This week my Netflix selection was the Nicholas Ray-directed In A Lonely Place, starring Humphrey Bogart as screenwriter with a violent streak Dixon Steele. It's one of those fascinating quirky mysteries that Hollywood turned out in the years after WWII, when exploring the dark side of human nature wasn't necessarily commercial suicide.
What's more, Bogart didn't just accept this role, he produced the movie. Thus he optioned the novel on which it was based and shaped the character to be the monster that it is. You might think that he was just shooting for Oscar recognition but...the talk among many who knew Bogie is that this part was the closest he ever came to playing the real him. By turns romantic, paranoid, easy-going and violent, it's a complex enough part that you can easily see it being true. And indeed, it may be the best work that Bogart ever did.
So this is what it amounts to - Bogart wanted to play himself, and the best option was a mystery about a brutal monster. I have to admit that as an artist, this concept appeals to me. You can entertain people for a while, but when the rubber hits the road you have to start digging in and depicting the ugly things about you that you wouldn't admit, because that's where the good art comes from. You ransom your soul to buy good work.
It may sound awful, but it still beats a real job.