Switching things up here a little bit. Because I felt Brother Orchid (1940), which is in the Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection boxed set, was a film that I wanted to write about with some detail, I replaced it with In a Lonely Place (1950) which is much more a Bogie film than Brother Orchid would ever be.
In a Lonely Place stars Humphrey Bogart as screenwriter Dixon Steele. Steele has been in the business for a couple of decades, supported by his devoted agent Mel Lippman (Art Smith), but has been down on his luck lately. He's been taken to drink, punches and ladies but not so much to his craft. One night, he invites a hat check girl, to whom he lent a copy of a novel he has to adapt, back to his place to talk about the novel. His neighbor, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), witnesses a bit of the interaction between the two that night and flirts with Steele from afar. The next day, the girl winds up murdered and Steele is the #1 suspect with Gray as his only alibi. Steele and Gray develop a close yet volatile relationship which starts to spin out of control as the murder investigation heats up.
While we were watching this film, Carlos noticed that the storyline shifted focus from the murder investigation to the love story between Steele (Bogie) and Gray (Grahame). He wondered why it didn't get back to the main plot point. I explained that these scenes were really important to the plot overall. It was crucial for the viewer to see the love story develop between the the two main characters for various reasons. 1) It allows the audience to develop some sympathy for both characters. 2) Our sympathy is crucial for caring about the two characters when complications arise later in the plot. 3) It's a slow point in the story that gives the audience a break from all the tension that transpires from the murder investigation. Carlos asked how I knew so much about the movie. I actually didn't know anything about In a Lonely Place but I do know a lot about narrative flow and I'm an amateur deconstructionist who appreciates the power of opposites. Movie goers only have so long of an attention span so they need breaks. Why do you think most musicals have a slow number before the big finale? It's a perfect time for a 3-5 minute mental snooze. You can't be wowed all the time. You need some respit. If you don't, you'll be overwhelmed and may lose interest. Also, how will you fully appreciate the tension of a situation when you don't know what it's like when it's not tense? You'll sense the tension much more accutely when you've had some time to relax. Also, if the film skipped over the love story, how would the audience recognize the importance of the love between the two characters when it becomes jeapordized later if you don't see the love blossom in the first place! While Carlos likes to look at the visual details of the movie, I love the more abstract details. It's two very different ways of appreciating film.
*weirdo fact - Gloria Grahame was married to the film's director, Nicholas Ray. She was estranged from him during the shooting of the film and later married his son. Awkward!