the three month shooting time.

NOIR STYLE.


The film has always stood out to me in terms of tropes of the usual noir. Most famous noirs, even some of Bogart's previous work is full of dark, rain-filled alleys, neon hotel rooms, corrupt riches, and gilt-frames. This film is far more subtle, instead of the sharp contrast between light and dark, brighter in terms of how dark a noir could get. Open windows, a sense of airiness. 

THE ENDING.

Then to complete this perfect film, is the most devastating perfect anticlimactic ending. The original ending was far more understandable, to the normal director, a more heavy-ironic sort of one. It is said that Raymond improvised the final scene on set with Bogart and Grahame, right after they shot the more likely ending. This change is different from the typical ending of a noir, as noir tend to leave you satisfied, very rarely do they break this formula. It is heartbreaking when we watch Laurel recite Dix's own words: "I lived a few weeks while you loved me". From script to poetry to real life.

REVIEW.

Variety: "In a Lonely Place, Humphrey Bogart has a sympathetic role though cast as one always ready to mix it with his dukes. He favors the underdog; in one instance he virtually has a veteran, brandy-soaking character actor (out of work) on his very limited payroll ... Director Nicholas Ray maintains nice suspense. Bogart is excellent. Gloria Grahame, as his romance, also rates kudos." - 1950.

TRAILER.


R.