Meet “a small town with big secrets.” Dennis O’Keefe is the insurance investigator who arrives to gather information about an apparent suicide before his insurance company will pay out benefits.
He immediately suspects something is afoot. The gun is gone, the bullet is gone, and there is no coroner’s report. William Bendix as the town sheriff is less than cooperative and acts more like a brick wall. O’Keefe starts to believe foul play and sets out to prove the death was murder, not suicide.
The first thing O’Keefe finds, or senses, is a town-wide conspiracy of silence. He doggedly persists and gradually discovers that many of the town’s people had a motive to kill the man. “There are too many people in this town that wanted Philips dead.”
Clues and red herrings are tossed every which way, and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Bendix and O’Keefe play well off each other, and throughout the movie you’ll be wondering where Bendix falls on the good/evil line.
At the center of the film is the Weatherby family, with stalwart actor Art Baker as its titular head. His beautiful, older daughter is played by Revlon Girl, Barbara Britton. And Ann E. Todd is the younger daughter who has a very amusing scene with O’Keefe while she was flirting with him.
But as Hilda the housekeeper, Doro Merande, takes over every scene in which she appears. She’s caustic, funny, and rules the household. Virginia Christine (Folger Coffee’s Mrs. Olson) also appears in a pivotal role.
Cinematography is by Ernest Laszlo, who had a lengthy career that culminated in eight Academy Award nominations and one Oscar in the 1960s and 70s. Original music was composed by Hans Salter, and the musical score falters only at the end when it cheesily moves into “O Come All Ye Faithful” (but it was Christmas time).
Combine “Bad Day at Black Rock” with “Double Indemnity,” make it ‘lite’, and you have this film. It’s nowhere near the caliber of those two films but it’s an interesting little mystery that will take up only 80 or so minutes of your time.
“I hoped with everything I had that it wasn’t you.”