FILMBOX Community Cinema presents the gripping Humphrey Bogart murder mystery In a Lonely Place

FILMBOX Community Cinema: Langley Park Centre for the Performing Arts (LPCPA) created for Langley Park School for Boys, in Beckenham, Kent, BR3 3BP (UK).

Tickets and details here.

In a Lonely Place

Director: Nicholas Ray

PG | 1h 34min | Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery | 19 June 1950 (UK)

Rating: ★★★★★


The Smoke Screen is always on the lookout for a chance to catch a classic from the Hollywood golden era, and this month FILMBOX Community Cinema kindly obliged with a screening of Nicholas Ray's (well-known for helming Rebel Without a Cause) gripping and unsettling murder mystery, starring a never-better Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Bogart is well-known for his sparky pairings with Lauren Bacall, but putting him up against a co-star of the calibre of Grahame is hardly a second-tier move. Check out FILMBOX at their site here; they have two screenings a night now, with one of their auditoriums being a huge purpose built performance hall room which can seat well over 400. Prices are very affordable and their are detailed introductions before each film, and a bar on site. It is volunteer-run and the programming is diverse, tending towards classics and indie films that have had some box office success or critical acclaim (i.e you tend not to get Marvel superhero movies.) You can join up as a member, but non-members are welcome, tickets from £5-£8 depending on status.

Widely regarded as a classic thriller from director Nicholas Ray, In a Lonely Place stars screen icons Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame at their absolute best, in roles that require pushing at the edges of expectations of the kinds of roles worthy of a golden era star. Bogart is really working against his tough-but-good-hearted image here as a cynical, booze -addled Hollywood screenwriter called Dixon Steele, who seems to have left his talent and sobriety (as well as the ability to control his violent asshole temperament) back in the just-finished overseas global conflict. When Steele, after a day boozing and complaining with a bunch of other Hollywood leftovers in a local bar (one of the many ways this film is dripping with cynicism about the flicks; Ray has his own reasons for feeling this way), decides to invite a young admiring female fan back to his apartment on the dubious claim that she can help explain the plot of this novel he is struggling with, he sets himself up as the prime murder suspect when the girl winds up dead in a ditch the next morning.

We don't see her safely leave his apartment and make it to the nearby taxi stand as she said she would do, but Grahame's character's testimony -she is Steele's alluring and mysterious neighbour Laurel who lives in the opposite apartment- gets Steele clear of the cops for the time being. But the compelling questions remain: did Steele do it, and is Laurel safe once she starts becoming romantically entangled with Steele? And it is, of course, way more of a compelling question when it is an icon like Bogey who is the suspect. Bogart only gets more and more darkly fascinating as this film goes on, seemingly unable to stop flaunting the idea that he might have done it in to cops and friends, as if he has finally cottoned on to a plot worth milking after years of pissing his talent away. The key scene where, with a twisted glare on his face, he orders his close friend and his wife to re-enact the murder the way he visualises it took place, is worth the price of admission alone. Grahame has great chemistry with Bogart too, though I preferred her in the film's first act; where her in teasing flirtation with Steele - whilst she knows he is a suspect- raises all kinds of questions about whether she is a moth-to-flame danger seeker.

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Owen Van Spall

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