Although the turnout for Monday night’s films was disappointing, it was a Monday night, and, as one of my friends reminded me, any opportunity to see these films on a large screen is an opportunity worth celebrating.
This was my third time to see In a Lonely Place (1950) and it was just as devastating as it was the first time. I saw more in the Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart)/Detective Sergeant Brub Nicolai (Frank Lovejoy) friendship than during previous viewings. Nicolai’s comment that when Steele was his commanding officer during the war, that he was a good leader and his men liked him, probably clouds his judgment. Though not too much is made of that relationship, it’s significant.
I also paid more attention to George Antheil’s excellent score, which is all over the place, but in a good way. For quite awhile, first-time viewers aren’t really certain what type of movie this is, where it’s going, and Antheil’s score matches that uncertainty with every phrase. It really is masterful and never ventures far enough to become either pompous or saccharine.
The wrought iron dividers in Steele’s apartment really fascinate me. I’m not exactly sure what they’re meant to symbolize unless it’s a steel (no pun necessarily intended) cage, yet one Steele has the freedom to enter and exit. Perhaps this is discussed on the Dana Polan commentary on the recent Criterion release, or mentioned in the Bernard Eisenschitz book I just purchased, Nicholas Ray: An American Journey.
One of the biggest questions is one that’s more interesting to think about than actually answer: are people in the arts allowed to be temperamental? Is it worth the unpleasantness of their personalities if they produce great art? (I’m not convinced Steele produced great art. One of the characters in the film simply states that he needs a big hit, regardless of its artistic qualities.) Should we give them a pass? For how long? And to what degree?
In a Lonely Theater… Only 12 people came out for In a Lonely Place.
I had never seen The Lodger (1944) before last night. Although he gets third billing behind Merle Oberon and George Sanders, the reason to watch the film is the amazing Laird Cregar. I first saw Cregar in I Wake Up Screaming and thought he was amazing. Here, as Jack the Ripper, but calling himself Mr. Slade, Cregar gives a performance that’s both creepy and sympathetic. You know the story, it’s Jack the Ripper. The particulars may change from story to story and I won’t go into the particulars of this version, but the atmosphere (while a bit too sanitized in some ways) is good, thanks largely to some nice cinematography by Lucien Ballard.
But the film belongs to Laird Cregar. Other than a ridiculously priced print-on-demand paperback available on Amazon, no one (as far as I know) has written a book on Cregar. Someone should.
I plan to be back at Noir City DC on Friday. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Photos: Wrong Side of the Art, Alex on Film, Greenbriar Picture Shows, Film Forum