As you can easily notice on this blog, we’ve worked through so much of the most notable works of classical Hollywood that I’m beginning to run out. This one is considered one of classic film noirs but it’s not exactly at the top of the heap and I’m not sure that it’s good enough to be worth watching these days. Once again it stars Humphrey Bogart though here he isn’t yet another private investigator.
Dixon Steele is a screenwriter of some renown who is asked by his agent Mel to write an adaptation of a novel. At a nightclub, the hat-check girl is just finishing the book and Dixon decides to take her home and ask her to summarize it rather than read it himself. They do so and she leaves shortly after midnight but the next morning the police tell Dixon that she has been murdered and naturally he is a suspect. Luckily for him, his neighbor Laurel has seen the girl leave and testifies to that effect. The two fall in love and the new relationship inspires Dixon to work hard on the new script. The police however continue to treat Dixon as a suspect especially after he recounts a vivid imaginary scenario for how the murder might have been carried. As Laurel gets to know Dixon better, she sees for herself how he has a violent temper and wonders if he might not be the murderer after all.
The kindest thing that I can about In a Lonely Place is that it’s competently made. Bogart is as good an actor as ever, being probably more interesting than usual here as a character who flies off the handle at the drop of a hat and is awkwardly contrite afterwards. His chemistry with Gloria Grahame as Laurel is decent. Unfortunately the script is only okay. As my wife notes, the film drags in the middle and only picks up when Laurel begins to suspect Dixon. At the same time, whatever tension this intrigue generates is one-upped by Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion which went over the same ground nine years earlier and in a far more effective way.
Overall this isn’t by any means a bad film. It’s even rather enjoyable at times. But it’s not really notable enough to be worth going out of your way to watch these days.