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In a Lonely Place

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

Hollywood screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) lives on the edge, as likely to be seen starting a barroom brawl as he is pounding the keys of his typewriter. Among his many shortcomings, Dixon (who really does go by "Dix Steele" for short) suffers from a gruff manner, a quick temper, and an alcohol addiction. But despite all this--oh, and the very real possibility that he might be a murderer--beautiful and sympathetic neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) begins to fall for Dix. Director Nicholas Ray coaxed arguably the best performance of Bogart's career for this gritty 1950 noir. Bogart makes us feel Dix's inner turmoil palpably; he's brutally convincing as a tortured soul unable to admit that he's become his own worst enemy. Cult favorite Ray handles this dark material unflinchingly, making In a Lonely Place an ahead-of-its time film whose growing reputation threatens to outstrip that of the director's more canonized efforts, such as Rebel Without a Cause. One wishes that Ray films such as They Live by Night and Bigger Than Life were more frequently screened so that they, too, could undergo critical re-evaluation.

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