Film / In a Lonely Place

"I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me."

In a Lonely Place is a 1950 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, adapted from a 1947 novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, and directed by Nicholas Ray.

Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a Hollywood screenwriter who is commissioned to adapt a novel into a film. Too lazy to read the book, he invites the coat-check girl at his restaurant to his apartment to summarize the book for him. Hours after Steele sends her home, the girl is found murdered in a nearby ravine, and the police latch onto him as the prime suspect. Steele is given an alibi by his neighbor Laurel Gray (Grahame). After being released by the police, Steele strikes up a relationship with Gray, and they soon fall in love.

The police continue to investigate the murder, which puts a strain on their budding romance as Laurel is questioned again and learns about Dixon's history of violent incidents, making her unsure if he's really innocent. As Laurel grows wary of Dixon and he becomes suspicious of her behavior, the tension in their relationship reaches a breaking point.

A bleak thriller, In a Lonely Place is considered a classic of Film Noir.


  • Acquitted Too Late: A variation; no judicial consequences are at stake. The real murderer turns himself in anticlimactically, but Laurel and Dix's relationship has already fallen apart.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Dix, as the film goes on.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Laurel writes one when she plans to leave for New York, but has to hide it.
  • Deconstruction : This film is a reaction against other Film Noir, deliberately moving away from crude murder plots to focus more on the relationship. Specifically, it subverts Bogart's own screen persona, showing how difficult that kind of person would be around and making it decidedly less glamorous.
  • Downer Ending : The couple who are So Happy Together break up despite being very much in love.
  • During the War: How Dixon Steele knew the detective Brub.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Steele.
  • Film Noir: Dark atmosphere, constant suspicions, murder, Humphrey Bogart... check.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes : Dix Steele is a tragic accurate version of this, someone who's too paranoid and embittered to be around for a great deal of time.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Dix is a screenwriter who hasn't had a hit in years, and Laurel has no known source of money except an alluded-to wealthy previous lover. Both have fairly nice apartments in Beverly Hills.
  • Incriminating Indifference: The police suspect Steele quickly due to the fact that he barely reacts and even makes a few sarcastic quips about the fact that a woman was murdered minutes after leaving his house.
    Capt. Lochner: You're told that the girl you were with last night was found in Benedict Canyon, murdered. Dumped from a moving car. What's your reaction? Shock? Horror? Sympathy? No — just petulance at being questioned. A couple of feeble jokes. You puzzle me, Mr. Steele.
    Dix: Well, I grant you, the jokes could've been better, but I don't see why the rest should worry you — that is, unless you plan to arrest me on lack of emotion.
  • In-Name-Only: The film is nothing like the novel, and all that is really carried over is the title, the names of the two main characters and Dix's vague occupation.
    • Also happens in-story:
      Dix: What's wrong with my script?
      Mel: Nothing, but it's not the book. And that's what Brody asked for, a faithful adaptation.
      Dix: The book was trash!
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The film starts out with Dixon being a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who has not had a hit "since before the war."
  • The Murder After: Though the meeting is entirely platonic, Steele falls under suspicion anyway.
  • Not His Sled: In the original novel, Steele is a murderer, in the film he isn't.
  • Pretty in Mink: Laurel, several times.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: It's implied that Steele was like this when he served in World War II.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: An Unbuilt Trope but the main reason the original ending of the book was changed by the director and writer was to avert this:
    "I just couldn't believe the ending that Bundy (screenwriter Andrew Solt) and I had written... Romances don't have to end that way. Marriages don't have to end that way, they don't have to end in violence."
  • Stylistic Suck: The book Steele is supposed to adapt sounds just as melodramatic and boring to the audience as it does to him.
  • Title Drop: When Steele is discussing how the crime could have been committed.
    "You get to a lonely place in the road, and you begin to squeeze..."
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Not so much wacky as out-of-nowhere and incredibly uncomfortable.
  • Wrongfully Accused: Dixon is continually suspected of murder despite being cleared from Laurel's alibi.