Director: Michael Curtiz; Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Ber …
In a Lonely Place (1950) is a film noir directed by Nicholas Ray, and starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, produced for Bogart's Santana Productions. The script was adapted by Edmund North from the 1947 novel In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes.
Bogart stars in the film as Dixon Steele, a cynical screenwriter suspected of murder. Grahame co-stars as Laurel Gray, a neighbor who falls under his spell. Beyond its surface plot of confused identity and tormented lust, the film is a mordant comment on Hollywood mores and the pitfalls of celebrity and near-celebrity, in much the same vein as two other more widely-publicized American films released that same year, Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and Joseph Mankiewicz's All About Eve.
Although not as well known as his other work, Bogart's performance in this film is considered by many critics to be among his finest and the film's reputation itself has grown over time along with Ray's. The film is now considered a classic film noir, as evidenced by its inclusion on the Time magazine "All-Time 100 List" as well as Slant Magazine's 100 Essential Films.
Dixon 'Dix' Steele (Humphrey Bogart), a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who hasn't had a hit in years, meets his agent, Mel Lippman (Art Smith), at a nightclub. Mel wants him to adapt a book for a movie. When they enter the club, the hat-check girl, Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart), is engrossed reading it and asks if she can finish it.
When Dix leaves, he is too tired to read the novel, so he asks Mildred to go home with him, to explain the plot. As they enter the courtyard of his apartment building, they encounter a new tenant, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame). Mildred then describes the story and confirms what he had suspected - the book is trash. He gives her cabfare and she leaves.
The next morning, he is awakened by an old army buddy, police detective Brub Nicholai (Frank Lovejoy), who takes him downtown to be questioned by Captain Lochner (Carl Benton Reid). Mildred was murdered during the night and Dix is a suspect. Laurel is brought to the police station and confirms seeing the girl leave Dix's apartment alone, but Lochner is still deeply suspicious; Dix shows absolutely no sympathy for the dead victim.
When Dix gets home, he checks up on Laurel. He finds out that she is an aspiring actress, with only a few low-budget films to her credit. They begin to fall in love; this invigorates Dix into going back to work with a vengeance, much to his agent's delight.
However, Dix behaves strangely and says things that make his agent and Brub's wife Sylvia (Jeff Donnell) wonder if he did kill the girl. In addition, Lochner sows seeds of doubt in Laurel's mind, pointing out Dix's lengthy record of violent behavior. Dix becomes furiously irrational when he learns of it. He drives at high speed late at night, with Laurel a terrified passenger, until they sideswipe another car. Nobody is hurt, but when the angry other driver accosts him, Dix beats him unconscious and is about to strike him with a big rock when Laurel stops him.
Laurel gets to the point where she can't sleep without taking pills. As much as she loves him, her distrust and fear of him are becoming too much for her. When Dix asks her to marry him, she accepts, but only because she is too scared of what he might do if she refused. Later, after he leaves, she tells Mel she's leaving because she can't take it anymore. When Dix finds out, he goes to her apartment and has a violent confrontation with her, almost to the point of strangling her, but regains control of himself.
Just then, the phone rings. It is Brub with good news: Mildred's boyfriend (the character is named Henry Kesler, the same as the film's associate producer) has confessed to her murder. Tragically, it is a day too late to salvage Dix and Laurel's relationship.