Cover Up (1949)
Directed by Alfred E. Green
Produced by Ted Nasser
Written by Jerome Odium, Dennis O’Keefe (as Jonathan Rix)
Cinematography by Ernest Laszlo
Strand Productions (O’Keefe’s production company)
Distributed by United Artists
(1:23) New to me - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
I’ve never met anyone who’d actually want to be an insurance investigator. The hours are bound to be long and tedious and you also run the risk of getting yourself killed or at least shot at. (Just ask Edmond O’Brien in The Killers.) But what could happen to an insurance investigator in a small Midwestern town a few days before Christmas? That’s the situation Sam Donovan (Dennis O’Keefe) finds himself in at the beginning of Cover Up.
A local man named Roger Phillips apparently committed suicide, causing Donovan to investigate. The job isn’t exactly cake; although the town could be a stand-in for Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life, Donovan gets stonewalled over and over as people remain tight-lipped about Phillips. Even Phillips’s niece Margaret (Virginia Christine, infamous as Mrs. Olsen in the Folgers coffee commercials), who stands to inherit a huge insurance payout if murder can be proved, isn’t interested in talking with Donovan.
Not even the local sheriff Larry Best (William Bendix) thinks Phillips’s death was anything other than suicide, but Best is sure of one thing, telling Donovan: “I think you’re gonna be no end of trouble.” Maybe so. While Donovan makes the rounds, he becomes interested in Anita Weatherby (Barbara Britton), whose father, a local banker, seems to be a possible suspect in a possible murder.
Cover Up is clearly more mystery than noir and even the mystery element loses momentum after awhile. O’Keefe and Bendix are good, but the potential for kicking up the tension with these guys never delivers as much as it should. (It is fun, however, seeing Doro Merande as an maid who sounds a lot like Eeyore.) The Ernest Laszlo cinematography provides the backdrop for some good scenes, but they often come across as tepid. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with the film, I’m afraid it’s just not very memorable.
Next time: a hard-hitting (and topical) noir from director Anthony Mann
Photos: DVD Beaver, IMDb