Many people best remember Nicholas Ray, born on this day in 1911, as the director of Rebel Without a Cause. Some might recall the cult classic Johnny Guitar. But earlier this year, I saw his 1950 film In a Lonely Place, and was surprised that the movie hasn't received more attention. I had read some glowing essays about the movie when it was released on DVD, but I was skeptical -- I don't always like Humphrey Bogart in dramatic roles, especially when he's trying to break out of the tough-guy persona. (I confess I couldn't stand him in Treasure of the Sierra Madre ... it was so disappointing.)
Bogart is perfect in In a Lonely Place as Dixon Steele, the aggressively nasty, occasionally even violent writer who is accused of murder. His neighbor, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), provides him with an alibi ... and the two fall for each other almost immediately afterwards. Everything is rosy until Steele's violent side surfaces at unexpected times. The above image is from a scene that takes place during one of those times. However, we're still able to sympathize with Steele much of the time, which is one reason why this is such a good movie. Ray directed less than 30 films, and a number of them are nearly forgotten today, but In a Lonely Place is one of his very best.