Film noir greats ‘Shadow of a Doubt,’ In a Lonely Place,’ Double Indemnity’ and more on the big screen in LA

By Film Noir Blonde and Michael Wilmington

Shadow of a Doubt” (1943, Alfred Hitchcock) is the 1 p.m. matinee Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

A bright and beautiful small town girl named Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) is bored. Bored with her well-ordered home in her Norman Rockwellish little city of Santa Rosa, Calif., – where trees line the sunlit streets, everyone goes to church on Sunday and lots of them read murder mysteries at night. Charlie has more exotic dreams. She adores her globe-trotting, urbane Uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) – for whom she was nicknamed – and is deliriously happy when he shows up in Santa Rosa for a visit.

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright play kindred spirits, sort of, in “Shadow.”

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright play kindred spirits, sort of, in “Shadow.”

But Uncle Charlie has some secrets that no one in his circle would guess – not Uncle Charlie’s adoring sister (Patricia Collinge), nor his good-hearted brother-in-law (Henry Travers), nor their mystery-loving neighbor Herbie (Hume Cronyn), nor Charlie herself. Uncle Charlie, who conceals a darker personality and profession beneath his charming persona, is on the run, pursued by a dogged police detective (Macdonald Carey), who suspects him of being a notorious serial killer who seduces rich old widows and kills them for their money. As handsome, cold-blooded Uncle Charlie, Cotten, who also called “Shadow” his personal favorite film, is, with Robert Walker and Anthony Perkins, one of the three great Hitchcockian psychopaths.

“Shadow of a Doubt,” released in 1943, was Hitchcock’s sixth American movie and the one he often described as his favorite. As he explained to François Truffaut, this was because he felt that his critical enemies, the “plausibles,” could have nothing to quibble about with “Shadow.” It was written by two superb chroniclers of Americana, Thornton Wilder (“Our Town”) and Sally Benson (“Meet Me in St. Louis”), along with Hitch’s constant collaborator, wife Alma Reville. The result is one of the supreme examples of Hitchcockian counterpoint: with a sunny, tranquil background against which dark terror erupts.

Barbara Stanwyck book

On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., the American Cinematheque presents a Nicholas Ray night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood: “Johnny Guitar,” starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden, and “In a Lonely Place,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. As Jean-Luc Godard said: “Nicholas Ray is the cinema.” And speaking of Godard, the AC’s Aero Theatre is hosting a Godard retrospective, starting Feb. 20.

Femmes fatales don’t particularly like birthdays, but here’s an exception:  “Double Indemnity” turns 70 this year! Did you know Raymond Chandler made a cameo in the film? Read the story here.

And be sure to attend on Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica: Barbara Stanwyck biographer Victoria Wilson will sign her book and introduce a screening of “Double Indemnity” and “The Bitter Tea of General Yen.” The signing starts at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Wilson has two other signings coming up; for details, call Larry Edmunds Bookshop at 323-463-3273.

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Film noir events crowd the calendar this month

There is much to entice noiristas this month in Los Angeles and elsewhere. So much, in fact, that I’ve compiled this handy list.

Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star in "The Big Heat."

Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star in “The Big Heat.”

Tues., Oct. 8 @ 1 p.m.: “The Big Heat” (1953, Fritz Lang) plays on the big screen at the Bing Theater, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.

Additionally, “The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema,” featuring the work of cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, runs at LACMA through Oct. 11. “Luis Buñuel and Gabriel Figueroa: A Surreal Alliance” runs Oct. 12-19.

Wed., Oct. 9 @ 7:30 p.m.: Writers Bloc hosts a conversation with Valerie Plame, memoir author and former CIA Operations Officer. At the Ann and Jerry Moss Theater at New Roads School, 3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

Also starting Oct. 9: The Aero and Egyptian theaters host the inaugural Beyond Fest, “an international buffet of badass cinema” that showcases recent horror gems along with classics. In-person guests, live music. Beyond Fest runs through Oct. 31.

Thurs., Oct. 10: The 49th Chicago International Film Festival opens with a gala screening of “The Immigrant.” This year’s fest is dedicated to the late great Roger Ebert. The CIFF runs through Oct. 24. The fest’s After Dark slate of titles never fails to intrigue.

"Sunset Blvd." will screen Oct. 19.

“Sunset Blvd.” will screen Oct. 19 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Sat., Oct. 12 @ 6 p.m.: Redcat in downtown LA hosts a panel discussion on the controversial French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot and his contribution to 1960s aesthetics. Screening of “La Vérité” (1960 Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film).

Sat., Oct. 12 & Sun. Oct. 13: The Vintage Fashion Expo premieres at its new home in Los Angeles at The LA Convention Center.

Thurs., Oct. 17 @ 7:30 p.m.: Writers Bloc hosts a conversation with Norwegian author Jo Nesbø (“Headhunters”) whose new novel is Police: A Harry Hole Novel. At the Goethe-Institut, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.

“Moonrise” plays Oct. 21 at the Billy Wilder Theater at UCLA in Westwood.

“Moonrise” plays Oct. 21 at the Billy Wilder Theater at UCLA in Westwood.

Sat., Oct. 19 @ 2 p.m.: Illustrated presentation on “The Corner” and screening of “Sunset Blvd.” (1950, Billy Wilder) at the Egyptian Theatre (part of the Egyptian’s 91st anniversary weekend). Los Angeles historian Marc Chevalier will discuss the social nexus of Hollywood in the golden age: Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights (now West Hollywood). Followed by “Sunset Blvd.,” which features Schwab’s Pharmacy as a location.

Mon., Oct. 21 @ 7:30 p.m.: “Moonrise” (1948, Frank Borzage) at the Billy Wilder Theater at UCLA in Westwood. A luminous and rarely screened crime drama starring Dane Clark, Gail Russell and Ethel Barrymore.

Tues., Oct. 22 @ 1 p.m.: “Shockproof” (1949, Douglas Sirk) plays at LACMA’s Bing Theater. Written by Helen Deutsch and Samuel Fuller; starring Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight.

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Film noir delights in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema

"Another Dawn" will play Saturday night at the LA County Museum of Art.

“Another Dawn” will play Saturday night at the LA County Museum of Art.

I am greatly looking forward to seeing the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) exhibition and film program Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film.

Mexico was home to a vibrant, commercially stable film industry in the early 1930s through the 1950s. The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema series will explore Figueroa’s contributions as a groundbreaking cinematographer, a master of light and contrast.

Figueroa spent time on the set of Soviet master Sergei Eisenstein’s “¡Que Viva México!,” had an apprenticeship with Hollywood cinematographer Gregg Toland, and was friends with painters such as Diego Rivera. (The series is co-presented by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.)

"Autumn Days" will screen first on Saturday.

“Autumn Days” will screen first on Saturday night.

This weekend, two film noir delights are screening: “Dias de Otoño” (Autumn Days, 1963, Roberto Gavaldón) and “Distinto Amanecer” (Another Dawn, 1941, Julio Bracho). You can read the museum’s synopses here.

Upcoming film series will highlight Figueroa’s work with Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, the Hollywood films that the cinematographer shot over his 50-year career for directors such as John Huston and John Ford, the films of the early 1930s that spurred Figueroa, and contemporary Mexican filmmakers whose work invokes Figueroa’s legacy.

Meanwhile, the New York Film Festival opened today with “Captain Phillips.” Manohla Dargis of the New York Times gives her assessment here.

 

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LA County Museum hosts New York noir-neorealism series

Barry Fitzgerald stars in “The Naked City” by director Jules Dassin.

Mark your calendars: a great film noir series starts Friday at the Los Angeles County Museum.

The Naked City: New York Noir and Neorealism series will screen 10 films shot on location in and around New York during the period (1945-53) that photographer and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick spent documenting the city.

SaysSays the museum: “These films reveal a restless metropolis where you’re either on your way up, on your way down, or just laying low. It’s a city where you can never really disappear, not matter how dark the back alleys or how crowded the boulevards may be.”

The movies are as follows:

“The Naked City” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8
“Kiss of Death” 9:15 p.m. Feb. 8
“Where the Sidewalk Ends” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15
“The Thief” 9 p.m. Feb. 15
“Little Fugitive” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16
“The Window” 9 p.m. Feb. 16
“On the Waterfront” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22
“Force of Evil” 9:30 p.m. Feb. 22
“Killer’s Kiss” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23
“The Glass Wall” 8:45 p.m. Feb. 23

Support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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‘Stanley Kubrick’ opens today at LACMA

Director Stanley Kubrick sits in the interior of the space ship Discovery from “2001.” © Warner Bros. Entertainment

Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s storytelling sometimes leaves me cold, but I’ve always admired his arresting images and balletic camera. I think his best movies are his classic noir and neo-noir titles – “Killer’s Kiss,” “The Killing,” “Lolita,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Shining.”

Born in New York in 1928, Kubrick began as a photographer. He had his first photograph published in Look magazine when he was 16 (he was paid $25). Later, as a Look staffer, he shot on city streets, often swathes of nighttime blackness pierced by patches of light. His desire for precision and painstaking quest for technical innovation started early and stayed with him for the next 55 years.

The range and richness of his art are explored in the first U.S. retrospective of his work, co-presented by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Railroad station, Chicago 1949. Stanley Kubrick photo for Look magazine/Library of Congress

The exhibition highlights Kubrick’s bond with film noir, noting: “In the title of his first feature film, ‘Fear and Desire’ (1953), Kubrick declared two themes that he would return to throughout his career. The atmosphere of film noir – its claustrophobia, paranoia and hopelessness – creates a worldview made more tangible through style: low-key lighting, high-contrast and silhouetted images, the blackest shadows. These characteristics of noir, together with the camera movements that would soon be identified with the director, were coherently articulated in Kubrick’s three early features.”

And later: “What Kubrick began with ‘Lolita’ (1962) – disrupting the conventions of film noir – he accomplished completely with “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). Kubrick made the decision to treat the story as nightmare comedy.”

Kubrick’s films, including “Paths of Glory,” “Spartacus,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Barry Lyndon,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” among others, are represented through archival material, annotated scripts, photography, costumes, cameras and equipment, set models, original promotional materials and props.

Sue Lyon stars in “Lolita,” based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov.

In one of several letters rebuking Kubrick over the making of “Lolita,” the Bible Presbyterian Church of Tampa, Fla., decries that the movie “is based upon sex appeal. And that appeal is quite degenerate in its nature.”

There are also sections on Kubrick’s special effects and an alternate beginning to “2001” as well as displays about projects that Kubrick never completed (“Napoleon” and “The Aryan Papers”).

Kubrick died in 1999 in England, at the age of 70. He garnered 13 Academy Award nominations and “2001” (1968) won the Best Effects Oscar.

The exhibition, which runs through June 30, 2013, will be accompanied by a film retrospective at LACMA’s Bing Theater beginning this month.

From “The Shining” (1980): The daughters of Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). © Warner Bros. Entertainment

To kick off the film retrospective, on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Academy will present an evening of clips and tributes to honor Kubrick, hosted by actor Malcolm McDowell. The event will also launch the Academy’s Kubrick exhibition, which will be open to the public through February 2013.

As for the LACMA/Academy collaboration: “It is a taste of things to come when we open the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in the historic Wilshire May Company building on the LACMA campus,” said Dawn Hudson, Academy CEO.

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‘Murder by Contract,’ ‘Nightfall’ and ‘The Prowler’ close LACMA Mid-century California Noir series

Van Heflin

Louis B. Mayer once looked at me and said, ‘You will never get the girl at the end.’ So I worked on my acting.” – Van Heflin

I’m glad he did. Heflin, one of my favorite ’40s/’50s actors, had charisma and presence to spare, even if he wasn’t classically handsome. A case in point is 1951’s “The Prowler” by Joseph Losey, which played Saturday night at LACMA, after “Murder by Contract” and “Nightfall,” the last in the Mid-century California Noir series.

My favorite was “The Prowler,” recently restored by UCLA and the Film Noir Foundation. Here, Heflin plays Webb Garwood, a sleazy cop who’s called to a posh, Spanish-style Los Angeles home by lovely and lonely Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes) after she has a vague suspicion that an intruder is lurking in the garden. Turns out, there’s no one there, but Webb and Susan hit it off and soon begin an affair. Susan’s nights are often free because her DJ husband, John, is at the radio station broadcasting his show.

Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell and Van Heflin in "The Prowler."

It’s a love triangle in the vein of “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” though here it’s Webb, not the femme fatale, who seizes the opportunity to do away with the wealthy husband and snag some money. Webb shoots John, apparently in the line of duty, leaving him free to marry Susan, ditch police work and move to Vegas.

When Susan announces she’s preggers, it crimps the plan rather a lot because the birth will reveal the true timing of their relationship. (This is actually a shocking plot turn because it reveals beyond a doubt that their relationship was sexual – other noirs hint at this, of course, but I can’t think of another example where it is so explicitly established. Not sure how they got that past the censors.) The two take off for a remote mountain town so she can secretly bear the child with no witnesses around. Once there, however, Webb reveals his knavish, venal nature and Susan takes action of her own.

Heflin perfectly inhabits this deeply flawed character, lending him charm and complexity, even making you sort of like him at times. He could play a snake so memorably – he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as a gangster’s pal in “Johnny Eager” and he was excellent in both “Possessed” with Joan Crawford and “Act of Violence,” where he played an Army traitor. Another noir highlight was playing Philip Marlowe on NBC radio in the late 1940s.

Heflin was just as adept at playing average Joes and good guys, most notably in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (a film noir with Barbara Stanwyck and Kirk Douglas), “Shane” and “3:10 to Yuma.”

Keyes’ Susan is no vampy seductress. Instead, she plays the character as written – bland, bored and slightly feckless. Perhaps a fish out of water in the big city; she and Webb bond because they both hail from Terra Haute, Ind., albeit from different sides of the tracks. Keyes conveys that Susan is more than just bored – she yearns for children and perhaps something more than she finds in her cushy but unhappy marriage. And to her credit Keyes completely abandons her glamorous exterior when she’s sweating it out in the mountains.

Dalton Trumbo relaxes in Cannes, 1971.

Blacklisted writers Dalton Trumbo and Hugo Butler produced the script based on a story by Robert Thoeren and Hans Wilhelm. Trumbo provided the voice for Susan’s DJ husband; he is completely uncredited on the film.

It’s a movie that grabs you quickly and doesn’t let go – a testament to Losey’s marvelous direction. Cahiers du cinema pointed to “The Prowler” as the moment Losey became a true auteur. And Losey, who suffered professionally because of his supposed ties to the Communist Party, put it this way: “‘The Prowler’ to me is, and always has been, a film about false values. About the means justifying the end and the end justifying the means. $100,000 bucks, a Cadillac and a blonde were the sine qua non of American life at that time and it didn’t matter how you got them.”

For me, “The Prowler” was the hit of the LACMA triple-bill, though “Murder by Contract” (1958, Irving Lerner) and “Nightfall” (1957, Jacques Tourneur) also made compelling viewing. In “Murder,” written by Ben Maddow and Ben Simcoe, luscious Vince Edwards gives a thoroughly haunting performance as a smart, precise, driven hitman; slick cinematography by the brilliant Lucien Ballard and original guitar music by Perry Botkin add to the mood of tension and doom. The film was a key influence on Martin Scorsese and “Taxi Driver.”

Evocative visuals and location shooting in LA and Wyoming, courtesy of Tourneur and first-rate cinematographer Burnett Guffey, make “Nightfall” easy on the eyes. Given that the movie is based on a David Goodis novel (Stirling Siliphant wrote the script), I was disappointed that I found myself drifting in and out of the slightly thin story. Perhaps a dynamic lead actor, like Van Heflin, could have injected more drama, but Aldo Ray as an innocent man on the run just didn’t do it for me. His one-note realization lacked depth and nuance.

That said, I liked Brian Keith as his bad-guy nemesis (Keith probably could have played Ray’s part quite well) and Anne Bancroft as Ray’s romantic interest, a model and sometime bar-fly. Chris Fujiwara, author of “The Cinema of Nightfall: Jacques Tourneur,” calls her “one of Tourneur’s most distinctive heroines.”

And any film noir that features a sumptuous fashion show at the Beverly Hills Hilton is more than all right by me.

“Murder by Contract” and “Nightfall” are available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in the Film Noir Classics series; “The Prowler” from VCI Entertainment.

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Retro sipping for St. Pat’s from the Stark Bar and FNB

Green beer not doing it for you? Take inspiration from Ray’s and Stark Bar (at Lacma, 5905 Wilshire Blvd.) in Los Angeles and FNB to add vintage flair to your St. Patrick’s festivities. Here are two recipes from the bar’s extensive cocktail list and one of my own.

The Ginger Rogers hits the spot.

The Ginger Rogers
2 ounces gin
1 ounce ginger syrup (theirs is housemade with fresh ginger)
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
Top with ice and ginger ale; garnish with fresh mint

The Cheap Detective
2 ounces St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1 ounce Cynar
¾ ounce Campari
Garnish with grapefruit peel

From my kitchen: The LA Fizzy Blonde
8 ounces ginger ale (don’t use diet)
2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Mix soda and juice. Add ice and lime slice to garnish

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With its engrossing story, gorgeous cinematography and riveting performances, ‘The Conformist’ still compels

The Conformist/1970/115 min.

Is Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” – an art film classic regarded by many cinematographers as the most beautifully photographed movie of its era – also a neo-noir?

Well, it’s a movie, set in the 1930s, about those old noir standbys: romance, sex, murder, betrayal, guilt and political/police corruption. Adapted from the famous novel by Alberto Moravia, it has a psychologically divided and tormented central character, Marcello Clerici (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant of “Z” and “A Man and a Woman”), who is racked by Freudian desires and guilty secrets. The opaque-faced Marcello has homosexual leanings, which he tries to wipe out by marrying and becoming a good reliable government man. In 1930s Italy, this means being a good fascist.

Marcello is also involved in a messy triangle with his lovely, naive wife Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli) and with the incredibly beautiful bisexual Anna Quadri (Dominique Sanda). In 1970, because of this movie, the ravishing blonde Sanda was often described as the most beautiful actress in movies. Sanda was also Bertolucci’s first choice to be Marlon Brando’s co-star in “Last Tango in Paris.” (She chose motherhood instead.)

Dominique Sanda and Stefania Sandrelli

“The Conformist,” though, made her a movie immortal. Sanda’s feverish onscreen tango with Sandrelli against an iridescent, gorgeously colored background, while Marcello watches, is one of the most justly famous erotic/musical set-pieces in all of cinema.

Bertolucci later went on to make celebrated and even notorious classics like “The Last Emperor” and “Last Tango,” but many aficionados still prefer “The Conformist” for its engrossing story, the savvy political background, the absolutely gorgeous Storaro cinematography (the color equivalent of a great noir black-and-white), and for the riveting performances by Sanda, Trintignant, Sandrelli, Pierre Clementi, Yvonne Sanson and the others. [Read more...]

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‘Lady from Shanghai’ is richly surreal, haunting in its intensity

The Lady from Shanghai/1948/Columbia Pictures/87 min.

Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles

“Citizen Kane” is hallowed cinematic ground, I know, but my favorite Orson Welles film is “The Lady from Shanghai” (1948), which he wrote, produced, directed and starred in, playing opposite his real-life wife Rita Hayworth, one of the most popular entertainers of the 1940s.

In “The Lady from Shanghai” Welles plays Michael O’Hara, an Irish merchant seaman, in between ships in New York. By chance, or so he thinks, he meets the wily blonde operator Elsa Bannister (Hayworth) and saves her from being mugged in the park.

Elsa invites Michael to join her as she sets sail for Acapulco. The boat belongs to her husband, a wizened, creepy criminal lawyer named Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane), and he’ll be on the trip too. So will his partner, the moon-faced and sinister George Grisby (Glenn Anders). O’Hara agrees regardless. “Once I’d seen her,” he says, “I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.”

On their voyage (the yacht belonged to Errol Flynn), Elsa and Michael flirt every chance they get; Arthur gets touchy and calls her “Lovah,” in a most unloving way; Grisby is generally unpleasant. The tension builds, then breaks when they reach San Francisco. But not for long.

Grisby has a plan to cash in on an insurance policy by faking his own murder and bribes Michael to help him. Need I say the plan doesn’t quite work out as they’d hoped? This is film noir, you know.

“The Lady from Shanghai” is richly surreal and haunting in its intensity. Welles and cinematographer Charles Lawton Jr. use staggering angles and startling black shadow almost to the point of abstraction. Two of the most famous sequences are the aquarium and the funhouse hall of mirrors at the end. Of the latter, Time Out notes that “it stands as a brilliant expressionist metaphor for sexual unease and its accompanying loss of identity.”

The script, based on the Sherwood King novel “If I Die Before I Wake,” crackles with noir attitude (“Everybody’s somebody’s fool,” says O’Hara). Hayworth, the perfect femme fatale, looks contemporary and sexy whether in her chic nautical garb or the filigree hat she wears in the courtroom. [Read more...]

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‘In a Lonely Place’ an ode to romantic, cynical noir love

In a Lonely Place/1950/Columbia Pictures/94 min.

Gloria Grahame

One of Gloria Grahame’s most nuanced performances is as Laurel Gray in 1950’s “In a Lonely Place,” a noir love story from director Nicholas Ray. Laurel eschews any double-dealing or dark deeds in this film. She’s got enough on her hands trying to navigate a new romance: Does she like the way he kisses? Will he call when he says he will? Did he brutally kill a girl for no reason? You know, the usual dating stuff.

Her love interest is her neighbor, Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), a volatile, sometimes violent, screenwriter, with a history of fights and scandals. Her cool affection seems the perfect salve for his simmering aggression.

The fly in the ointment is that Police Capt. Lochner (Carl Benton Reid) is convinced that Dix, in a fit of temper, murdered a hatcheck girl named Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart). He was, after all, the last person to see her alive. Dix professes his innocence and Laurel backs him up. But Dix’s erratic behavior gets worse and, when he proposes, Laurel’s too scared to say no.

“In a Lonely Place” is an exquisitely tender love story and it holds up incredibly well for contemporary audiences, who know the ropes of brief, ill-fated affairs. “It’s complicated” would be Laurel’s Facebook relationship status if she’d lived in the age of online communication.

On one hand, she tries to take it slow with Dix, telling him, “I don’t want to be rushed.” But she’s already lied to the police to give him an alibi for the night of the Atkinson murder. At first, the pair conveniently push the reality of Dix’s rage under the rug, though it becomes harder and harder as their shared fear (that he is capable of such a killing) slowly and steadily builds.

Much of the action takes place at the Beverly Patio Apartments complex, where Laurel and Dix both live, offering ample opportunity for skulking and spying.  Director Ray lived in a similar complex in West Hollywood and it served as the model for the film set.

If Ray is a poet as a director, this film is an ode to impossible love, a sensitive portrayal of a strong, egoic man succumbing to dark inner demons and the pain he inflicts on those around him. It might be just as apt to compare Ray to a painter so arresting and assured are his compositions (he studied architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright).

As with most of Ray’s films, “In a Lonely Place” offers powerful, sometimes blisteringly raw, performances all around. Grahame’s tear-stained face at the end is an image that never leaves you once you see it. (Ray and Grahame married in 1948, separated in 1950 and divorced in 1952).

Bogart, though he never loses his swagger, brilliantly conveys Dix’s growing desperation and alienation. Excellent in supporting parts are Frank Lovejoy as Dix’s friend and lone ally at the police station, Jean Marie “Jeff” Donnell as his friend’s wife and Art Smith as Dix’s agent.

Scripted by Andrew Solt, “In a Lonely Place” is based on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, which is well worth a read; it’s a very fast read by the way. In the book, Dix is a shadowy, psychopathic killer, not a successful screenwriter with a bad temper, and Hughes explores his psyche in great detail. She also conjures a gritty picture of LA after World War Two.

The movie contains a good dose of noir cynicism about Hollywood and how it treats its struggling denizens. “In a Lonely Place” would make an excellent double bill with Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard,” also from 1950.

Grahame played in many noirs (and won the best supporting actress Oscar in 1952 for her role in “The Bad and the Beautiful”) but by the early ’60s, her career was dragging and she saw for herself how Tinseltown’s chummy embrace could turn to cold shoulders and closed doors.

“In a Lonely Place” plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 22, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 5905 Wilshire Blvd.

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