How many Bogarts does it take to change a light bulb?

Humphrey Bogart was a little man, but up there on the silver screen, he was a giant. He had to wear platform shoes for scenes with Ingrid Bergman in ‘Casablanca’ and he is attributed to being the number one cause of smoking in the 20th century. Emaciated, at eighty pounds, he died from something like Throat Cancer at fifty-seven years of age.

In ‘The Lonely Place‘ it is difficult to remain credible of Dix Steele’s innocence. That screen writer in a slump with a penchant for introducing fists to chins. He’s been accused of murdering a dame he took home and the new neighbor, a sultry blonde played by Gloria Grahame, becomes his only alibi. She claims to have seen him send her off for a taxi. They fall for each other. His violent personality manifests and she begins to have her doubts. She begins to fear the man she fell in love with. An unnerving scene shows the accused, Steele, dining at an old army buddy Det. Brub’s domicile, chomping salad in the very home of the man investigating Steele’s implication in the murder. Steele manages to get Brub and his wife to re-enact the murder in such detail that they get caught up… a scene that turns the tide of the audience’s sympathies.

Also quite impressive is the use of a simple phone ring as the proverbial Chekhov’s Gun towards milking suspense from the viewer. There are also subtle moments, exchanges of cash and a delivery, that tells you Dix Steele isn’t an asshole when nobody’s watching. Full of effective and fun one-liners. My favorite character is Charlie Waterman, a minute player in this muy excellento reel of celluloid, a consistently drunk thespian for whom life is a stage; meter and rhyme bubble forth from his lips, incongruous in the flash and dazzle of a modern dive. Lowly in status, he is large in pride and walks tall, as long as the glass is refilled.

It’s no ‘Casablanca’ but Bogart’s portrayal of a man existing in the pendulum between two extremes of human nature is inspired and one understands how it could be exhausting without the lithium. Grahame is powza! as her character escalates into panic and sets herself up for a teary fall.

It’s been a constant lament of mine that they don’t make movies like these anymore, movies that rely on the viewer’s participation, their mental strainings, to please, rather than movies that surface hollow satisfaction in the form of bright colors and fervent movement. But hey, eye candy is brain candy one way or another.

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