This 1950 film noir directed by Nicholas Ray transcends the genre by weaving multiple subtexts into a classic trope – the protagonist is accused of a murder he seemingly didn’t commit. Pretty standard fare so far…
It’s one of those movies that starts out as a typical noir and then gradually reveals itself – somewhere along the way you begin to notice the subtleties. It’s so ridiculously well-written and acted (with gorgeous black and white cinematography) that you’re immediately drawn in to this far-away world that once existed in post WW2 America. The script is so good it’s fun to watch just to listen to the dialogue.
It’s quite a role for Bogart – much like the world-weary character we know and love from “Casablanca,” and “The Maltese Falcon,” but with a kind of violent personality that becomes truly disturbing. You want to like him, but by the end he just seems unstable and dangerous. I’m sure in 1950 this resonated with a lot of American families – i. e. The husband who comes back from the war “with a quick temper.”
Gloria Grahame plays the sultry blonde to the hilt. First she falls in love with Bogart, over time becoming afraid of his threatening behavior. I can’t say I blame her. You’re never quite sure if he’s a tortured soul or a complete psychopath.
The late 1940’s fashion is on full display – the cops roust Bogart at 5 am to take him in for questioning and he’s dressed like he’s going to a casual cocktail party. Grahame sleeps in some kind of flowing robe with fur cuffs and collar, hair and makeup perfect. Classic Hollywood eye candy if you’re into this stuff…
This is just a fascinating and incredible example of Film Noir at its best.
No happy endings here.