Film Forum kicks off its 15-film Nicholas Ray retrospective today in New York with a week-long run of the twisted, hard-boiled love story “In a Lonely Place”, starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame.
“Ray’s career in Hollywood was relatively brief and frequently frustrating. He flourished in the 1950s and was responsible for one of the decade’s cinematic touchstones, ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ That movie, like ‘In a Lonely Place,’ takes a fairly conventional template and fills it with wild, extravagant emotions and hyperbolically expressive cinematic effects,” writes the New York Times’ A. O. Scott. “There may be no other director in the Hollywood mainstream (where Ray was never altogether comfortable) whose vision is at once so bleak and so luxuriously satisfying. As the ’50s went on, he shifted from black and white to Technicolor and CinemaScope, and the deep colors and widescreen format brought his blend of Method naturalism, psychosexual subtext and operatic scale to lustrous and splendid new life.”
“Nicholas Ray’s ‘In a Lonely Place’ is the grayest, most morally ambiguous of film noirs – and arguably the most self-reflexive,” asserts J. Hoberman in the Village Voice. “Released in 1950, two and a half years after the House Un-American Activities Committee put Hollywood on the stand, and a few months ahead of ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ ‘In a Lonely Place’ similarly represents the movie industry as a crime scene, with a troubled screenwriter as its conflicted protagonist… Hollywood atmosphere, existential malaise, and political subtext combine to inform a sensational love story, played on the edge of the void and strong enough to sustain one of the most shamelessly romantic lines in any movie: ‘I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me.’ The line occurs twice, spoken at different points in the drama by each of the lovers, just to make sure that we never forget it.”
From Michael Joshua Rowin’s review for L Magazine: “As dark, bitter, and wholly real as they come out of the post-war studio system, noir melodrama ‘In a Lonely Place’ was director Nicholas Ray’s first masterpiece. It also provided the most volatile and vulnerable role in the career of Humphrey Bogart, who plays Hollywood screenwriter Dixon Steele (don’t laugh) with an intensity verging on the personal… Ray’s directorial palette is comprised entirely of fever-pitch emotions – love, doubt, jealousy, fear, regret – and Bogart unfurls them, impotently raging against his demonic habits and unfairly taking the pressure he feels out on Graham.”
“Watching it again in advance of its upcoming engagement at New York’s Film Forum, where it’ll show in a sparkling new print, I was struck at how, almost as acutely as Wilder’s ‘The Lost Weekend,’ the picture presents a sort of case study in alcoholism,” writes Glenn Kenny in his piece on the film for the Auteur’s Notebook.
The House Next Door has a video appreciation of “In A Lonely Place.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the series, V.A. Musetto at the New York Post says to “Look also for ‘Party Girl’ (1958), with Robert Taylor as a crooked lawyer and Cyd Charisse as a showgirl; ‘On Dangerous Ground’ (1952), featuring Robert Ryan as a NYC cop and Ida Lupino as the blind girl he falls for (music by Hitchcock favorite Bernard Herrmann); and ‘A Woman’s Secret’ (1949), with Grahame, Maureen O’Hara and Melvyn Douglas.”