In a very meta moment from this episode of Last Heartthrob, Tom Kahane makes a connection between the name of one of the characters in the story and one of the characters in this film.
“In a Lonely Place has been described by the critic Kim Morgan as ‘one of the most heartbreaking love stories ever committed to film,’ and love is indeed what it's really about. It has the look, feel and trappings of a film noir, and a murder takes place in it, but it is really about the dark places in a man's soul and a woman who thinks she can heal them.
As carefully constructed by Bogart, who produced it, and directed by Nicholas Ray, from a great noir novel by Dorothy Hughes, it's at pains to make its man and woman adults who know their way around. Neither is a victim, except of their own natures: Dixon Steele a drinker with rotten self-esteem, Laurel Gray a woman who should know better than to invest in him.” – Roger Ebert
1. "I believe [Gloria Grahame] played this part of...an aspiring actress and heartbroken hopeful so well because she already got it. She knew deep down a romance with the movies would use her up. But she was still fresh enough that she couldn't stop herself from hoping." –Shannon Clute, Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir Podcast Episode 48: In a Lonely Place
"Before Bogart settled down with Lauren Bacall, he was a tabloid staple for his booze-filled brawls with third wife, Mayo Methot." – Amanda Garrett, Beyond Sunset Boulevard: The Hollywood Noirs of the 1950s.
1. After seeing Gloria Grahame in In a Lonely Place, I sought out more of her work, but found that she never got a role as good as this one. With the possible exception of Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, another unhinged character, Humphrey Bogart was never this good either. Can you think of other instances where playing a character whose circumstances were close to an actor’s real-life situation added to a performance and a film. Can you think of cases where it detracted?
2. “The post-war period was this moment where a lot of American males were starting to come apart at the seams. Dixon Steele is the ultimate unhinged man.” – Richard Edwards Out of the Past podcast.
We know we’re not getting a stock character in Laurel Gray when after a police interrogation in which she frankly says that she likes Dixon Steele’s face, he tries to get it closer to hers, and she says, “I said I liked it. I didn’t say I want to kiss it.”
What things do you notice about gender roles in In a Lonely Place that differ from films in the pre-war period?
3. In his screenplay, Dixon Steele writes the lines “I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”
How many films noir can you think of where those lines would have fit right in?
Check out the outpouring of ecstatic cinephilia on the Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir Podcast
For more on the Hollywood cautionary tale, including In a Lonely Place, check out Beyond Sunset Boulevard: The Hollywood Noirs of the 1950s by Amanda Garrett
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