“In a Lonely Place”`s desperation

In a Lonely Place is a 1950 American Noir film starring Humphrey Bogart(the one from Casablanca) and Gloria Graham’s eyebrows(the rest of her is in a supporting role). It’s about a murder mystery in which Bogart is a suspect, but that is the backdrop to the real story of a love affair between the lead characters. It starts during a police investigation when she(being his neighbor) provides him with an alibi to the police, and continues throughout the investigation when she realizes that he’s a toxic person and not really the kind that his charm and “Bogart-ness” might suggest. He’s jealous, dominating, aloof, and though she still loves him, it becomes apparent that this cannot go on.

Now why am I telling all this? Not because of their love story, but because her character has a foil, someone who follows an arc opposite to her. All these people live in Hollywood and work for the movies. Bogart’s character is a writer and has an agent, a slightly older man with kind eyes, who visits the happy couple often, even as the happiness wears away and is replaced with friction. The film’s climax takes place in a small restaurant where they are celebrating a script written by the couple. By that time, friction has to turned to flares, and all bad traits have to come to light.

In trying to express anger towards his girlfriend, he flies into a fit against his agent and hits him, before coming to his senses. It is at this moment that the woman decided enough is enough, and that even though she loves him, this has to end. There’s nothing he can say to her any more, but does say something to his agent. Because he is still a good man, Bogart asks him apologetically, “So, should I get a new agent?”. Displaying a lot of pith, the agent replies simply, “Business is not so good” and that did it for me. That desperation offered in so few words, their eyes doing all the work, perfectly acted 4 seconds. “Bogey” gave a couple of nods, went back to say goodbye to the departing heroine’s sad eyebrows, and that’s it. It’s very rare for American films to show desperation without making a mockery of it. This was a gem.

I was thinking of the agent’s decision after I heard a lot of doctors were being evicted from their houses due to the Corona virus. In normal times, people would be dying to have doctors as their tenants, and were someone to evict them, there’d be have a thousand choices. But, times are not normal.



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