Even before the 1950s, the public (or at least the studios) had lost its fascination with private eyes. Latter-day noir films focused on insurance salesmen and housewives and even tried to look at things from the criminal’s point of view.
By 1950, Hollywood had seemingly replaced its fascination with detectives for a tendency for major films to focus on show business and media. We’ve discussed All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard already and now it’s the turn of a Bogart classic: In a Lonely Place.
In what has been described as the role in which Bogart most closely plays himself, this one is about an alcoholic, self-absorbed Hollywood writer who is suspected of a murder. The important issue isn’t whether he actually committed the murder, but actually about whether he would have been capable of it.
That question throws its shadow over the entire film, and eventually leads to the denouement (the poster calls it a surprise ending, but I don’t think modern audiences will find it surprising).
What they will find here is a fast-moving flick that holds interest from the word go, a strong performance from the leading man and a love interest that holds the interest. A classic that flies a little under the radar for those who aren’t film buffs. Everyone’s heard of Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon but I personally hadn’t heard of this one.
The little irony is that the murder victim in the film was played by Martha Stewart (no, not that Martha Stewart). And though she was murdered in the film, she is the final surviving star from the original cast. So if she ever stumbles across this, hello!
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose one crime novel follows a reporter as opposed to a screenwriter but is a spiritual successor of the kind of noir we used to get back then. You can check it out here.