This makes three films from 1950 that deal with The Buisness. (For those playing at home, the other two are Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve.) Surprisingly (or not), this, the least heralded of the three, is the greatest – not that the other two are slouches, neither.
Humphrey Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a Hollywood screenwriter who takes pride in his work, therefore garnering little success. Gloria Grahame (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful) plays Laurel, Steele’s love and muse. At face value alone, In a Lonely Place is a remarkable film.
Ray has an eye for detail, supplying congruity between such elements as setting, acting, and story in such a way that the film feels less like a film and more like a self-contained universe placed somewhere between Burbank and Hollywood. Deeper still, the film is one of the most brilliant I have seen. Bogart outshines any other role I’ve seen him in, playing a dichotomous madman of sorts – a struggling, lonely artist attempting to fit in with the rest of the world.
Most remarkable is the script; it is both self-aware and invisible, working to illustrate the importance, and lack of appreciation, of Steele’s metier. All the while, the narrative ambles along, providing true, pure tension even when the audience is fully aware of its inevitable conclusion. In a Lonely Place is one of the all-time great combinations of technical excellence and outstanding art.