Notes on a Noir: In a Lonely Place

8 thoughts on “Notes on a Noir: In a Lonely Place”

  1. You absolutely read my thoughts! Bogart’s best role and best performance. I think it was this role — not Casablanca, not Maltese Falcon — that truly cemented his status as the eternal outsider, forever cynical, too cool and too insecure to ever find happiness — the opposite of what Americans thought of as a movie “hero.” Maybe that’s why the French became so enamored of him or his image, and some have argued that this love of an American anti-heroic figure inspired Godard, Truffaut, Melville (all of whom created films with male characters who were inspired by Bogart), in what became the French “new wave” at the dawn of the 60’s.

    And Gloria Grahame was the most explosive actress working in American film at the time — watching her best work (and she’s even better in “The Big Heat”), you never knew what would set her off and when. Yet in this film and this character she holds back and actually serves as an island of sanity or serenity that Bogart’s Dixon can’t manage to hold on to until it’s too late and he’s lost her — which in his world was pre-ordained, as in his own words, “I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.“

    As far as Rafferty’s remarks, I would argue that there is no film noir outside of American film of the late forties up to the mid fifties. It’s the contrast between “normal” basic American optimism and the dark side of existence that Americans “woke up to” with World War II, nuclear holocaust and mass murder on an unprecedented scale: that contrast is what makes film noir “noir.” Centuries-old European pessimism is what it is, but it’s never film “noir.” Just my opinion. . . 🙂

    PS, I noticed in the poster for “In a Lonely Place” the producer’s credit for Robert Lord, a writer and producer who had been in the movie business since the 20’s, and wrote and/or produced among others, “Gold Diggers of 1933,” “Little Caesar,” “Footlight Parade,” “Heroes for Sale,” all depression-era classic American films, and a whole bunch of early Barbara Stanwyck and Kay Francis pictures, including the original story for the classic soap operetta, “One Way Passage,” WB, 1932, with Kay Francis and William Powell, which will be the subject of my next post in a continuing series on the career of Kay Francis, . . . so stay tuned! Thanks.

    Oh, I also wanted to let you know that I “borrowed” your “Pictorial” name for my current post,

    And before I forget, congrats on your “freshly pressed” recognition . . . I didn’t realize it until I saw the thousands of comments on your recent “maps” post. Well earned!

    1. Oh Gene, this blog simply would NOT be the same without you! I always love reading your posts– they are always so insightful and you never fail to teach me *something* I wasn’t aware of before. (i.e., Robert Lord…!)

      Spot-on, as per usual, about Bogart (and perhaps even more so, director Nick Ray) and the New Wavers. Jean-Paul Belmondo’s Michel in Godard’s “Breathless” absolutely speaks for itself.

      Actually, do you happen to remember whether or not In a Lonely Place the movie poster that Michel sees in Breathless? I’m going to have to check… would be quite telling if it is…

      1. Because you’re so kind, I checked . . . Belmondo stops (about 18 mins into the film) in front of a theater with the poster advertising “The Harder They Fall,” Bogart’s last film from, what 1956, I think? “Breathless” was made in 1959, so that makes sense i suppose. Still, it’s Bogart and that’s the image Belmondo’s character seems to be emulating or trying to . . .

  2. Wow! Some fantastic writing from both you and Gene Zonarich. Lots of insight into character and genre. I’ve always been drawn to film noir and Bogart. Always been a loner. Always wanted to be cool and calm and maybe a little dangerous. Never quite made it, though. Sam Spade and Rick Blaine have to be two of my favorite characters that Bogart ever made his own. I can see how I’ll be a constant visitor to your site.

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by and for the comment! If you’ve never seen Woody Allen’s “Play it Again, Sam” you might get a chuckle out of it: all about a writer who wants nothing more than to be, as you put it so well, ‘as cool, calm and a little dangerous’ like Bogart.


  4. Great post and insight. This is one my favorite noirs and definitely the best of Bogie. Gloria Grahame is amazing in this role and woefully seems to be a bit forgotten in modern times. The behind-the-scenes drama of this film is also interesting. I’ve been of mind to write a play or script biopic of Grahame taking place during the filming of In A Lonely Place.

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