Part of the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s 2022 UCLA Festival of Presentation screening series. Register at cinema.ucla.edu to attend this in-theater screening.
In this film noir mystery set at Christmas time, insurance investigator Sam Donovan (Dennis O’Keefe) delves into the apparent suicide of a man who was universally hated by every member of a small Midwestern town. Suspecting murder, his questions are rebuffed by one and all, including Sheriff Larry Best (William Bendix). In a surprise twist, Donaldson solves the case, but, in doing so, must decide whether to save the reputation of one of the town’s leading citizens.
Cover Up was the first film produced by O’Keefe’s new production company, Strand Productions. He also starred in the film and co-wrote the screenplay under the pseudonym Jonathan Rix. O’Keefe played a host of uncredited bit parts before getting his big break in the romantic comedy Topper Returns (also part of this 2022 UCLA Festival of Preservation), and went on to star in both comic and dramatic films (T-Men, 1947; Woman on the Run, 1950) throughout his career. In Cover Up, O’Keefe ably splits the difference, playing it tough with the stonewalling Sheriff Best but cozying up to the daughter of a prime suspect, Anita Weatherby (Barbara Britton, the go-to Revlon Girl of ’50s and ’60s television).
O’Keefe’s sardonic writing style gives character actors Bendix (Lifeboat, 1944; The Blue Dahlia, 1946; The Babe Ruth Story, 1948; The Life of Riley, 1949) and Doro Merande (Our Town, 1940; The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, 1966; The Front Page, 1974) plenty of opportunity for scene stealing. The producers wanted to shift the time frame away from the holidays but that would have nixed this throwaway line from Bendix, “You don’t want to go killing anybody. Not at Christmas time anyhow.”
Director Alfred E. Green started his career as an actor for the Selig Polyscope Co. and moved on to directing two-reelers. During his long and prolific career, he directed four actors to Oscar nominations, including Bette Davis who won for Dangerous in 1935. The main title sequence was almost completely deteriorated and has been painstakingly recreated at Roundabout Entertainment.
35mm, b&w, 83 min. Production: Strand Productions, Inc. Distribution: United Artists Corp. Producer: Ted Nasser. Director: Alfred E. Green. Screenwriters: Jerome Odlum, Dennis O’Keefe, Francis Swann. Cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo. With: Dennis O’Keefe, William Bendix, Barbara Britton.
Restoration funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from two 35mm nitrate composite prints. Laboratory services by The PHI Stoa Film Lab, Roundabout Entertainment, Inc., Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to Ignite Films BV, The Library of Congress.
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