The most iconic of James Dean’s 3 major roles, after East of Eden and before Giant, sees him inspiring numerous Eagles songs as Jim Stark, the new kid in a small town, eager to butt against any system willing to oppose him. He takes a shine to Judy, the girl of gang leader Buzz, and finds troubled social outcast Jon, calling himself Plato, takes more than a shine to Jim. A young Dennis Hopper plays one of the gang members – who I was half expecting to start clicking and dancing to Officer Krupke at some points, but thankfully this was not the case.
The film’s notoriety as a touchstone for a generation of rebellious kids with little to rebel against has raised expectations to levels left wanting, and though Dean’s performance shows potential it cannot be judged against those that might have been. Two scenes stand out – the ‘chicky run’ and tense observatory-set finale, but the film doesn’t even come close to its reputation.
There’s only so much planning I can do towards what I’m going to watch when, but in the end a lot of this challenge will be left up to fate, when I come across films to watch, what films are available to rent, and if some are shown on television. Last Sunday, fate dealt me a kind hand when, after Something for the Weekend, the gods of weekend TV saw fit to show In a Lonely Place at a time when I had nothing else planned. And so, without any planning or preparation, another film has been crossed off.
In a Lonely Place sees Humphrey Bogart play with his romantic persona as Dixon Steele, a thriller writer suspected of murder after he invites a girl back to his apartment to hear a story idea, and the next morning she is found dead. Steele is known to have a temper, and is prone to violent outbursts, and Bogart plays this barely-suppressed rage masterfully. The scene where he describes how he thinks the murder took place is gripping.
I liked the way we are kept unsure for most of the film as to whether Steele is guilty of the crime. We assume he’s innocent, but he very easily couldn’t be, a feeling shared by his neighbour, drawn close to Steele during the investigation.