Screenwriter Dixon Steele, faced with the odious task of scripting a trashy bestseller, has hat-check girl Mildred Atkinson tell him the story in her own words. Later that night, Mildred is murdered and Steele is a prime suspect; his record of belligerence when angry and his macabre sense of humor tell against him. Fortunately, lovely neighbor Laurel Gray gives him an alibi. Laurel proves to be just what Steele needed, and their friendship ripens into love. Will suspicion, doubt, and Steele's inner demons come between them?
Humphrey Bogart ... Dixon Steele
Gloria Grahame ... Laurel Gray
Frank Lovejoy ... Det. Sgt. Brub Nicolai
Carl Benton Reid ... Capt. Lochner
Art Smith ... Agent Mel Lippman
Jeff Donnell ... Sylvia Nicolai
Martha Stewart ... Mildred Atkinson
Robert Warwick ... Charlie Waterman
Morris Ankrum ... Lloyd Barnes
William Ching ... Ted Barton
This is one of my all time favourite films, and (alongside the obvious - Casablanca, Maltese Falcon etc) my favourite Bogart.
The script is smart, witty and cynical, just like a typical Bogart character. But in this film Bogart plays probably his darkest character.
In some of the scenes with Gloria Graeme he's at his smooth, wisecracking, slightly irritable best, but in the moments where the anger and the fog of despair descends he is a more threatening character than in any of his other leading man roles.
The cynical, darker aspects of this film just go to highlight how few contemporary films are prepared to be so bleak.
Despite the fact that the plot is ostensibly a 'did he do it?' crime story, this is largely inconsequential to the psychological character and relationship study that is the central concern of the film.
If you like a cracking script with sharp performances, with all kinds of deep psychological observations on love and loneliness to be read into it, in the best noir tradition, this is the film for you.
Bogart stretches his acting muscles and allows his vulnerability to be on display in this realistic gut-wrenching love story. Gloria Grahame, one of the underrated great US actresses of the 40's and 50's, has an electrifying chemistry with Bogie, touching a side that we'd never seen -- not even with Lauren Bacall, laced with an odd kind of violent tenderness. Frank Lovejoy heads a fantastic supporting cast, heavy on three-dimensional characterisations. This unknown classic is Bogie's most complete performance ever. I give it 10 out of 10.
Bogart is at his uncompromisingly dark best as the Hollywood writer whose temper leads to accusations of murder and conflicted relationships. By turns charming, cold, romantic and remorseful, Dix Steele is as unpredictable a character as Bogie has ever played.
He shows no emotion on learning that Mildred - the innocent he has just met - has been killed, and those who know him accept his violent nature as simply part of the Steele package. But thanks to the skill of Bogie and director Ray, the audience never entirely loses sympathy for him. The moments of tenderness he shows to his alibi-turned-lover Laurel (an ethereal Gloria Grahame; imagine Hope Davis glammed-up for the 50s) alternate with fits of anger to turn their relationship into that of a tragic poem.
In A Lonely Place is film noir that focuses on romance rather than crime. The reasons for Mildred's murder are never satisfactorily made clear, but it doesn't really matter. The movie asks whether love and trust are earned by what a person says or what they do. And in the end, actions speak louder than words.
A scorching performance from Bogey makes this film a real classic, his Dixon Steele one of the great screen characters. In this more biting version of the plot of Hitchcock's suspense/comedy Suspicion, Bogart is a kind and loving screenwriter with a violent streak of temper waiting to break out and a taste for a drink or two, wooing Gloria Grahame's pretty young actress next door. The death of a young girlfriend of his hangs over him throughout the movie, as Graham at first believes him to be innocent, then later, having fallen for his charms, begins to suspect he may have had something to do with the girl's death after all, as his temper becomes more and more uncontrolled and frightening. The police circle around, making his nervous anger worse; the relationship begins to crumble into a mess of fear, lies and misunderstanding. Through all this Dixon Steele emerges as a great and brilliant creation, a highlight even in a career as illustrious as that of Bogart, a charming and witty man when happy, a black and vengeful man when roused to anger, a man of contradictions that only seems the more real, heroic, and ultimately tragic. Bogart's performance is brilliant, but the setting works well too, Grahame is great as the sassy girl he falls for, then frightens, the story chugs along at a fair lick, but allowing plenty of time for the many fun minor characters to develop well, and the script is a corker - wonderful stuff.
* David Bond, as the doctor, has the first part of his one line dubbed by another actor - with a non-American accent - while the remainder of his line is in Bond's own very American voice.
* Henry Kesler is the name of the Executive Producer of the film, as well as Mildred's boyfriend in the movie.
* Gloria Grahame, at the time, was estranged from her husband, the film's director Nicholas Ray. She would subsequently go on to marry one of Ray's sons from a previous marriage.
* There is a moment in the trailer for the film that doesn't appear in the final cut. As Laurel is talking to the detective in the end of the film, Dix starts to leave. In the "lost moment", Laurel calls out Dix's name and they have one last embrace on the steps before he descends.
* Lauren Bacall and Ginger Rogers were considered for the role of Laurel Gray. Bogart naturally wanted his wife Bacall opposite him, but Warner Bros. refused to release her from her contract. Rogers was reportedly the producers' first choice, but Nicholas Ray convinced them that his own wife would be the right choice for the role.
* The apartment complex in which Dixon and Laurel live in was a replica of Nicholas Ray's own residence when he first moved to Hollywood.
* Robert Warwick and Humphrey Bogart worked together previously before in 1922 on the stage play "Drifting." Producer/Star Bogart never forgot the Warwick's kindness shown to him as a young actor and made Andrew Solt write a role for his friend, who was then struggling.
* Gloria Grahame and husband/director Nicholas Ray quietly separated during filming, keeping it a secret for fear that one of them would be replaced. Ray slept on the studio set, saying that he needed to work late on preparation for the remainder of the film. It worked and nobody suspected that their marriage was on the rocks.
* In the original ending and the final shooting script, Dix actually did kill Laurel in the heat of their argument. Martha comes and discovers the body as Dix silently types his script. Later his detective friend comes to arrest him, Dix says that he's almost done with his script. There is a close-up of the last page of the script, echoing the words Dix said in the car to Laurel: "I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I live a few weeks while she loved me." It is said that this scene was filmed, but before it could be shown to a test audience, director Nicholas Ray shot a new ending because he hated the scripted ending--he didn't want to think that violence was the only way out of this situation. So he cleared everyone off the set, even Lauren Bacall, who was visiting her husband Humphrey Bogart, except for Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Art Smith--who ended up not being used in the final scene--and the camera and sound men, and they improvised the ending that is seen in the final cut.
* Though the title and characters are based on Dorothy B. Hughes's novel, the biggest difference between book and movie is that in the movie Dixon Steele, though violent, is only accused of being a murderer while in the book he is a serial killer and rapist. Director Nicholas Ray claimed that he made the change because he was "more interested in doing a film about the violence in all of us, rather than a mass murder film or one about a psychotic." Hughes was never bothered by the changes from her novel and praised Gloria Grahame's performance.
* When Edmund H. North adapted the story, he stuck close to the original source and John Derek was considered for the role of Dix because in the novel he was much younger. North's treatment was not used, and Andrew Solt developed the screenplay with regular input from producer Robert Lord and director Nicholas Ray, and the end result is far different from the source novel. Solt claimed that Humphrey Bogart loved the script so much that he wanted to make it without revisions--Solt retains that the final cut is very close to his script--but further research shows that Ray made regular re-writes, some added on the day of shooting. In fact, only 4 pages of the 140 page script had no revisions.
* Producer Robert Lord was worried about having Nicholas Ray and Gloria Grahame, then husband and wife whose marriage was on the rocks, working together and made Grahame sign a contract stipulating that "my husband [Ray] shall be entitled to direct, control, advise, instruct and even command my actions during the hours from 9 AM to 6 PM, every day except Sunday...I acknowledge that in every conceivable situations his will and judgment shall be considered superior to mine and shall prevail." Grahame was also forbidden to "nag, cajole, tease or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him."
* This film was selected to the National Film Registry in 2007.
* The working title for this movie was "Behind the Mask."
* In her essay "Humphrey and Bogey," Louise Brooks wrote that more than any other role that Humphrey Bogart played, it was the role of Dixon Steele in this movie that came closest to the real Bogart she knew.
SPOILERS: There were subtle details left in the cutting room that pointed to Dix's innocence early on, including a shot of Mildred's boyfriend following her home, and one of Laurel clearly seeing Mildred leave, showing that she was telling the truth to Captain Lochner in the interrogation scene.