Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cover Up (1949)

*** out of 5

Old Hollywood workhorse Alfred E Green directs an able cast in this unique noir film. The script appears to have been a group effort, with 4 names credited to the story. It is interesting to note that among these is the film's star Dennis O'Keefe, credited under the name Jonathan Rix, the first of 4 instances in which he worked on the stories of films in which he performed.

O'Keefe plays an insurance investigator (what else!), who goes to a rural midwest town to check up on an alleged suicide, to be sure it wasn't actually a murder, in which case a double indemnity clause would have applied, and the beneficiaries gotten twice the amount on his life insurance policy.

William Bendix is the sheriff in town, who seems to display an unusually casual reticence to help O'Keefe investigate the case.

Barbara Britten is a local girl who has arrived back in town the same time as O'Keefe.  The two take almost immediate mutual interest in one another, which sets up one of the central tensions of the story, when her father, a leading citizen (Art Baker), becomes one of the possible suspects.

The rest of the cast if filled out with interesting character parts like Doro Merande as the family's sardonic housekeeper, Anne Todd as the sassy teenage younger sister, Henry Hall as the town's mayor. and even a brief scene with John Ford repertory player Hank Wordon (credited as Wordon Norten) as a local undertaker.

The film crafts a noir portrait of the town that somehow manages to simultaneously challenge and affirm the notions of small town Americana, with the entire town in one way or another being complicit in the murder by their silent cover-up of the perpetrator.  Ultimate it seems to make the shocking conclusion that murder can be excused if it is a good man killing a bad. anyone up for a time travel trip to kill Baby Hitler?

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