A lesser-known, but classic Humphrey Bogart movie, possibly his best performance in the film noir genre – Bogart plays screenwriter Dixon Steele, accused of a murder that he may, or may not, have committed. It is a riveting character study that must be seen to be appreciated.
Editorial review of In a Lonely Place, starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, courtesy of Amazon.com
One of Humphrey Bogart‘s finest performances dominates this unusual 1950 film noir, which focuses less on the murder mystery at the center of its plot than on the investigation’s devastating effect on a fragile romance. For Bogart, already a noir icon, the Andrew Solt script afforded an opportunity to explore a more complex and contradictory role–an antiheroic persona in line with the actor’s most accomplished and absorbing triumphs throughout his career.
For maverick director Nicholas Ray, the film posed the challenge of taking crime dramas beyond their usual formulas and into a more mature realm, as well as a chance to cast a jaundiced eye on the film industry itself. Its protagonist is Dixon Steele, a Hollywood screenwriter with an acerbic wit and a violent temper. Tasked with adapting a bestseller, he meets a hatcheck girl who’s read the book, hoping to glean its highlights before writing the script. When she’s found murdered, Steele becomes the prime suspect, and a tightening knot of suspicion forms around the writer.
Steele’s only, inconclusive witness is a pretty new neighbor, Laurel (Gloria Grahame), and the couple fall in love even as the pressure mounts. At first the new relationship is a tonic to the hard-boiled writer, who plunges into his script with a renewed vigor and discipline. But as the police continue to shadow him, Steele’s own penchant for violence erupts against friends, strangers, and even Laurel herself, whose feelings are increasingly eclipsed by suspicion that her lover is a murderer, and fear that he’ll harm her.
Bogart conveys Steele’s world-weariness and underlying vulnerability and manages the delicate task of making both his romantic yearning and sudden, murderous rages equally convincing. Ultimately, that performance and Grahame’s sympathetic work elevate In a Lonely Place into what has been called “an existential love story” more than a crime drama. —Sam Sutherland
Quotes from In a Lonely Place
Mildred Atkinson: Before I started to go to work at Paul’s, I used to think that actors made up their own lines.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): When they get to be big stars, they usually do.
Sylvia Nicolai: Well, he’s exciting because he isn’t quite normal.
Brub Nicolai: Maybe us cops could use some of that brand of abnormality. I learned more about this case in five minutes from him than I did from all of our photographs, tire prints and investigations.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Nobody can call me the things he did.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): A blind, knuckle-headed squirrel. That’s REAL bad.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): There’s no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): [tearfully] I lived a few weeks while you loved me. Goodbye, Dix.
Frances Randolph: Remember how I used to read to you?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Uh huh. Since then, I’ve learned to read by myself.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Go ahead and get some sleep and we’ll have dinner together tonight.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): We’ll have dinner tonight. But not together.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): It was his story against mine, but of course, I told my story better.
Mel Lippmann: What does it matter what I think? I’m the guy who tried to talk Selznick out of doing “Gone with the Wind“!
Actress in Convertible: Dix Steele ! How are you? Don’t you remember me?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Sorry, can’t say that I do.
Actress in Convertible: You wrote the last picture I did … at Columbia
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Oh, I make it a point to never see pictures I write.
[referring to the book Dixon is supposed to adapt into a screenplay]
Mildred Atkinson: Oh I think it’ll make a dreamy picture, Mr. Steele. What I call an epic.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): And what do you call an epic?
Mildred Atkinson: Well, you know – a picture that’s REAL long and has lots of things going on.
Capt. Lochner: Why didn’t you call for a cab? Isn’t that what a gentleman usually does under the circumstances?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Oh I didn’t say I was a gentleman. I said I was tired.
Mildred Atkinson: It must be WONDERFUL to be a writer!
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): [sarcastically] Oh, thrilling!
Capt. Lochner: [Dixon has replied with sarcasm to Lochner’s questions] You’re told that the girl you were with last night was found in Benedict Canyon, murdered. Dumped from a moving car. What’s your reaction? Shock? Horror? Sympathy? No – just petulance at being questioned. A couple of feeble jokes. You puzzle me, Mr. Steele.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Well, I grant you, the jokes could’ve been better, but I don’t see why the rest should worry you – that is, unless you plan to arrest me on lack of emotion.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): [noting the geography of their apartments] You know, Ms. Gray, you’re one up on me – you can see into my apartment but I can’t see into yours.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): I promise you, I won’t take advantage of it.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): [wryly] I would, if it were the other way around.
Capt. Lochner: Considering that you’ve never met Mr. Steele, you pay quite a bit of attention to him.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): Hmm-hmm. I have at that.
Capt. Lochner: Do you usually give such attention to your neighbors?
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): No.
Capt. Lochner: Were you interested in Mr. Steele because he’s a celebrity?
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): No, not at all. I noticed him because he looked interesting – I like his face.
Brub Nicolai: You know, I got married.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Why?
Brub Nicolai: Oh, I don’t know. I guess she had a couple of bucks to spare.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): [to Laurel] I’ve been looking for someone a long time — I didn’t know her name or where she lived – I’d never seen her before. A girl was killed, and because of that, I found what I was looking for. Now I know your name, where you live, and how you look.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): [on a scene in Dix’s script] I love the love scene – it’s very good.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Well that’s because they’re not always telling each other how much in love they are. A good love scene should be about something else besides love. For instance, this one. Me fixing grapefruit. You sitting over there, dopey, half-asleep. Anyone looking at us could tell we’re in love.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Anything you want to make you happy?
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): [whispers into his ear] I wouldn’t want anyone but you.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): You know, you’re out of your mind – how can anyone like a face like this? Look at it …
[leans in for a kiss]
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): I said I liked it – I didn’t say I wanted to kiss it.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): You annoy me!
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): If I do, it isn’t intentional.
Capt. Lochner: I didn’t expect you to give me more information — but certain facts contradict your original statement.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): [flatly] I wish you’d say what you mean.
Capt. Lochner: Yes, let’s do that. On the night of the Atkinson murder, you looked at Dixon Steele and said you didn’t know him.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): I didn’t.
Capt. Lochner: Since then, you and he have been inseparable.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): He’s writing a script. I’m doing the typing.
Capt. Lochner: Do you receive a salary for this?
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): No. I’m doing it for love.
Capt. Lochner: [surprised] Are you in love with Mr. Steele?
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): For the record, I am in love with Mr. Steele.
Capt. Lochner: Are you going to be married?
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): [pause] If we do, I’ll send you an invitation – after all, it was you who first introduced us to each other.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Oh, I love a picnic. Acres and acres of sand and all of it in your food.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): Stop griping. Just lie still and inhale.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): What, sand?
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): No, air – and don’t let it go to your head.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): [to Capt. Lochner] Yesterday, this would’ve meant so much to us. Now it doesn’t matter — it doesn’t matter at all.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): You know, when you first walked into the police station, I said to myself, — There she is – the one that’s different. She’s not coy or cute or corny. She’s a good guy – I’m glad she’s on my side. She speaks her mind and she knows what she wants. —
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): Thank you, sir. But let me add: I also know what I don’t want – and I don’t want to be rushed.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): A man wants to apologize to you —
Frances Randolph: Do you look down on all women or just the ones you know?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): I was pretty nice to you.
Frances Randolph: No, not to me. But you were pretty nice.
Martha, Masseuse: Remember, angel, in the beginning was the land. Motion pictures came later.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): I love Dix. It upsets me terribly that you suspect him, even for second.
Capt. Lochner: Not for a second, for the last three weeks. He’s our most logical suspect.
Frances Randolph: What’s the matter, don’t you like to talk anymore?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Not the people who have my number.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): [Entering kitchen as Dix is sectioning a grapefruit] What happened to the grapefruit knife?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): It was crooked and I straightened it.
Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame): Fool, it’s supposed to be curved!
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): What? Wonder what they’ll think of next!
Mel Lippmann: [to Laurel about Dix] You knew he was dynamite. He has to explode sometimes.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): [as Mel enters the house he introduces him to Laurel] Oh, come in. Mr. Lippman, my agent.
[He introduces Laurel to Mel]
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): Miss Gray, my alibi.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): [to black man hosing down the sidewalk in front of the florist shop] Say, do me a favor, will you, pal?
Flower Shop Employee: Yes, sir.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): I want to send two dozen white roses to a girl.
Flower Shop Employee: Yes, sir. Do you want to write a card?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): No, there’s no card. Her name’s Mildred Atkinson.
Flower Shop Employee: Mildred Atkinson. Yes, sir. What’s her address?
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): I don’t know. Look it up in the papers. She was murdered last night.
Flower Shop Employee: Yes, sir.
Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart): It’s much easier to get people’s names into the papers than to keep them out.
Trivia for In a Lonely Place
- David Bond, as the doctor, has the first part of his one line dubbed by another actor – with a non-American accent – while the remainder of his line is in Bond’s own very American voice.
- Henry Kesler is the name of the executive producer of the film, as well as Mildred’s boyfriend in the movie.
- Gloria Grahame, at the time, was estranged from her husband, the film’s director Nicholas Ray. She would subsequently go on to marry her stepson, Ray’s son from a previous marriage.
- There is a moment in the trailer for the film that doesn’t appear in the final cut. As Laurel is talking to the detective at the end of the film, Dix starts to leave. In the “lost moment, “ Laurel calls out Dix’s name and they have one last embrace on the steps before he descends.
- Lauren Bacall and Ginger Rogers were considered for the role of Laurel Gray. Bogart naturally wanted his wife to play opposite him, but Warner Bros. refused to release her from her contract. Rogers was reportedly the producers’ first choice, but Nicholas Ray convinced them that his own wife, Gloria Grahame, would be the right choice for the role.
- The apartment complex in which Dixon and Laurel live in was a replica of Nicholas Ray’s own residence when he first moved to Hollywood.
- Robert Warwick and Humphrey Bogart worked together in 1922 in the stage play Drifting. Producer/star Bogart never forgot the kindness Warwick showed to him as a young actor and made Andrew Solt write a role for Warwick, who was then struggling.
- Gloria Grahame and husband/director Nicholas Ray quietly separated during filming, keeping it a secret for fear that one of them would be replaced. Ray slept on the studio set, saying that he needed to work late on preparation for the remainder of the film. It worked and nobody suspected that their marriage was on the rocks.
- In the original ending and the final shooting script, Dix actually did kill Laurel in the heat of their argument. Martha comes and discovers the body as Dix silently types his script. Later, when his detective friend comes to arrest him, Dix says that he’s almost done with his script. There is a close-up of the last page of the script, echoing the words Dix said in the car to Laurel: “I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I live a few weeks while she loved me.” It is said that this scene was filmed, but before it could be shown to a test audience, director Nicholas Ray shot a new ending because he wasn’t pleased with the scripted ending – he didn’t want to think that violence was the only way out of this situation. He cleared the set, including Lauren Bacall, who was visiting her husband on-set at the time, except for Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Art Smith – who ended up not being used in the final scene filmed – plus the camera and sound men. They improvised the ending that is seen in the final cut.
- Though the title and characters are based on Dorothy B. Hughes’s novel, the biggest difference between book and movie is that in the movie Dixon Steele, though violent, is only accused of being a murderer while in the book he is a serial killer and rapist. Director Nicholas Ray claimed that he made the change because he was — more interested in doing a film about the violence in all of us, rather than a mass murder film or one about a psychotic. Hughes was never bothered by the changes from her novel and praised Gloria Grahame’s performance.
- When Edmund H. North adapted the story, he stuck close to the original source and John Derek was considered for the role of Dix because in the novel he was much younger. North’s treatment was not used, and Andrew Solt developed the screenplay with regular input from producer Robert Lord and director Nicholas Ray, and the end result is far different from the source novel. Solt claimed that Humphrey Bogart loved the script so much that he wanted to make it without revisions – Solt retains that the final cut is very close to his script – but further research shows that Ray made regular re-writes, some added on the day of shooting. In fact, only 4 pages of the 140 page script had no revisions.
- Producer Robert Lord was worried about having Nicholas Ray and Gloria Grahame, then husband and wife whose marriage was on the rocks, working together and made Grahame sign a contract stipulating that — my husband [Ray] shall be entitled to direct, control, advise, instruct and even command my actions during the hours from 9 AM to 6 PM, every day except Sunday…I acknowledge that in every conceivable situations his will and judgment shall be considered superior to mine and shall prevail. — Grahame was also forbidden to — nag, cajole, tease or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him. —
- This film was selected to the National Film Registry in 2007.
- The working title for this movie was — Behind the Mask. —
- In her essay Humphrey and Bogey, Louise Brooks wrote that more than any other role that Humphrey Bogart played, it was the role of Dixon Steele in this movie that came closest to the real Bogart she knew.