Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In a Lonely Place

What About It?

In a Lonely Place is my favorite role of Humphrey Bogart's, and I'm a big fan of him in general. This is a role and a film so weighty, that they feel like they must have hurt to make. Dixon Steele has problems with excess and lives just on the verge of becoming a monster, but he's a good man the other times, who takes it personally when someone insults a has been actor because he's a human being and worthy of respect. Sometimes his two sides work together, as when he slaps Junior. He doesn't need to consider the indignity, he feels it as if he himself were insulted. He approaches violence as if he's on better terms with it than anyone. Twice in the movie, his trigger is someone else starting to threaten him with violence. In the first case, at the very beginning with the actress's husband, the man speeds away, but in the second case the near accident, we see what he's on the verge of most of the time, the wrong word, on the wrong day, is more than enough to send him over, especially if he's had a couple drinks.

This is offset by an extreme vulnerability, as we see in his eagerness to believe in Laurel. Moments after she agrees that she's "interested" he tells her "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. But, 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." Despite his seeming cynicism, Steele is a person that can and really wants to believe in something. In fact, it could well be that his cynical alcoholic persona began as a coping mechanism, for the failure of life to to meet his belief in the extraordinary. He's been worn down, but the spark is there and he rushes to grab it. This doesn't, however, erase who he is, and his demons are always there, just within reach.

He sees something in Laurel that he hasn't seen before, and for all of his faults he's not a character that has difficulty finding women to spend time with, but usually ignores his phone ringing preferring to be left alone. Whether it's something she has, or something he just needs to believe in at that moment, he chooses to believe and does. The fact that they are "introduced" by a murder accusation which she dismisses because she like his face, is very significant. It must mean a lot to him that she can see enough goodness in him instinctively to make that decision. But while this gives him a great hope, it doesn't eliminate his struggle. Dix is very intelligent and and very independent. He functions daily on the assumption that no one will understand him, spending a lot of energy to appear "normal" We see that when listening to Mildred tell him about the book, he has to leave the room, as he's so bothered by her error filled delivery. It's significant that he doesn't stick to correcting her except for Althea (versus Alathea) which also lets go eventually. When he intercepts the call from Martha, he asks if the call is for Laurel or for Baxter, showing that he knew what page Martha was on, but ignored it. He reads people easily, but often discards the information. This is the futility he sees all around and he drinks and fights to drown out the noise.

He has also come up with a system of making his violence "justified" whether or not there is a really good reason for it. This works for him until Laurel comes along and witnesses a beating. She points out the flexibility of his reasoning and he has no answer for it. This is not a situation he's used to, as his independent mentality has made him a mystery to most people. Even Brubs, says that he and the men in his company could never figure him out. They just liked him. This is understandable, as outwardly, he has some admirable traits; fearless in some respects, intelligent, witty,  and he has a sense of fair play which he abides by. He's a guy that doesn't answer his phone but still has people calling. He's a guy that you would invite over for dinner, to meet your wife, even though he didn't bother returning your call for a year. He's not like "everyone." and his presence leaves a mark in those that spend time with him. Nobody know what he's thinking, as he is careful with what he shows, until he has to "explode."
His uniqueness is what attracts Laurel at first, but after being exposed to the whole picture, combined with the doubts of others, Laurel closes herself off. You can see Dix struggling with his own intellect afterwards. He knows it's over, but doesn't entertain the thought, choosing instead to go for marriage in in an intentional suspension of disbelief until her plan to leave is undeniably exposed.

Dixon ignores things, but he doesn't have a true "off" switch for what drives him. In many ways he's proud of what he is, although Laurel's perception softens him a bit. While the two of them are happy, they are an exceptional couple. However, outside influence brings out the worst in them both. She sees his anger on display, which scares her, more so when the doubts of others creep into her thinking, virtually taking her over. She can no longer ignore the fact that he is not an easy man to live with. She tries to hide her uncertainty to him, but the change in their dynamic is obvious. The beginning of the end is in the car after the beating when she withholds the words he told her "I lived a few weeks while you loved me." They let it go and act as if they can recover, but it's already only a matter of time.

Gloria Grahame is terrific as Laurel. She's an aspiring actress, but not a typical one. She isn't content to be arm candy, as her split with Mr. Baxter indicates. She has her own mind and an independence of her own, which is likely one reason she connects with Dix. Being an actress doesn't seem to be her goal, as she is easily able to put those interests aside, happy to work with Dixon while he's writing, even telling Martha, who needles her about it, that while doing this, she's never been happier. She has a compulsion to make her own way, although she does desire stability as well. We get the sense that her past relationship with Baxter, was one of "stability" thus approved of by Martha. who takes the common view of marriage as a getting of the most property you can. When Dix asks her about Baxter she only says "We were thinking of getting married. It wouldn't have worked." and he rightly guesses that she snuck out on him. Laurel wants the stability, but when commitment looms, she panics at having her options limited. This happens again with Dix of course, although the circumstances are different. Still, it makes sense that when he tries a last ditch effort to keep her, it consists of the idea of marriage, and looking at houses. It also makes sense that it doesn't work, as this is both what she wants, and what she's running from.  She was attracted because he was "interesting" and unconventional, and this lasts until she fully realizes what that means, in the worst possible light.

She is in many ways as much a loner as Dix is, having only Martha as a "resource." She isn't used to sharing her thoughts with another. Perhaps former boyfriends didn't notice, but Dixon doesn't miss much and when he catches her omissions, which were certainly only well intentioned, it puts her in a place she isn't used to, and she has no way to anticipate his extreme reaction. Once her doubts about Dixon take hold, her panic at losing herself comes in as well, and her flight impulse kicks into high gear. The lines Dixon reads to her in the car are an early acknowledgment that they know what's coming, although they're not ready to let it go yet. Each is attracted to the other's uniqueness, but Laurel ultimately is too conflicted to sustain their idyllic romance, especially when fear of Dixon becomes stronger than her belief in him. She then wants him to be "normal" perhaps not realizing the problem with that. As Mel tells her, "Like other people? Would you have liked him? You knew he was dynamite. He has to explode sometimes.Years ago I tried to make him see a psychiatrist. I thought he'd kill me. Always violent. It's as much a part of him as the color of his eyes, the shape of his head. But, he's Dix Steele, and if you want him you've got to take it all, the bad with the good." The very thing that attracted her to him, is what she know can't live with. And not without reason, there's no denying that Dixon is deeply troubled and a potential danger.

In a Lonely Place, is an interesting film in that on the surface, it's a film noir about a murder. Nicholas Ray departs from the formula however, making the murder almost incidental. This is without question, a love story. It's a noir love story certainly and Dixon and Laurel are as doomed as any film noir protagonist. It's just that jail or death is not the danger, but not being able to hold on to your true love. Ray uses expressions for all they're worth. Bringing Bogart from calm to near madness convincingly with a subtle difference in lighting. We see Laurel go from actively happy, to totally disengaged simply by a slight change in her speech. The dialogue is sharp and witty, and the story is enough of a frame, on which to hang the romance. The smaller parts are also outstanding, Frank Lovejoy's, Brub, and Art Smith's Mel Lippman both giving us valuable information on Dixon simply by how they relate to him. Everyone involved was at the top of their game and this gives us a lovely and difficult movie, that's a little too truthful to be comfortable.

We end up with two people who are both perhaps incurably set in their ways, finding an unexpectedly strong attachment in each other. While they're happy, they're deliriously happy and we can't help but hope they can make it last. It's an examination of the idea of "loving someone for who they are." and the difficulty of knowing anyone well enough to know what that means. They almost know each other, and initially recognize and even celebrate the other's difference from the norm, but Laurel underestimates the extent of it. She claims to Lochner that "he's changed." as if she assumed that his destructive impulses had become permanently tempered by her, which is an easy assumption for her to make until she's seen him almost kill someone.  Dixon knows that she's prone to disconnecting when things get intense, but he overlooks it because he needs her. In true noir style, the phone call that could've saved them arrives only after Dixon confirms with his actions that he is capable of the murder he was accused of, despite the fact that he was innocent. Laurel's response is the heart of the inevitable tragedy
"Yesterday, this would have meant so much to us. Now it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all."
Dixon may be beyond redemption, but you can't help but sympathize as he likely knows that too, but can't help reaching for something better. He already knows how it'll turn out, but tries to hold it for as long as he can. As he tells Laurel "I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me." He's told her the outline, and she can't bring herself to finish it, when he asks her to repeat it, not until the end, when it's over. They end where they started, each of them back in their lonely single apartment with the memory of having lived through something truly wonderful and unthinkably terrible at the same time, their failure more haunting than any murder charge.

What Happens?

Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart,) a well known Hollywood screenwriter, past his prime, drives down the road. In traffic, he stops next to a car containing an actress who recognizes him, although he doesn't know her. She tells him he wrote her last movie and he explains that he doesn't watch movies he wrote. The man driving the car takes exception to Steele's dour answer and perhaps a little jealously, tells Steele to stop bothering his wife. Dix tells the actress "Oh...you shouldn't have done it honey, no matter how much money that pig's got." The man tells him to pull the car over. Rather than be intimidated, Dixon offers "What's wrong with right here?" and starts getting out of his car, although the other man reconsiders and speeds off.

Dix stops at a bar to meet director, Lloyd Barnes (Morris Ankrum)  and agent, Mel Lippman (Art Smith). Dixon is to write a screenplay based on a trashy best selling book for them. Dixon discovers that the coat check girl, Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart)  has nearly finished the book while she was holding it for him. She's very taken with the story and tells him it could be "an epic." Dixon lets her finish the book while he has a few drinks. At the bar, Dixon stops to say hi to drunk older actor, Charlie Waterman (Robert Warwick) and insists that they sit next to him, despite Lloyd's protests, claiming "He's not contagious" Dixon's agent, Mel, tells him about the people involved in the project and insists that Dixon has "been out of circulation too long." Dixon makes a statement that he won't work on a project he doesn't like, prompting Lloyd to chime in asking "Are you in any position to be choosy? You haven't written a hit since before the war and your last picture..."
Dixon: So it stunk! Everybody makes flops except you. You haven't had one because you've made and remade the same picture for the last twenty years! You know what you are? You're a popcorn salesman!
Lloyd: And so are you. The only difference between us is that I don't fight it.
Dixon: One day I'll surprise you and write something good!
They settle down and the son in law of a famous producer rushes in to say hello, standing between Dixon and Charlie Waterman. Charlie tries to say hello, but the son in law snubs him, talking to everyone else instead. Dixon doesn't like this, and calls him on it, saying "What's the matter with you? Don't you shake hands with an actor?"
Son in law: Actor, you call this an actor? He hasn't been able to remember a line in the last ten years.
Dixon: Made your father in law a couple million...
Son in law: uh uh, Papa made a star out of a drunkard.
When the man makes fun of Charlie's has been status, comparing his drink to a crystal ball, Charlie tells him, "You have set the son in law business back 50 years." He responds by flicking his cigar into Charlie's drink, which enrages Dixon, who slaps him and then goes after him to beat him some more before people intervene. Another patron, actress Frances Randolph remarks "There goes Dix again..." Dix calms down and asks Lloyd to get Charlie home. He promise Mel that he'll read the book that night, and tells him to take off. Dixon orders some food after everyone leaves, and is soon approached by Frances. She explains that she tried to call him last night. He says he was home, but didn't want to talk to anyone he knows. She suggests he come over to her place, but he tells her he has to read a book.
Frances: Remember how I used to read to you?
Dixon: uh huh, since then, I've learned to read by myself.
Frances: That's all. Do you look down on all women, or just the ones you know? [getting up from the table]
Dixon: I was pretty nice to you.
Frances: No, not to me. But you were pretty nice. I'll call you.
Dixon finishes a drink and Mildred the coat check girl shows up to return the book. He offers to drive her home, but to his home, which she initially takes as a proposition for a date. She explains that she has a date that night. When Dixon tells her that he just wants her to explain the story to him because he's too tired to read it (and it's a trashy novel,) she agrees, excited at the idea of helping a real screenwriter. She runs off to tell her mother, and Dixon remarks to a waiter, "There's no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality."

They arrive at Dixon's place, and Mildred is briefly alarmed when Dixon takes his shoes off and puts on a robe, questioning whether the novel was a pretense to get her alone in his apartment. He reassures her that he just likes to be comfortable when he works. Satisfied, she starts telling the story of Althea Bruce (although she says Alathea, no matter how many times he corrects her.) Her description gets on his nerves as she mispronounces many things and starts getting over dramatic, acting it out. After giving him the synopsis, she apologizes for acting weird. Dixon thanks her for breaking her date and asks about her boyfriend, saying "Is Henry..Is he in love with you?
Mildred: I guess so. He's nice and substantial. The easy going type. He lives with his folks and has a good job.
Dixon: In other words, you don't love him?
Mildred: Are you a mind reader?
Dixon: Most writers like to think they are.
Mildred asks him if he's going out with anyone, but the prospect of her company, makes him tell her, that it's late and he's tired. He asks her if she minds if he doesn't drive her home, suggesting a taxi stand right around the corner. She seems agreeable and leaves.

At 5:00 in the morning, Dixon answers his doorbell, finding his friend Detective Sgt. Brub Nicolai (Frank Lovejoy) there. He tells Brub to "get out of here." and Brub responds "That an order Major? You make me homesick for some of the worst years of our lives." while walking into Dix's apartment anyway. Brub starts looking around the apartment, prompting Dix to ask if he's been drinking. Brub says "No, have you?" Dix says he's been sleeping for hours, and Brub asks "With your clothes on?" Dix notices that Brub isn't uniform and asks if he's in trouble. Brub says "Yeah, they made a mistake and promoted me to detective." Dix congratulates him, but Brub tells him he's there on official business. Dix assumes that "Junior" from the bar filed a complaint, and says he's sorry he didn't really beat him up now. Brub tells him it has nothing to do with Junior, and to get dressed so they can go see his boss who'll tell him what it is about. While Dix gets dressed Brub tells him he got married, and that he'll like his wife when he meets her.

At the station, Capt. Lochner (Carl Benton Reid) wants to talk about Mildred.
Capt. Lochner: Wouldn't you say that taking a check room girl home for the purpose of hearing a story was rather an eccentric thing to do?
Dixon: Well, I'd say it was a very practical idea. She'd read the book and I hadn't.
Lochner asks if he'd had other purposes for bringing her to his home and mentions that he gave her twenty dollars which seems too large a sum for cab fare. He reminds the Captain that she had rendered a service as well. Lochner asks "Why didn't you call for a cab? Isn't that what a gentleman usually does?"
Dixon remarks "I didn't say I was a gentleman, I said I was tired." Lochner reveals that Mildred has been found murdered and says "What's your reaction? Shock, horror, sympathy? No. Just petulance at being questioned, a couple of feeble jokes. You surprise me, Mr. Steele."
Dixon: I grant you the jokes could have been better, but I don't know why the rest worries you. That is, unless you plan to arrest me for lack of emotion. Brub comes in with more information, telling Lochner that Mildred was strangled by the killer's arm, not his hands. Lochner asks Brub about their association, and Brub says "He was my CO We spent three years together overseas."
Lochner: See each other much, after the war?
Brub: About a year ago, I called him. He promised to call me right back. I'm still waiting.[smiling]
Dixon: [laughs] when I found out he was a cop I lost interest.
Lochner shows Dixon pictures of the body at the scene. He asks is anyone called him, but Dixon says no, but thinks of something. We then see Dixon's neighbor, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) being escorted in. She explains that she doesn't know Dixon, but she's seen him a few times, as their apartments face each other. She explains that she saw Dixon and Mildred arriving at the apartment. Lochner then reveals that Mildred was strangled to death "by the vice like grip of an arm" causing Laurel to take a look at Dix. Lochner then asks if she saw Dixon after that. She says that she did, about a half hour later, saying goodnight to Mildred at the door. Lochner asks "Can you see Mr. Steele's door from your bedroom?" Dixon breaks in and says "She was standing on her balcony in a negligee."
Laurel: It was a warm night. My apartment was stuffy.
Lochner: You're sure he didn't leave with the girl?
Laurel: Positive.
Lochner: What was he doing?
Laurel: I believe he was looking at me.
Lochner: Considering you've never met Mr. Steele, you've paid quite a bit of attention to him.
Laurel: Mhm, I have at that.
Lochner: Usually give such attention to your neighbors?
Laurel: No.
Lochner: Were you interested in Mr. Steele because he's a celebrity?
Laurel: No. Not at all. I noticed him because he looked interesting. I like his face.
They release Dixon based on Laurel's alibi. Lochner talks to Brub about Dixon's reaction, finding his lack of emotion troubling. Brub tells him that he and the men in his company could never figure out how he felt about anything, but they liked him, and he doesn't think he murdered anyone. Lochner says "He's hiding something. I doubt if it's the proverbial heart of gold."

Dixon walks home, stopping to order roses for Mildred Atkinson. Mel catches up with him at his apartment panicked at the situation as he's already seen it in the papers. Dixon reassures him but has him look up Laurel Gray and they find she's had a couple small parts. Dixon, tells Mel "I covered all the angles. I have an airtight alibi." Mel insists that he tell him if he had anything to do with it. Dixon doesn't answer that part, but Mel talks about lawyers and possibly getting Dixon to Mexico.

Lochner at the station is going over Dixon's police record, finding many charges and records for fights, including broken jaws. He finds a report from Frances Randolph, who claimed Dixon beat her up but the denied it happened later, claiming she broke her nose running into a door.

Laurel shows up at Dixon's place. Dix teases Mel, by telling Laurel that Mel thinks he killed the girl and wants him to go to Mexico. Laurel explains that she came to ask if Dixon could help keep her name out of the papers. Mel offers to try to keep her out of the papers, but can't promise anything. Mel asks Laurel "Miss Gray, did you really see him after that girl left?" She says "Of course I did." Mel shakes his head and says to Dixon "Sometimes I wish I'd never met you." giving Laurel and Dixon a laugh. He tells her that it's lucky she likes his face. She tells him that she only said what she saw and has no idea what he did after he closed his blinds. Dixon says "You know Miss Gray, you're one up on me. You can see into my apartment, but I can't see into yours." She answers "I promise you, I won't take advantage of it." Dixon then comes back with " Well, I would if it were the other way around. I'd try to find out who you're hiding from."
Laurel: Not hiding, just avoiding.
Dixon: It couldn't by any chance be the real estate, Mr. Baker?
Laurel: Could be.
Dixon: You picked up your little marbles, I hope?
Laurel: We were thinking of getting married. It wouldn't have worked.
Dixon: You sneaked out the back door, left no forwarding address.
Laurel: That about covers it, only it was my back door.
Dixon: You know, you're out of your mind. How could anybody like a face like this? Look at it. [moves in to kiss her]
Laurel: I said I liked it. I didn't say I wanted to kiss it. [moves away]
He walks her out, suggesting dinner and telling her he saw that she's a woman who know what she wants. She tell him she also knows what she doesn't want, in this case to be rushed.

Brub calls and asks him over for dinner with the wife. They discuss the case, Dix asks about the boyfriend Henry. Brub explains that his mother brought him a piece of pie that night and his father heard him snore. He was very upset when he went down to the station. Brub's wife Sylvia (Jeff Donnell) watches them talk, looking a bit nervous. Dixon tells Brub "you don't read enough whodunits." and offers to help solve the case. He says "You have to have enough imagination to visualize the crime." and gets up from the table. Dixon arranges the chairs and has Sylvia and Brub pretend they're the murderer and his victim. Brub asks how he's sure the murder happened in a car. Dixon explains "If she'd been killed before she got in the car, the murderer would have put her body in the back. In that case, he couldn't have dumped her without stopping." He describes a scene for Brub and Sylvia to act out. "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 can 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 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 celebrity. She wants to get rid of you. You squeeze harder. Harder. Squeeze harder. It's wonderful to feel her throat crush under your arm."

Sylvia forces Brub to stop, although she's ok. Brub says he's convinced, but Sylvia points out that she still had her hands and could've scratched or poked his eyes out. Dixon says "AH, but you didn't, your first instinct was to grab his arm and try to loosen his grip. That's where you lost the battle just as Mildred did." He assures Sylvia that he has a lot of experience killing people in pictures, but his artistic temperament wouldn't allow it for real. Once Dixon leaves, Sylvia tells Brub she's glad he's not a genius, as there's something wrong with Dixon. Brub points out that he learned more from Dixon in five minutes than he had from everyone else working the case. She says that's fine but she's glad he's "attractive and average."

Back at the apartment, Dixon decides to knock on Laurel's door and she lets him in. After watching her hang  up a phone call, Dixon says "You annoy me." She answers "If I do, it isn't intentional." She offers him a drink and tells him to have a seat and relax. He asks her if she's thought more about them. She tells him she has, and she's interested. He kisses her and tells her. "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. But, 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."

Days later, Mel comes to check on Dixon. Rather than knocking on the door, he peeks in the windows, seeing Dixon writing, and Laurel walking around in Dix's place, straightening up. Laurel catches him, and he asks her not to tell Dix, so he won't think he's checking on him. She insists he come in, but he doesn't want to disturb Dix while he's working. Laurel tells him Mel that a disturbance is needed as he's been working all night and hasn't left the house in days. Mel is amazed and tells her he hasn't worked that way for years. Laurel makes a show for Mel by asking ridiculous questions to prove that Dixon is only half listening. Mel is ecstatic. Charles Waterman drops in on them, to borrow money for booze but helps get Dixon to bed. Laurel gives Charles some money. The housekeeper also shows up and tells Laurel there's someone at her door. After Dixon is asleep she goes to check and finds Brub waiting as Lochner wants to see her.

Lochner points out that the fact that she and Dixon have been inseparable since the first questioning could cause some doubt about her statement. She's antagonistic towards him and thanks him for introducing them. He shows her some pictures of normal looking men and then tells her they're all murderers. He calls attention to Dixon's record calling him "an erratic, violent man." Laurel says "All this happened years ago. He's changed."
Lochner: He has? Ask SGt. Nicolai about the other night, how he dwelled on the Atkinson murder. How he made Brub and his wife act it out. Obviously, killing fascinates him.
Laurel: I don't believe that.
Lochner: That's because you're in love with him.
Henry Kessler (Mildred's boyfriend) comes in after Laurel leaves.

Dixon and Laurel go out to a nightclub, listening to a singer. Dixon asks "Anything you want to make you happy?" Laurel answers "I wouldn't want anyone but you." Their interlude is interrupted by a cop and his wife showing up, upsetting Dixon, who confronts the cop on the way out, telling him where they're going next. The cop remarks to his wife "I can see why that guy gets into a lot of trouble."

Later Laurel has an appointment with Martha, her masseuse, who tells her she's doing too much and to think of herself. Laurel tells her that she's never been happier in her whole life. Martha however tells Laurel that she should be with Mr. Baker, the real estate guy. She says "In the beginning was the land, motion pictures cam later." Dixon comes home and since she's being worked on, he talks to Laurel through the door, telling her he wants breakfast and that they're going to a beach party with the Nicolais later. She agrees but clearly isn't thrilled remembering the last police room questioning, in which Brub was present. Dix has to run out for a minute and Martha starts working again. This time she tells Laurel about Frances Randolph, a former client. Martha says he beat her up and broke her nose. Laurel starts getting angry mock asking "Why didn't you warn her." Martha says "You'll find out who your friend is. This isn't going to be as easy to get out of as it was with Mr. Baker." Laurel kicks Martha out. Martha agrees but says "you'll beg me to come back, when you're in trouble, because you don't have anybody else."

That night, they meet the Nicolais on the beach. Dixon jokes about Laurel making him write. Sylvia is pleased at how happy they seem together, but she mentions a detail from Laurel's questioning where Laurel invited Lochner to the wedding, which her husband must have told her. Dix gets instantly upset, as he knew nothing about it happening. He asks "She promised Lochner what?" Sylvia realizes her error and says "Did I say Lochner? I meant Brub." but Dix doesn't buy it. He gets upset with Laurel for lying to him and storms off. Sylvia feels terrible, watching Laurel go after Dixon. She gets in the car and he takes off driving recklessly fast until a near accident where he scrapes paint with another car. The driver, a younger guy gets out and starts yelling at Dixon, calling him "a blind knuckle headed squirrel" Dixon tells him to take it easy, but the other guy is upset about his paint. The young guy tells him he oughtta drag him out of the car, but Dix is out of the car before he's done the sentence. He starts beating the guy savagely, while Laurel yells from the car for him to stop. After beating the guy unconscious, Dix picks up a rock, and looks ready to hit him with that, except that Laurel yells "Stop, you'll kill him." He regains his senses, and returns to the car. Laurel is obviously shaken. Dix stops on the side of the road and puts his arm around her, which she recoils slightly from but allows it. He lights a cigarette and asks her if she wants one. She declines and he tries to explain.
Dixon: Those guys in hopped up cars, they think they own the road.
Laurel: You weren't angry with him. You've been wanting to slug somebody ever since you left the beach.
Dixon: What happened at the beach had nothing to do with it. The guy asked for it. I've had a hundred fights like this.
Laurel: Are you proud of it?
Dixon: No. But, I'm usually in the right. I was this time.You heard what he called me.
Laurel: That doesn't justify acting like a madman.
Dixon: Nobody can call me the things he did.
Laurel: A blind, knuckle headed squirrel. That's real bad.
Dixon: You drive.
As she drives, Dix says "I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me. You like it?" She asks "What is it?" He answers "I want to put it in the script somewhere, but I don't know quite where." Laurel says "The farewell note?" and Dix says "I don't know. Maybe."He asks her to say it back so he can hear how it sounds, but she can't say "I lived a few weeks while she loved me." so he finishes it for her.

The papers have pictures of the young guy that Dixon beat. Dixon goes to the post office and sends $300.00 to the guy, care of "Mr. Squirrel." Dixon goes to the police station to see Brub. Brub asks if he feels any better about last night. Dixon says about the same, and tells Brub to ask him if he wants any information. Brub explains that he does, but he has to follow orders also. Henry Kessler happens to walk in while they're there and Brub introduces them. Dixon tells Kessler that he's a much more logical candidate and that if he were Lochner he could have a good case against him. Kessler makes a remark about his imagination and shakes his hand. Dixon remarks that he has a really good grip before leaving.

Laurel is spending time with Sylvia, admiring their outdoor patio, saying she would like the same thing one day. Laurel tell Sylvia that Dix asked her to apologize for him. Sylvia says it was her own fault, but Laurel insists "There was no excuse for his behavior." Sylvia says "He's a writer, They can afford to be temperamental." Laurel says "I'm afraid he'd act just the same no matter what kind of work he did." After a half hearted attempt to talk about scenery, Laurel asks about the reenactment that Dix went through with them. Sylvia says "We were very impressed with his imagination. Why should that worry you? You know Dix didn't do it. You saw him after the girl left." Laurel mentions Lochner's warnings, but Sylvia tells her not to pay attention to Lochner, She then says there's something strange about Dix, continuing "I worry about it. I stay awake nights trying to find out what it is. Then he shows up for breakfast with an armload of packages and he's so sweet and so kind that he makes me...
Sylvia: Ashamed of what you've been thinking? Then why don't you tell him how you feel?
Laurel: What can I say to him? I love you, but I'm afraid of you? I want to marry you but first convince me that Lochner's wrong,  that you didn't kill Mildred Atkinson?
Sylvia suggests she go away for a bit to figure things out as she's too anxious. Laurel tells Sylvia about the fight after the beach and says "I came here because I wanted to say these things out loud and be laughed at. But, you're not laughing. When she sleeps that night, Laurel thinks of Martha and Lochner and the beating she witnessed.

The next day, Dix brings Laurel her mail and finds she's slept very late. He scolds the maid for vacuuming, but the maid tells him she takes pills which surprises him. She can't get up to turn off her alarm clock and asks him if he can do it. He offers to start breakfast while she gets up and starts cutting a grapefruit in the kitchen. She tells him she finished the pages and remarks that the love scene was very good. Dixon tells her "That;s because they're not always telling each other how much in love they are. Good love scenes should be about something besides love. For instance, this one; me fixing grapefruit,  you sitting over there, dopey, half asleep. Anyone looking at us could tell we were in love." Dixon tells her that the maid had suggested they get married so she could clean the apartments. Laurel is less than thrilled at the prospect. She starts talking about not rushing into anything but Dixon suggests an engagement party, which sends her running to the kitchen to check on the coffee. He insists on a yes or no to his proposal, and she says yes. Mel comes to visit as Dix is headed out and hears the engagement news before Dix takes off. He goes in the house to congratulate Laurel, and finds her leaving a message for Martha. Mel is again ecstatic, and says "I prayed for this. It had to come true." Laurel can't bring herself to look at him and when she does, she breaks down crying. Mel realizes it isn't going to happen. Laurel tells him "I tried, Mel. I wanted it to last for my own sake. But, Dix doesn't act like a normal person. You don't go around hitting people, smashing cars, torturing your best friend. I'm scared of him. I don't trust him. I'm not even sure he didn't kill Mildred Atkinson.
Mel: Laurel, you're going too far.
Laurel: Am I? Have you forgot what you asked me when we first met? You weren't sure of him either and you know him better than anyone. Why can't he be like other people? Why?
Mel: Like other people? Would you have liked him? You knew he was dynamite. He has to explode sometimes.Years ago I tried to make him see a psychiatrist. I thought he'd kill me. Always violent. It's as much a part of him as the color of his eyes, the shape of his head. But, he's Dix Steele, and if you want him you've got to take it all, the bad with the good. I've taken it for twenty years. And, I'd do it again.
Laurel: You make me feel ashamed, Mel. Maybe I should stay with him but I can't. She explains that she said yes because she was scared. Mel tells her "Dix has a tremendous ego. He can't take defeat." trying to convince her to wait until something good happens to him. She explains that he wants to fly to Vegas that night. Mel decides to take the finished script hoping that if it's liked that will be enough. Laurel starts packing and Mel tells her not to tell him where she is, when she offers to write, as he would have to tell Dix.

Someone calls telling her there may be room on a reservation to New York that she requested, asking if she'll be at the number for another hour. She says she will and Dix walks in explaining that he turned around because he didn't know her ring size, insisting that she come with him. She tries to give him a ring to bring along but he won't accept anything short of her going along.We see that Charles Waterman and others are dressed up and gathered for the engagement party. Waterman asks Laurel to see the ring and about her afternoon. She describes it as a chore, with him not leaving her alone. Dix remarks that she's been acting strangely.They're shown to their table, Dix, Laurel, Waterman and Mel. Once there, Frances Randolph stops by to say congratulations. She tells Laurel she's got a wonderful guy, and "she should know." Frances tells Dix she may be playing Althea in his script. Dix is ticked off, not realizing that anyone had his script. Mel tells him he stole it, and Laurel says she gave it to him. He explains that Mel should have known better and asks him if he read it and didn't like it. Mel remarks that "it isn't the book." Dix says "The book is trash and you're a thief." The waiter interrupts and tells Laurel there's a phone call for her. Dix won't let her up and tells them to bring the phone, although she asks the waiter to tell them to call her later at home, Dix insists they bring the call to the table. He also wants to know why it was so important to get the script in "today." The call turns out to be Martha and Dix takes it asking she's calling for Laurel or Mr, Baker. Mel tries to take the phone but Dix slaps him. Someone helps Mel to the bathroom to check out his eye. Dix gets up from the table and he's stopped by Lloyd, who tells him that they love the script. He isn't interested and follows Mel, feeling bad about the slap. He finds he broke Mel's glasses but is relieved that his eyes are Ok.

When they return to the table Laurel is gone. The engagement dinner is cancelled. A call comes into the restaurant for Dix, and after checking for him they realize he just left. The call is from Brubs, who has a confession from Kessler. Brubs tells Lochner he's going to get drunk tonight. Lochner tells him not to let one right guess go to his head, but Brubs mentions that it was a huge strain on Laurel and Dix and almost ruined their lives, adding "They'll never forget Mildred Atkinson, or you." Brubs tries calling him at home, but he walks right by his place to find Laurel. She won't open the door, claiming to be in bed, although he won't go away, demanding she open it. She finally does and he comes in and sits down. He apologizes for the restaurant, but notices she doesn't have her ring on. He goes to get it and finds the bedroom door locked, "because it's a mess" she claims. He can't reconcile her stories and asks if she isn't planning to leave him like she did Mr. Baker. She won't admit it, but the phone rings and Dix gets it over her protests. It turns out to be a cancellation from the airlines about her New York flight.Dix says "I'll tell her." Frightened at the look in his eye, she promises to stay with him. He grabs her and tells her she'll run the first chance she gets and that he'll never let her go. He holds her down, choking her, but not enough that she can't tell him to stop. The phone rings again and he picks it up. It's Brubs, who says "I've got some news that'll take a lot of tension off you and Laurel. I just got an airtight confession from Kesler. Your hunch was right. He killed her." Lochner asks Brubs to let him talk, as he wants to apologize to them. Brubs asks if Laurel's there for the apology, and Dix looks over to see her walking out of her room holding her throat. He tells her "Man wants to apologize to you." and sets the phone down and walks to the door. Laurel picks up the call and Lochner says " Miss Gray, I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am I had to put you through this ordeal. Mr. Steele is absolutely in the clear. I hope you'll both accept my apology."
Laurel tells him "Yesterday, this would have meant so much to us. Now it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all.
Dix walks out and she looks after him walking to his apartment and says "I lived a few weeks while you loved me. Goodbye Dix."


Anonymous said...

Like you I'm a big fan of Bogart but this is one of his films that I haven't seen yet.
I really should take the time to fill in the gaps in my Bogart education because he is one of those actors who never disappoints.

INDBrent said...

Hi Paul, I do agree that he doesn't disappoint. This would be my highest recommended overlooked Bogart film. I really think it's his best role. (but that's tough to say when there's Casablanca, the Maltese Falcon, and on and on.) It's certainly his most tortured role and he pulls it off perfectly. THe film is truly a one of a kind work.

Anonymous said...

This a great film. One of my favorite noirs but there's so much more going on in this one. It's a love story, a murder mystery, an inside look at the inner workings of Hollywood...All of the cliched words like "gripping" and "haunting" apply here.

Gloria Grahame was at her peak here, imho and it's definitely one of my favorite Bogart performances.

Too little seen. I'm glad you put a light on it.

INDBrent said...

Thanks weetiger3! It's really a film that shows all the things that noir could do! Those cliches were made for it, and they work here. Thanks for reading!

FilmMattic said...

I really appreciate your blog man. You provide a wealth of great information.

Thus, I'm granting you the "Versatile Blogger Award." Come pick it up @ my blog!

INDBrent said...

Thank you Matthew! I'm honored that you'd think of it. I'll head over.