Blue Steele

In a Lonely Place, written by Andrew Solt and Edmund North, based on the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, starring Humphrey Bogart (Dixon Steele), Gloria Grahame (Laurel Gray) and Frank Lovejoy (Detective Nicolai) (1950): An enjoyable and atypical vehicle for Bogart, who gets to play a protagonist whose guilt or innocence related to a murder is only one of the questions about him.

As screenwriter Dixon Steele, Bogart alternates between Bogartian charm and nearly psychotic menace as he woos next-door neighbour Grahame while simultaneously being investigated for the murder of a hat-check girl he hired to summarize the plot of a novel he’d been hired to turn into a screenplay.

Yes, he’s lazy too, at least when it comes to reading things.

The movie gradually reveals Steele’s troubling history. He was a good C.O. in World War Two, and he was also a good screenwriter before his military service. Now he stinks — and he’s got a history of violence towards women, and violence towards anyone who annoys him, that’s hard for the police to ignore. Can love save him? And why is he so damned angry?

While offering a fairly cynical take on early 1950’s Hollywood, the movie also seems more modern at times than one expects. Steele really is an anti-hero — one could see Jack Nicholson playing the role if this were the 1970’s — and the film doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions one has about the character. Nicely shot by Nick Ray (Rebel Without A Cause) and solidly acted throughout, this is an unusual film for Bogart and for the time period. Recommended.

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