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March 24, 2015

Cover Up

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Alfred E. Green - 1949
KL Studio Classics BD Region A

Sure, Alfred E. Green is the director of record. Green's filmography is primarily memorable for a couple of pre-code movies at Warner Brothers - Smart Money with the only pairing of Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, plus Boris Karloff with an oversized fedora, and Baby Face, with Barbara Stanwyck sleeping her way to the top of the business world. But as Andrew Sarris pointed out, the auteur of a movie isn't always the director, and in this case, the auteur is Dennis O'Keefe.

O'Keefe isn't as well remembered as some of his starring films. There's the Val Lewton produced The Leopard Man, a couple of Alan Dwan comedies - most notably Brewster's Millions, and a couple of film noir classics with Anthony Mann - T-Men and Raw Deal. O'Keefe's stardom was on the decline following World War II, and rather than wait for a good role, O'Keefe started writing his own screenplays under a pseudonym. As Jonathan Rix, O'Keefe collaborated with Jerome Odlum, whose novels, Dust Be My Destiny and Each Dawn I Die were both filmed by Warner Brothers in 1939. Based on a similar bit of business in O'Keefe's later film, The Diamond, the star incorporated a bit of business about his chain smoking, a habit that caused O'Keefe to die at age sixty.

O'Keefe was apparently pragmatic enough to cede top billing to William Bendix, seen here as the small town sheriff who doesn't think to highly of O'Keefe's insurance investigator snooping into a suicide that took place in Cleberg. The film takes place a few days before Christmas, and from what is seen, Cleberg is cold, sunny and dry. The film opens with O'Keefe "meeting cute" with Barbara Britton, both departing from a train, Britton unable to carry all the gifts purchased at the big city. The two are taken to town by bus. The bus driver mentions the suicide of the well-known man, but seems unusually cheerful in spreading the news of the untimely death. O'Keefe ruffles quite a few feathers of the townsfolk by insisting that what occurred was murder rather than suicide. Along the way are revelations of family secrets and the search for a missing gun.

Cover Up is enjoyable, if not particularly memorable. Best are the wise guy quips, especially between Bendix and O'Keefe. Ann E. Todd appears as Britton's teenage sister, in awe of the insurance investigator, and the victim of one very funny, self-inflicted pratfall. Briefly seen are future coffee pitch woman Virginia Christine, and John Wayne stock company player, Hank Worden. Also adding to the fun is George MacDonald as a smart alec Cub Scout who would rather annoy O'Keefe and Britton than watch the movie playing in the theater. MacDonald's kid turns out to be the wisest of a group of characters who act foolishly. When wondering why O'Keefe doesn't kiss Miss Britton, MacDonald reasons, "She's pretty".

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Posted by peter at March 24, 2015 10:25 AM