Wednesday, November 22, 2017


IN A LONELY PLACE is a superbly acted thriller starring Humphrey Bogart as a once-successful, no cynical Hollywood screen-writer called Dix.  As the film opens he asks a coat-check girl back to his apartment, ostensibly to tell him the plot of a murder-mystery she's reading so he doesn't have to read it before adapting it.  Naturally this involves her screaming "help" as she re-enacts it.  The problem is that the girl is found murdered the next day and Dix is the prime suspect until his new neighbour Laurel (Gloria Grahame) provides a false alibi and they start an affair. It starts ominously. Laurel is interviewed by the police with Dix sitting behind her looking menacing - the picture shown above. He reveals he saw her wearing a negligee. There's a lot of sexual tension and provocation right there. After this, the film really gets interesting, as we see these two characters evenly matched. Both are mature, probably sexually experienced, and go into their new relationship with their eyes open.  Both are also flawed. The question is how far this hard-drinking, violent, resentful man can ever be healed by his lover, and how far Laurel will stick it out against a background of increasing distrust and then fear.  Grahame's portrait of a woman genuinely in love with a man who is at the very least bordering on alcoholic and violently angry and at most a murderer is nuanced, heart-breaking and feels authentic.  It's one of her best, and is what I would love her to be remembered for, rather than the silly "girl who can't get enough" from OKLAHOMA!

The film differs substantially from Dorothy B Hughes book - Dix isn't accused of being a serial killer and rapist - but "just" a murderer.  The ending also differs from the both the book and the one they scripted and actually shot first. I can't say more than that it's one of the most tragic in film history - except maybe not in the way that you might expect. And it dramatically altered how I categorised and thought of the film - as less noir (though genuinely frightening at times) - and more as one of the great tragic love stories of cinema. 

IN A LONELY PLACE has a running time of 94 minutes and is rated PG. It will be re-released this weekend as part of the Gloria Grahame season at the BFI, co-inciding with the release of FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL.

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