#19) In a Lonely Place (1950)
OR “Dix Chix Fix Pix”
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Written by Andrew Solt. Adaptation by Edmund H. North. Based on the story by Dorothy B. Hughes.
Class of 2007
Before we begin, special thanks to Kevin at the public library; who spoke to me about his appreciation for underrated Bogart films when I checked out this DVD from him. Thank you for sharing.
The Plot: Humphrey Bogart is Dixon Steele, an over-the-hill Hollywood screenwriter with a bit of an anger issue. Hired to adapt a bad novel into a movie, he brings home a hat-check girl named Mildred (Martha Stewart – not that one) to tell him the plot. The next morning Dixon awakes to learn that after Mildred left his place she was murdered, and he’s a prime suspect. While the cops try to solve the case, Dixon gets involved with his neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahame), an aspiring actress who supported his alibi. Their relationship becomes very intense as Laurel begins to see Dixon’s darker side.
Why It Matters: The NFR praises Bogart’s performance, as well as a script that “marries film-noir themes with doomed romance”. And if you want to learn about the film’s 2002 restoration by Sony Pictures, too bad: it’s a dead link. You had one job, Sony.
But Does It Really?: Oh yes. There’s a lot of cliché in film-noir, but you won’t find any of them here. Like many underrated gems of the era, this film has a lot going on beneath the surface, and Bogart and Grahame play that subtext beautifully. The biggest mystery of this film isn’t the murder that brought these two together, but rather the mystery of whether or not you can trust either lead character.
Shout Outs: Mel mentions trying to talk Selznick out of making “Gone With the Wind”. For those of you keeping score, that’s the second 1950 Hollywood noir film I’ve covered that features a character Forrest Gump-ing their way around “Gone With the Wind”.
Everybody Gets One: Most of the supporting cast members were familiar film and TV actors. Like his character, Robert Warwick (Charlie) was an ex-silent film star. Frank Lovejoy (Det. Nicolai) was no stranger to film-noir, even starring in a TV remake of “Double Indemnity”. Art Smith (Mel) was a long-time stage and film star before unfortunately being victimized by the Hollywood Blacklist. And special mention to Martha Stewart as Mildred, aka “The vic”. Ironically, she is the last surviving member of the credited cast.
Wow, That’s Dated: Taxi stands, looking up actors in a physical directory, references to Emily Post, the phrase “sex murder”.
Take a Shot: Amazingly, no one says the phrase “In a lonely place” in this film.
Seriously, Oscars?: Not a single nomination – from the Oscars or from anyone. Perhaps the major studios felt threatened that an actor’s production company could make a good film.
- While the film follows the main plot of the original story, there are enough differences, particularly with the character of Dix, to call this a loose adaptation.
- This is one of the few films produced by Humphrey Bogart’s production company, Santana Productions. Santana was the name of his yacht.
- You know this has got to be a work of fiction within the first minute. He’s a tough-guy screenwriter? And an actress recognizes him on sight? Please.
- I think we shall have to make the Horse’s Neck the official drink of The Horse’s Head (Please drink responsibly).
- If CliffsNotes had existed back in the ‘50s this whole film would never have happened.
- They establish Dix as an army man, but they don’t mention his time with the navy.
- I really like Gloria Grahame/Laurel in this film. The performance is even more layered when you learn that her marriage to director Nicholas Ray was falling apart during filming. You can learn more in a very good episode of the “You Must Remember This” podcast (I’m sure I’ll reference this podcast again for this blog).
- The only problem with naming your character Dixon and then having everyone call him Dix is that it makes me giggle like a moron when the characters say things like “I love Dix” and “There is something strange about Dix”.
- I love that even when she is in the passenger seat of a speeding car being driven by a man prone to rage, Laurel still has time for a cigarette.
- This film contains one of my favorite old movie tropes; a character tossing in bed while superimposed images of the other characters hover above them and say lines from the film.
- Director Curtis Hanson loved this film and shows up on many of the film’s DVD extras. Hanson also cited “In a Lonely Place” as one of the main influences behind his 1997 film (and future NFR entry) “L.A. Confidential”.
- “In a Lonely Place” gives us a line many associate with film noir; “I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”
- A brief clip of Bogie’s performance is one of many spliced into the Steve Martin spoof “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”.
- Bogie and Grahame also show up via archival footage in Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”.