|Nicholas Ray Director||previously directed A Woman's Secret|
Adapted from a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, Humphrey Bogart stars as Dixon Steele, a cynical and disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter.
The final ending of the film was heavily improvised, after Nicholas Ray wasn't happy with the scripted ending.3 More Trivia
I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
|Edmund H. North|
|Dorothy B. Hughes||original novel|
|Humphrey Bogart||Dixon Steele|
|Gloria Grahame||Laurel Gray|
|Frank Lovejoy||Det. Sgt. Brub Nicolai|
|Carl Benton Reid||Capt. Lochner|
|Art Smith||Agent Mel Lippman|
|Jeff Donnell||Sylvia Nicolai|
|Martha Stewart||Mildred Atkinson|
|Robert Warwick||Charlie Waterman|
|Morris Ankrum||Lloyd Barnes|
|William Ching||Ted Barton|
|See Full Credits|
Dixon Steele is a down-on-his-luck Hollywood screenwriter who hasn't written any big pictures for quite some time. While visiting a bar one night his agent proposes a book-adaptation job, based on a popular fiction novel. Steele stubbornly resists, less that thrilled by the premise of the book, but eventually gives in and agrees to at least read it over.
Rather that suffer through it himself, he decides to take a hat check girl named Mildred, who has read the book, to his house to dictate the story to him. As he is accompanying her to his apartment, Steele passes a new tenant, Laurel Gray. Once Mildred has finished with her very enthusiastic summary of the plot (and confirmed Dix's suspicions that the book is garbage), he gives her some money for a taxi and bids her goodnight.
The next morning Dixon is awakened by an old friend from his army years, Detective Brub Nicolai. But the detective isn't dropping in on a social call; Dix is to be brought in for questioning. Nicolai accompanies Dix down to the station, where he learns from Captain Lochner that Mildred had been found dead the previous night. Dix appears thoroughly unmoved, more annoyed at being woken up early than hearing about a murder, which immediately sets off Lochner's suspicions. In order to prove Dixon's alibi, Nicolai brings in Laurel Gray, who confirms that she had seen Dix in his apartment last night, and that he hadn't left the house with Mildred.
Dix, intrigued by Laurel, goes to her apartment later in the day to flirt with her. A passionate romance develops between the two, which invigorates Dix into action--he begins typing up script pages with a vengeance. Captain Lochner, still suspicious of Dix, warns Laurel about her boyfriend's explosively hot-headed personality, citing records of various outbursts of violence in the past. Laurel at first pays no attention to these warnings, but gradually various peculiarities begin to snag in Laurel's mind, though she conceals these thoughts from Dix. One night Dixon finds out about Lochner's warnings and flies into an uncontrollable rage, driving off wildly in his car. He has a near-accident with another car, and when a man gets out and begins to complain, Dix savagely beats him to the ground. He is only just stopped short of smashing the man's head with a rock by Laurel's screaming pleas from behind him.
Laurel becomes increasingly afraid of Dix, and uncertain as to his innocence in Mildred's murder. She can no longer sleep at night without using pills. When Dix proposes marriage she accepts, but only out of fear and dread of what he might do if she refused. She decides to leave the city and begins packing her suitcase, only to be caught by a surprise visit from her fiancé. When he realizes that she is trying to leave him, Dix's blinding rage is so strong that he wrestles Mildred into submission on her bed and begins to choke her, only coming to his senses when the phone rings. The call is from Captain Lochner, who wants to apologize for the strain he had put on the both of them--Mildred's girlfriend has just confessed to the murder. Unfortunately the relationship is irrevocably broken, and the film ends as Dixon slowly trudges away from the apartments, with Laurel looking on from her doorway.
The movie is based on a book of the same name by Dorothy B. Hughes. Though it takes elements from the novel, the film tells a very different story. In the book, Dixon is a sociopathic serial killer, and the plot focuses on his life and how he deals with the police investigation of a murder that he has committed. The novel has recently gone back into print.