What we know and recognize from film-noir, Nicholas Ray turns everything around on us with In a Lonely Place, but in the meantime also shows us some of the very best that can come out from such a style. This is a chilling film one second, and the other it’s a stark melodrama. But where Nicholas Ray works around melodrama is something unlike what can be found in most of classic Hollywood. It’s out of nowhere, but like Douglas Sirk, it can truly be among the most effective you will have witnessed. In a Lonely Place goes to show what can be pulled off with so much raw power within every frame, but as we go into the bare bones, something much more is exposed that certifies its own status as one of the greatest American pictures to have ever been made – it showcases cinema at some of its very best.
There’s a very personal sense to the way In a Lonely Place was made especially as Nicholas Ray has made it as he was undergoing personal troubles of his very own, and what’s formed in the very end is a very dark, yet extremely effective melodrama. It’s effective because it remains so unsentimental and to an extent delves into the realms of brooding cynicism. It’s very much a reflection of Ray going down to the pitfalls of Hollywood amidst what had been troubling him. It’s very much a reflection of Ray going down to the pitfalls of Hollywood amidst what had been troubling him, and in turn, we’re left with an interesting case study in regards to Bogart’s character of Dix Steele, a man wanting different but for his aspirations, a bigger league is turning against him.
In a Lonely Place offers a commentary on the film industry that also feels extremely relevant today especially given the portrait of how good scripts are often refused in favour of badly done remakes of the same material for years and years. They make these sorts of pictures because the studio executives know that these are the kinds of movies that are sure to make big money. Nicholas Ray’s picture of the industry gives a most insightful and dark satire on the state of films, which was common already for 1950 in a year that also gave away Sunset Boulevard.
Nicholas Ray shows us that there is always a need for great scripts no matter what is being made. For the script to In a Lonely Place already is indeed a fantastic one, where every exchange between Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame still shines out for the lingering effect of the delivery of such words. Yet to some sense we feel some sort of an envy present. Nicholas Ray envied the writers where he knew he could recognize actual talent amidst how the actors deliver their lines and he wanted to get down to the bones with this lovingly cynical tribute. Like Dix, it is angered with the control and heavy studio influence.
There is no doubt that In a Lonely Place still contains the elements that would create suspense, for an ambiguous tone is left all throughout that in turn, corners Bogart’s violent Dix Steele inside of, a lonely place. He is being accused of murdering a woman whom he had explained a novel to him which he was tired to read (the actual act is never shown). With the violent tone to Bogart’s Dix Steele, he is a prime suspect. The ambiguous tone that In a Lonely Place presents leaves us with a fascinating case study in the sense that even after the mystery may have been solved, there may be more that Ray had chosen to leave out in order to create the haunting feel which is presented all throughout. Nicholas Ray has established Dix’s violent nature, adding more possibilities to what may have happened the whole time.
Within In a Lonely Place, every lead character is broken by their desires. Nicholas Ray doesn’t sink down to the very depths of miserablism but instead he goes down to show what is it that has doomed these characters to where they stand right now. The melodrama that is formed from the emotion placed into these characters works effectively for these are people who recognize they are broken and as a means of “mending” themselves they turn back to more people who are also broken. It is especially clear from the relationship between Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, to which the final line establishes how difficult, or nearly impossible it is to fix someone broken so deeply.
Many often would recognize an actor like Humphrey Bogart within a charming role like Rick Blaine in Casablanca or Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, but a performance more toned down much like a role like Dixon Steele as shown in here is something out of the ordinary. While not as despicable to the degree that he was made to be in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, what makes Bogart’s performance in In a Lonely Place so effective is that this is a character who recognizes he’s broken. It’s a performance not like anything seen prior in Bogart’s career, and it most simply is one of, if not, his very best too. A melodramatic turn, but always compelling, just as Humphrey Bogart’s onscreen presence has remained through all the years.
It’s a film-noir in the sense that it is extremely dark in the manner that it maintains a specific style to which it is made but more is offered especially within the cynicism it shows towards the film industry, and also in the sense that there are possibilities left after the ending to what provoked the case which had been presented. By the time In a Lonely Place ends what we had that was a testament to the sort of scripts envied by Nicholas Ray comes to the resolution where as reflected in a famous final quote from the film, nothing matters. In a Lonely Place is a perfect portrait of what I feel cinema should be like, and what’s especially loving is that this film even manages to call out the lowest of the low in regards to the studio executives and their ignorance. A most cynical, but deeply affecting melodrama.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Columbia Pictures.
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Screenplay by Edmund H. North, Andrew Solt, from the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes
Produced by Robert Lord
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame
Release Year: 1950
Running Time: 93 minutes