Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

In a Lonely Place


Humphrey Bogart has always struck me as the unlikeliest romantic leading man ever. Just take the name. Even back then, I don’t think many people saw Humphrey as very sexy, and how long has it been since you’ve met a Humphrey in real life? He wasn’t handsome. He had a speech defect. And yet he dominated every film he was in. I guess it’s down to something like charisma.

This was an unusual role for him. He plays a man we sort of like at first, until we realize just how disturbingly violent he can be, and how little control he has over himself. Gloria Grahame falls for him, and he for her, but she gradually begins to have her doubts. The plot is that he is a failing screenwriter who, on a lark, invites a brainless hatcheck girl back to his pad to read a book to him. It’s a terrible book, and he wants nothing to do with it, and he’s not really interested in the girl. He gives her cab fare home, and the next morning she is found murdered, thrown from a moving car. Grahame provides him with an alibi, but the cops aren’t buying it. And, come to think of it, we only have his word that he didn’t go out later and kill her. So, could he have …?

In the book, he actually did kill her, and others before her. But the Hayes Office would never approve that. As we approached the ending I was wanting to tell Grahame to stay about 3,000 miles away from this loser. And she breaks it off, and he accepts it and walks away, slump-shouldered … but for how long? Everything about him just screams that he will be back, and he intends to possess her, dead or alive. I am so glad that they didn’t go for the happy ending bullshit, with them staying together, vowing to make it work. There are no happy endings with apes like him. One of these days he will pick a fight with someone who can beat him to death, and the world will become a better place. The question is, will that happen before or after he beats her to death?

I’m not really one for Hollywood scandal, but this movie has a story so juicy and lurid and awful I can’t resist. Gloria Grahame was married to the director, Nicholas Ray, while they were filming, and the marriage was in trouble. Not long after this it came to an end in a quite spectacular way. Ray walked in on Grahame in bed with Tony, his son from a previous marriage. The boy was thirteen years old. Yikes! She later married Tony, which made him stepfather to his half-brother Timothy. You thought things like that happened only in Appalachia? “I’m My Own Grandpa.”