Pushover (1954)

Directed by Richard Quine

Pushover is a 1954 American film noir crime film directed by Richard Quine starring Fred MacMurray, Philip Carey and Kim Novak in her first credited role. The motion picture was adapted from two novels, The Night Watch by Thomas Walsh and Rafferty by William S. Ballinger.

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Critical response

Most critics seemed to find the film’s plot similar to other film noir, with some specifically comparing it to Double Indemnity. The New York Times review pointed out, “Fred MacMurray is going through the motions of his ‘Double Indemnity’ role in a mild facsimile.”

However, Kim Novak is usually singled out as a rising photogenic star. Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, “An aging cop (Fred MacMurray) falls in love with a bank robber’s girlfriend (Kim Novak in her first major role, and if you’re as much of a pushover for her early work as I am, you can’t afford to miss this).

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Film critic Craig Butler wrote, “Aficionados will doubtlessly argue whether The Pushover should be classified as film noir or merely as a suspense film, but whichever its category, this overlooked movie deserves to be better known. Not that it’s a great film, for it’s not—the characters don’t develop fully enough, remaining just film types rather than flesh and blood people, the themes of the film are not explored deeply enough to have resonance, and there’s a late development that asks the audience to change its mind about the leading lady that just doesn’t work. Still, it’s immensely entertaining, skillfully directed by Richard Quine with the requisite suspense trappings (and a wonderfully unsettling sense of voyeurism), and covering a lot of territory in its 88 minutes.”

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Critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film and wrote, “Pushover covers familiar film noir territory, but does a good job of showing how easy it is to lose control of one’s life when one is so vulnerable, obsessed and emotionally weak. Novak does a fine job in her first starring role as a heartless femme fatale who does have a heart after all.”

Kim Novak & Dorothy Malone were Great

23 April 2008 | by whpratt1 (United States) – See all my reviews

Enjoyed this great classic film from 1954 starring Fred MacMurray, (Paul Sheridan) who is a detective and gets involved with Lona McLane,(Kim Novak) who is connected with a bank robber and Lona cons Paul to kill her boyfriend so they can take the money for themselves. The only problem is that Paul Sheridan is assigned to watch Lona on a stake out with other detectives and have her apartment watched and her telephone wires tapped. There are many problems that face Paul and Lona and one of Paul’s detective friends gets involved with a girl named Ann Stewart, (Dorothy Malone) who lives in the same apartment house as Lona and lives down the hall. This story becomes quite exciting as a crooked cop tries to cover his tracks and makes mistakes after mistakes. Don’t miss this Classic it is great with outstanding acting and a great cast of actors. Enjoy.

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A poor man’s version of Double Indemnity

Author: flordebob from Cleveland, OH
23 September 2003

It’s Fred MacMurray again, as a virtuous agent for the causes of good. Instead of playing an insurance salesman with an eye for the fast buck, here he’s playing a cop assigned to shadow Novak, the mobster’s moll. Kim Novak is as beautiful as she’s ever appeared on the screen. The lighting in her early scenes is as dramatic and sensual as it can be. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her? Comparisons with Double Indemnity just can’t be ignored. She is the vamp that Barbara Stanwyck could never be. She’s softer and more feminine in that 50’s style, and less hard-edged than Stanwyck, which makes her much more dangerous. Novak’s generally wooden acting style & “flat affect” gives way to a softer sex-kitten demeanor. MacMurray’s character is a more active participant in the events that unfold than in “DD”, where he seemed to get his courage and strength from Stanwyck’s cold & calculating personna. Billy Wilder could have made this a masterpiece, but even without the guidance of the master’s hand, this one is definitely well-worth watching.

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Not Quite

8/10
Author: John Jobeless (jjelgar@yahoo.com) from Bay Area, California

This is a fairly tight little thriller, a good but not quite good enough film noir to be counted among the classics. While it owes a lot to “Double Indemnity” and foreshadows “Rear Window,” it just doesn’t rise to their memorable level. Fred MacMurray offers an eerily familiar, though less inspired, repeat of his performance in the Wilder classic; Kim Novak (in her first film) is no match for Stanwyck, nor did she ever become one; Richard Quine simply was not as fine a director as Hitchcock or Wilder. And yet, it’s a pretty good bit of entertainment, recommended to those who appreciate the genre as a whole rather than merely a short list of classics.

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