Monday, September 5, 2011

In a Lonely Place

The Nicholas Ray Blogathon is an event focusing on the work of the director Nicholas Ray, presented by the blog Cinema Viewfinder. For a complete list of participating blogs, visit the host site.

In a Lonely Place
last seen online via YouTube

To be honest, the only reason I took part in this Nicholas Ray blogathon is that it gave me an excuse to watch In a Lonely Place again, one of Humphrey Bogart's scariest roles, bar none. Normally I would devote this entire post to Bogey and how awesome he is in this movie, but let's talk a little bit about the director first.

He's been in the news a bit lately. Ray's last film, We Can't Go Home Again, screened at the Venice Film Festival, and Oscilloscope will distribute it here in North America (along with a documentary about the man made by his widow). He is the director of, among other things, the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause, which, I'm sorry to say, never did anything for me. Dean was a solid actor, no doubt, but Rebel is one of those films, I think, that was more dramatic to a 50s audience than to a modern one. Looking at it today, it just strikes me as corny and difficult to take seriously, and I've watched it more than once. The only other Ray films I've seen are King of Kings and Johnny Guitar (which I'm actually planning to watch again later this year; not sure when).

Ray was married to Lonely actress Gloria Grahame (whom I last saw in The Big Heat) at the time they made Lonely. She was the second of his four wives. Ray apparently was alleged to be bisexual. I wouldn't know if that was true or not. Certainly Rebel has some homosexual undertones to it, but who knows how intentional that truly was? Here's the effed up part, though: according to Wikipedia, Ray and Grahame divorced when he found her sleeping with his 13-year-old son! (They'd eventually get married in 1960, after the kid was grown-up.)

Ray puts his wife through the wringer in Lonely. Bogey plays a Hollywood screenwriter implicated as a suspect in a murder. Grahame plays a neighbor who vouches for his innocence at first, but then she gets to know him, and though they fall in love, it turns out he's got a hell of a temper, and he becomes obsessed with her. Could he be a murderer after all?

I can't emphasize enough how stone-cold frightening Bogey is in this movie (once you get past the porn-tastic name Dixon Steele). There's one scene where he gets in a fight with some dude who Bogey nearly crashes into on the road, and he beats the guy to within an inch of his life. If Grahame hadn't been there to stop him, he totally would have killed him! Most of the time, though, his character is fairly lucid, and that's the problem: he was the last person to see the murder victim, and he's all nonchalant about it, which makes the police suspect him even more. Bipolar? Probably.

Bogey's scariest role, I think, is Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but this is a close second - and it inspired a sweet Smithereens song.


  1. wow pretty incredible aneccdote. i guess it has to be true if it's (still) on wiki. and people give Woody a hard time.

    i do love this film for bogey but also for the vision of the director and his approach towards the perspective of the piece. i think a lesser director would have made a much more forgettable film out of the material.

    it's still 10 years away on the noir-a-thon but i'm very much looking forward to it.

  2. Oh, no doubt that Ray handled the material well. It never feels exploitative or cheesy, and the whole cast is good. Don't wait ten years to see it!

  3. between 1941 (last weeks maltese falcon) and 1950 (in a lonely place) there are 45 movies that were selected for the noir-a-thon. i just checked and i'm now slightly disturbed by the scope of our project. gonna be watching more than one a week if i want to finish it before i go to europe next september.

  4. Oh you're going in order? Wow.


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