Insurance Investigator (1951)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: George Blair Assoc Pr: William Lackey Scr: Gertrude Walker Story: Beth Brown, Gertrude Walker Cine: John MacBurnie Cast: Richard Denning, Audrey Long, John Eldredge, Hillary Brooke, Reed Hadley, Jonathan Hale, Roy Barcroft, Wilson Wood, William Tannen, Phillip Pine, Crane Whitley, Ruth Lee, Patricia Knox, M’liss McClure, Maurice Samuels, Roy Gordon.

Shortly after taking out a double indemnity policy with the Cosmopolitan Insurance Co., realtor George Sullivan (Gordon) takes a drunken stumble down the office stairs and dies. His daughter Nancy (Long) finds it hard to believe her normally abstemious pop could have gotten hammered, and the insurance company has skepticism of its own.

Posing, with Nancy’s permission, as Nancy’s cornpoke cousin, hotshot insurance investigator Tom Davison (Denning) arrives on the scene to sus things out, unearthing a plot that involves Sullivan’s surviving junior partner John Hammond (Eldredge), Adeline “Addie” Wilson (Brooke)—the company accountant and, secretly, Hammond’s main squeeze—and gambling kingpin Charles K. “Chuck” Malone (Hadley), to whose establishment, the Nighthawk, Hammond owes more than a single oodle.

Audrey Long as Nancy.

Addie plays at making a play at Tom in order to distract him, a cunning scheme that ends pretty soon when he discovers a photo of Hammond inscribed “To Addie, my own true love—John” in her apartment. Nancy, too, makes a play at him, but more subtly and with more serious intent.

Hammond attempts to murder Tom through rigging the office elevator, little realizing Addie’s been working late . . .

The cutting edge of technology on display here is a wire recorder; in a nice piece of editing we see it playing a random radio broadcast rather than the incriminating conversation Malone and his cronies were expecting to hear, only for the camera to pull back and reveal that the cops and our heroes are listening to the real recorded conversation.

Richard Denning as Tom.

William Tannen and Phillip Pine play Malone’s two murderous goons, perpetrating various deeds along knocking-off lines. Roy Barcroft plays Malone’s confrere, haberdasher Duke Wallace. Most of the other supporting actors—including some on the main list—have parts so tiny you could blink and miss them. Audrey Long tries to be hot in a wholesome way; Hillary Brooke sizzles during her limited screen time as the supposedly straitlaced bean-counter who obviously is anything but.

Hillary Brooks as Addie and John Eldredge as Hammond.

Oh, and there’s a car chase, natch, not to mention poorly choreographed fisticuffs. A great blessing is that there’s no “comedically” stupid cop—in fact, little humor at all beyond Tom’s cornpokery. One oddity is that there’s a suggestion, thanks to a business card Addie has in her purse, that someone has tipped the bad guys off about Tom’s investigation, but alas that plot teaser goes nowhere: things could have gotten interesting had it done so.

Clocking in at just a trifle under an hour, this efficient little thriller must have pleased cinemagoers who experienced its initial B-feature release, and it remains very watchable today (despite a dubious joke about the Iroquois). There are plenty of worse ways to spend your hour.

4 thoughts on “Insurance Investigator (1951)

  1. Oh, I like the sound of this. Funnily enough, I rewatched Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity fairly recently, so it might make an interesting companion piece. Your first screenshot is wonderful – beautifully done.

  2. “Malone’s confrere, haberdasher Duke Wallace”
    There’s something appealing about a film with a villainous haberdasher!

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