It’s been a while since I last watched a film because of an episode of the You Must Remember This podcast, but having heard about the (weird) life of Gloria Grahame I knew that I had to see her in action. Since In A Lonely Place received a special shout-out, as it was shot when Gloria Grahame and then-husband Nicholas Ray were going through a separation (after he caught her in bed with his 13-year-old son, who she would later marry).
The stories of what was going on behind the scenes of In A Lonely Place already make this an interesting film to watch; the fact that this film also features possible career best performances from Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in a quintessential film noir classic is an added bonus.
At the heart of In A Lonely Place is suspicion and how it can completely ruin people’s lives. For most of the film we see the developing love between Bogart’s violent writer character and his neighbour, played by Grahame. They are the architypal star-crossed lovers where their distrust for each other – her’s because he is suspected of murder, his because of what he perceives as actions signposting her infidelity – is what ultimately destroys them.
However it’s worth remembering that, at every point in this film, we are made aware that Bogart’s character has a history of violence. It’s also signposted that he has previously broken the nose of one of his girlfriends… so despite the fact that it is distrust that breaks them apart, I cannot help but feel that she made a lucky escape.
Whilst there are many light moments in this film the two most memorable scenes are ones imbued with violence. Apart from the film’s ending, which I won’t go into, the most memorable scene is when the two leads are driving home after a beach picnic goes sour. En route, Bogart’s character gets into an altercation with another motorist… where he nearly kills the other guy by bashing his head in with a rock.
All these breadcrumbs and violent outbursts help to create this palpable sense of uncertainty. Both the audience and Grahame’s character cannot help but become more and more suspicious that Bogart’s character did indeed asphyxiate a woman and dump her body from a moving car. The finale is explosive and whilst it isn’t as shocking as the original ending, one cannot but feel a palpable sense of dread.
With In A Lonely Place ticked off, I have now seen three of the four Nicholas Ray films on the 1001 list. All I have left to see is Rebel Without A Cause, which is arguably one of the most iconic films to come out of the 1950s. How will that stand up to In A Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar and Bigger Than Life? Who knows, but it certainly has a lot to live up to.