As many of my blog readers know, the main character in my Reed Ferguson mystery series loves film noir and Humphrey Bogart. But many people don’t know a lot about film noir, or what great movies are a part of this genre. So let’s introduce another film noir classic, In A Lonely Place. This movie has it all, the dark themes, the noir hero, and the sultry film noir female.
Best of Film Noir – The Noir Hero
How can you miss with Humphrey Bogart in the lead role? This guy flat-out embodies the noir hero. Bogart stars as a cynical (of course – how can the noir hero not be cynical) screenwriter, Dixon Steele, who is suspected of murder. The plot itself is pretty basic from there. Bogart is seen with a pretty girl who ends up murdered, and throughout the film, he acts as if he might have killed the girl. But did he? Humphrey is at once a drunken down-on-his-luck noir hero, a bundle of fury lashing out at whoever gets in his way, a prideful screenwriter, and a romantic with designs for his beautiful neighbor. What is striking about this is that some consider this role the closet to what Humphrey Bogart was like in real life, with his struggles with alcohol, his selfishness and his pride in his artistic profession.
Best of Film Noir – The Film Noir Female
Of course we have to have the film noir female. In this movie, it’s Gloria Grahame. She may not be a household name, but she won an Academy Award for her work in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Grahame plays Bogart’s neighbor, Laurel Gray (I wonder if that was an intentional pun as film noir movies are dark and gray), and she falls in love with Bogart. To be more accurate, she falls under his spell. But the suspicions placed on Bogart puts their relationship in jeopardy. Lauren Bacall and Ginger Rogers were also considered for this role. But Nicholas Ray, who directed the film, was married to Grahame, believed she would be best for the role. And he was right, as many consider this to be one of Grahame’s finest performances.
Best of Film Noir – The Novel Behind The Movie
At the time of its release, In A Lonely Place received a mostly positive reception. However, the fact that the film had a dark ending hindered its box-office receipts. But over time, the movie has garnered the reputation of being one of the film noir genre’s best. The movie is based on a novel by the same name by Dorothy B. Hughes. But the film and the book are different, mainly in the treatment of the main character (Dix Steele). What I think is cool is that the novel is considered a great example of noir writing from the post World War II era, and it’s one of the few examples of noir writing by a woman (hmm, will I be lucky enough to be in that category someday :))
Best of Film Noir – The Writing
For those of you who are authors, take a look at some of the dialogue. These writers knew how to do it right, with plenty of oomph in just a few sentences.
Dixon quotes dialog from his new script to Laurel: I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
And another great quote:
Dixon: How can anybody like a face like this, look at it.
He then attempts to kiss Laurel, but she moves away from him.
Laurel: I said I liked it, I didn’t say I wanted to kiss it.
That’s dialogue that sticks with you. Both the movie and the book are great examples of quality plot lines, with plenty of twists and turns. So grab your popcorn, your soda, get comfortable, and enjoy a classic example of film noir at its best.
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