Our understanding of Humphrey Bogart is built piecemeal from the nearly 100 films in his repertoire. We remember his coolness and gruffness, a steely demeanor and a quick wit. But it’s his turn as Dixon Steele in the 1950 film In a Lonely Place that shows us what might be the most vulnerable version of Bogart.

Dix drinks too much and often appears depressed, withdrawing from friends and giving into bouts of rage so explosive that he’s ready and willing to throw down over even the most trivial of slights. Parallels between Dix and Bogart’s own life are startling—the depression, the heavy drinking, and even the anger (after his death, wife Lauren Bacall would recall the shouting matches that occasionally peppered their relationship). Though this similarity, the way Dix embodied all of Bogie’s worst traits to the extreme, is no doubt why this role one is of the finest of his career.

When we meet Dix, he nearly comes to blows in the middle of the street after suffering an insult from a fellow driver. The moment is then immediately contrasted with a scene where he chats with a handful of kids hoping to collect celebrity autographs as they wait outside the restaurant. Following the threat of violence with this type of kindness sets us up for the battle Dix will fight for the rest of the picture.

A once-successful screenwriter, Dix is urged by his agent to adapt a best-selling book into a new film. In an attempt to get out of reading it himself, he asks the coat-check girl at one of his regular hangouts to accompany him back to his hotel to recount the plot for him. The next day, the girl’s turns up dead and Dix becomes the investigation’s prime suspect. Meanwhile, he also becomes romantically entangled with his neighbor, a wannabe-actress named Laurel (Gloria Grahame), who’s also serving as his only alibi. As the case wears on and Dix struggles to keep his black moods and temper in check. But the more they get the better of him, the more everyone around Dix begins to suspect him until even Laurel can’t be sure if the man she’s in love with is who he says he is.

Director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) displays a skillful hand throughout, not only through his his casting and direction of Bogart, but through the script as well. While Edmund North and Andrew Solt take credit as the screenwriters, Ray is known to have made regular rewrites, pushing the direction of the story (an adaptation of the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes) farther from its serial-killer-noir roots. Instead, Ray’s film is more of a psychological thriller that tackles some of the same issues as the novel (namely violence and misogyny) with a little more subtlety and nuance.

By keeping things at least somewhat ambiguous throughout the picture, Ray takes the audience on a more complicated journey to discover who Dix really is. As suspicion mounts and Dix’s temper increasingly gets the better of him, Ray puts you in the uncomfortable position of wondering how much it really matters whether Dix is guilty of the crime in question when we see time and again how terrible and dangerous he’s capable of being. At the same time, the movie never goes so far as to make him a villainous caricature. He is always deeply human, even deserving of empathy, due in no small part to Bogart’s excellent performance.

In In a Lonely Place, Bogart manages to be as raw as any classical Hollywood actor possibly could be. His hound-dog eyes communicate passion and loneliness as only his can, and at the end of the day despite this role being far from his most well-known work, it is certainly his best.