Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

In a Lonely Place (1950)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

In a Lonely Place (1950)

In Nicholas Ray's bleak, black and white film noir classic about a volatile Hollywood screenwriter who became a murder suspect and was provided an alibi by his neighbor - an aspiring actress. It was based on a complex script by Andrew Solt:

  • the world-weary, acerbic, cynical, self-destructive, hot-tempered, depression-plagued Hollywood screenwriter and, hard-living but laconic anti-hero Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), was planning to adapt a trashy best-selling romance novel for the big screen
  • Steele's volatility was demonstrated in the opening scene when he was driving to meet his agent Mel Lippman (Art Smith) in Paul's Restaurant; at an intersection, he became engaged in a road-rage incident with another motorist, and then shortly later in a restaurant he engaged in a brief fisticuffs argument with another man
  • Dixon met simple-minded, naive, celebrity-obsessed hat-check girl Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) at Paul's Restaurant; she was reading the novel that he would soon be adapting into a screenplay, so instead of reading the novel, he relied on a synopsis of the book from Mildred after she was invited to his apartment in the late evening to provide him with an overview of the lightweight, second-rate book he hadn't read himself
  • as they entered his apartment's courtyard, he caught an intriguing glimpse of his upstairs, across-the-courtyard neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) returning home; then later in the evening toward the end of the long and dreary synopsis, an unimpressed Dix retreated to his bedroom in his dressing gown, opened his patio door, and voyeuristically noticed Laurel ogling him - she was standing on her upstairs balcony - elevated and framed through his window
  • at 12:30 am, Dixon offered Mildred cab fare instead of driving her home as he earlier had promised; the next morning, at 5:00 am, Dixon was accosted at his home by Beverly Hills detective Sgt. Brub Nicolai (Frank Lovejoy)

Dixon - Questioned as a Murder Suspect

Laurel Also Brought in to be Questioned

Laurel Gray Providing an Alibi for Dixon Steele
  • Dixon was taken to the Beverly Hills Police Department to engage in a recorded interrogation with Brub's overzealous boss Police Captain Lochner (Carl Benton Reid); he was accused of murdering Mildred; her strangled body had been dumped between 1:00 and 2:00 am from a moving car onto the side of the road in Benedict Canyon; Dixon was asked why his reaction was so callous, remorseless, and unemotional
  • the beautiful but cool blonde next-door apartment neighbor and would-be starlet Laurel Gray was also called in for questioning in the detective's office; she provided an alibi for Dixon: (Dixon: "She was standing on her balcony in a negligee," AND Laurel: "I believe he was looking at me"); she then bluntly described why she paid attention to her new neighbor and took an interest in him almost immediately: ("I noticed him because he looked interesting. I like his face"); she confessed that Dixon did not leave with the murder victim when he said goodnight to her at his door; the question remained however - was her alibi really helpful, since she admitted she never really saw much
  • after Dixon's release, he insinuated to his agent that he might have committed the murder, but that he was smarter and told a better story than the investigating Police Captain: "He's a smart fellow, that Lochner. A couple times, he almost had me. It was his story against mine. But, of course, I told my story better...I was smart. I covered all the angles, I have an airtight alibi."
  • later, Dixon complimented Laurel in providing a life-saving alibi, based upon his attractive face: ("It's a good thing you like my face. I'd have been in a lot of trouble without you"); Laurel then gave a classic response to Dixon when he attempted to kiss her: ("I said I liked it. I didn't say I wanted to kiss it"); they were mutually attracted to each other
  • the next evening in an unforgettable conversational scene during dinner with his cop and WWII buddy Brub and his wife Sylvia (Jeff Donnell), murder suspect Dixon Steele gave a convincing 'visual' re-enactment of his version of the strangulation murder of Mildred in his car: ("Brub, you sit down there. Sylvia, you sit there on Brub's right. Now, you're the killer. You're driving the car. This is the front seat...If she'd been killed before she got in the car, the murderer would've hidden her body in the back. In that case, he couldn't have dumped her out without stopping. Now, you're driving up the canyon. Your left hand's on the wheel....She's telling you she'd done nothing wrong. You pretend to believe her. You put your right arm around her neck. You get to a lonely place in the road, and you begin to squeeze. You're an ex-GI. You know judo. You know how to kill a person without using your hands. You're driving the car, and you're strangling her. You don't see her bulging eyes or protruding tongue. Go ahead, go ahead Brub, squeeze harder. You love her, and she's deceived you. You hate her patronizing attitude. She looks down on you. She's impressed with celebrities. She wants to get rid of you. Squeeze harder. Harder. Squeeze harder. It's wonderful to feel her throat crush under your arm")
  • Dix and Laurel began a love affair - in her apartment, he kissed her, and explained how love and redemption were interlinked with violence and death: "I've been looking for someone for a long time. I didn't know her name or where she lived. I'd never seen her before. When a girl was killed - and because of that, I found what I was looking for. Now I know your name, where you live, and how you look"
Dixon's Brief Love Affair with Laurel
  • they temporarily began living with each other and were happy, but tensions between them grew when the investigation into him persisted (and he was under secret surveillance), and she became increasingly suspicious and began to back away; she clearly saw him as a man whose own sur-'face' hid terrible, uncontrollable and ferocious anger, and feared that he was violent and capable of murder - possessing a "sick mind with an urge to destroy"
  • during a late-night scary ride in his convertible on winding Mulholland Drive, Dixon delivered a famed line of dialogue - a line of script written for some future work, that he told to Laurel as she took the wheel; it was a foreshadowing of the end of their own fragile affair: "I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me" - she repeated the phrase back to him - but hesitated on the last sentence; she suggested it could be "a farewell note"; their love was clearly threatened and breaking apart; their romantic relationship was ultimately put to the test as she became increasingly suspicious of his disintegrating self.
  • out of fear, Laurel accepted Dixon's desperate and sudden marriage proposal, to avoid aggravating him or getting into an argument due to his inherent, explosive nature; however, she was seriously contemplating leaving town to avoid marrying him, and she hurriedly packed her bag inside her locked apartment's bedroom to leave; Dix forced his way in to her apartment, and his eyes widened when he realized Laurel was packing - not for a honeymoon trip to Las Vegas - but to run away from him to New York; in a rage, he nearly strangled the woman he loved; he was only interrupted by a ringing telephone with a startling message, informing him that Mildred's boyfriend Henry Kesler (Jack Reynolds) had confessed to her murder

Dixon Semi-Strangling Laurel When She Was Planning to Run Away From Him

Laurel's Last Words: "I lived a few weeks while you loved me. Goodbye, Dix"
  • in the film's unhappy ending, it was too late to save their relationship; Laurel uttered teary, murmured words of goodbye to Dixon as he walked away after their relationship had completely deteriorated, and he disappeared through an outer archway to the street: "I lived a few weeks while you loved me. Goodbye, Dix" - she was repeating the bittersweet words from Dix's script while leaning wearily on her apartment's door frame

Screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart)

Hat-check Girl Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart)

First Glimpse of Dixon's Neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame)

Dixon's 2nd View of Laurel On Her Balcony Across the Courtyard

Later- Dixon's Attempt to Kiss Laurel With Her Response ("I didn't say I wanted to kiss it")

Dixon's Vivid Re-Enactment of Mildred's Strangulation in His Car

Scary Mulholland Dr. Ride

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

Dixon Pressuring Laurel to Marry Him


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