After fourteen years of taking orders from Jack Warner, Humphrey Bogart wanted more control over the pictures he made, more money, and more time off to spend on his boat. Due to his massive success in The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and the Bacall films, Bogart signed a very favorable 15-year contract in 1946 with Warner Brothers.
The contract gave him the right to choose his projects and directors, and to make films outside of Warner Brothers in his own production company, named Santana after his boat.
He and director Nicholas Ray adapted Dorothy Hughes’s novel In a Lonely Place, the story of a woman who knows that her boyfriend is paranoid and violent at best, and a brutal murderer at worst.
There was talk of Lauren Bacall playing the woman—the Bogart and Bacall box office was still strong—but Jack Warner had his limits. Bogart could make films under his own banner, but Bacall was still under contract to him.
Things worked out for the best, as I don’t think I’m alone in not wanting to see Bogart strangle Bacall, even in fiction. Gloria Grahame, Ray’s wife, took the role and did a marvelous job with it.
In a Lonely Place tells the story of Dixon Steel (Bogart), a jaded and alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter with a flaring temper that often ended with him slugging someone in a bar. He takes a girl home with him one night to tell him what she thought of a novel he was going to adapt into a screenplay.
He sends her home, but she’s found dead—brutally murdered—in the morning, and Dix is the prime suspect. He would’ve been arrested immediately but for the fact that his neighbor, Laurel Gray (Grahame) witnessed the girl leaving his home alone.
Despite their inauspicious meeting at the police station, Dix and Laurel, two hard-boiled cases, fall in love. Laurel is at first certain that Dix is innocent of the crime, but as she gets to know him, she sees flashes of paranoia and rage.
Dix is jealous and temperamental. One night he gets road rage and nearly beats the driver of the other car to death.
Frightened, Laurel decides that despite her love for him, she must break off their engagement. She has come to believe that he did murder the woman, and that he could do the same to her under the right circumstances.
Sensing something is wrong, Dix demands to know why Laurel is acting so cagey with him. Realizing she is planning to leave him, Dix goes into a blind rage and begins to strangle her on her bed.
The strangling is interrupted by a telephone call—the police calling to tell Laurel that the true murderer of the girl has confessed, and Dix is finally in the clear.
The film ends as Laurel, disheveled and half-strangled, looks over at Dix, who is horrified at what he has nearly done.
“Yesterday, this would’ve meant so much to us,” she tells the bewildered police captain over the phone. “Now it doesn’t matter…it doesn’t matter at all.”
Bogart and Grahame have a nice chemistry, and this biting noir hits all the right notes.
Perhaps director Nicholas Ray was in the right frame of mind to direct his wife in such a cynical picture, as their marriage was disintegrating during the filming and ended soon after. There are tales, never fully proven, that Grahame slept with Ray’s 13 year old son Anthony from a previous marriage.
True or not, Grahame married her former step-son Anthony Ray ten years after the filming of In a Lonely Place. Grahame had a son with Nicholas, and later two sons with Anthony.
That must’ve made for some interesting Thanksgivings.
- Sperber, A.M. and Eric Lax. Bogart. 1997.
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This one…I’ve not seen, but I can say that Bogart looks good in a bow-tie, but that’s all the insight I can add!
Whew! If YOU haven’t seen it, then I feel completely justified proclaiming it the “best Bogart film you’ve never heard of.” This one has some foreshadowing of Bogart as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. He was great at paranoia.
I’m feeling out Bogart-ed, so I’ll follow up by saying that I slept in his room at the Hotel Palumbo in Ravella, where he shot Beat The Devil, and it was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. So that has to be considered….
Wow! Now I am genuinely impressed!
It was like lying down on a billard table, except when you woke up, you were part of it. A high bench-mark for comfort, and one that gave me huge insight into the great man’s work.
I’m curious how you knew it was Bogart’s room…..had you just done your homework or did the hotel advertise it as such?
The Hotel Palumbo don’t need to advertise, it’s the oldest family-owned hotel in Italy or something grand like that. Wagner stayed there too. Not Robert, the composer. 19 course dinner and wine from the hotel’s own vinyard. No pool, but a chauffeur on hand if you fancy a swim, they take you by limo to the private beach the hotel has. There’s not many rooms, so the staff know exactly who slept where. JFK and Brad Pitt too. I’ll be writing about it in my monograph My Night in Bogart’s Bed, coming soon from Shyster and Shyster £713.99p.
Looking forward to your memoir of sleeping on famous beds….
So many have tried to understand him through film, the road less travelled is via soft furnishings.
“Famous Beds I’ve Slept In” is definitely a title you could sell to a publisher, and one I would pay full price for 🙂
Hadn’t heard of this one. Had a laugh at your thanksgiving crack, 🙂
I can’t even work out how some of these people would be related to one another!
I can’t either! Hollwood huh?
Couldn’t even make that story into a movie…too unbelievable!
I was trying to figure that out as well.
I’ve heard of this! Even read the book (I think). I could never get over Bogart being Dick Steele. Now there’s a nom de porn.
Very, very true!!! Kind of fits him in this film.