****/**** Image A Sound A Extras A-
starring Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid
screenplay by Andrew Solt, adaptation by Edmund H. North, based upon a story by Dorothy B. Hughes
directed by Nicholas Ray
by Walter Chaw In another time and place, they would've called Gloria Grahame "one sick twist," and the brand would've stuck. There are stories, a few of them true. There's the one about her stepson, and the thing where she keeps getting plastic surgery until her face is paralyzed, which was the alleged goal after Grahame became morbidly devoted to Kuleshov's editing theories. There's the weird book an ex-lover wrote about her last days, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, and indeed, her story has been told largely through the men who wanted her, the men who had her, and the men who ruined her. In many ways, she's the quintessential femme fatale of the noir era, not just for the roles she took, but because the roles she took reflected the traps she was in. She's the patron saint of the way we treat women first as objects of desire, then as objects of disgust. Her late moment as the girl who "cain't" say no encapsulates the perversity of Rodgers & Hammerstein, sure, and the sad decline of a woman who confessed at the end of her life that she never quite figured out Hollywood--though it sure looks like Hollywood had her figured. She is one of the great tragic figures of the age, both microcosm and avatar of that wonderland of image-fixers and dream-crushers. For my money, the film that best captures Grahame in her complexity, in all her multifoliate relationships with the world and her millions of voyeurs, is Nicholas Ray's scabrous In A Lonely Place. It's a masculine confession and an apology. It's hollow. Aren't they all.