NO QUESTIONS ASKED
(director: Harold Kress; screenwriters: from a story by Berne Giler/Sidney Sheldon; cinematographer: Harold Lipstein; editor: Joseph Dervin; music: Leith Stevens; cast: Barry Sullivan (Steve Keiver), Arlene Dahl (Ellen Sayburn Jessman), George Murphy (Inspector Matt Duggan), Jean Hagen (Joan Brenson), Richard Anderson (Detective Walter O’Bannion), Danny Drayton (Harry, Cabbie), Dick Simmons (Gordon N. Jessman), Howard Petrie (Franko), Mari Blanchard
(Natalie), Mauritz Hugo (Marty Calbert), Moroni Olsen (Manston); Runtime: 81; MGM; 1951)
“It was strictly a B-film with an ordinary and predictable story, and with below average acting.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Warning: spoilers throughout.
An efficiently done film noir about an insurance fraud resulting in a double-cross. The film opens with Steve Keiver (Sullivan) darting down a dark city alley while running from the police and from a gangster named Franko. In his own voice, he tells us what led to his downfall from being an honest lawyer and working for a major insurance company to the mess he’s currently in.
The film goes into flashback and Steve is meeting at the airport his fiancée, Ellen Sayburn (Dahl). She’s returning from a three week vacation in Sun Valley and is disappointed that Steve has no plans to become rich and support her in the lifestyle she demands. But he fails to observe her reactions, as he naively doesn’t stop talking to her in his friend Harry’s (Drayton) cab. He is set, no matter what, to ask her tomorrow to marry him, but first he plans to ask his boss Mr. Manston for a raise.
Steve’s boss turns down his request, but gives him an idea on how he can make some fast money that is legal but not ethical. The insurance company is willing to give a $10,000 reward if the stolen furs on the case he’s currently working on are returned–no questions asked.
When Steve goes to Ellen’s pad the next day, he finds out from the landlady that she married on her vacation and left with her husband (Simmons). Feeling depressed because he lost the girl he loved due to a lack of money, Steve decides to get in on the insurance racket. He sacrifices his good name and meets with mobsters in order to get them to turn over the stolen goods for the reward money, and he acts like a fence and takes a percentage of the cut the insurance company pays out. He soon becomes rich working this racket.
There’s a nice girl in his insurance office, Joan Brenson (Hagen), who has a crush on Steve, but he ignores her because he still has a sweet spot for Ellen. When Steve tracks down Ellen again, she tells him that her marriage was a mistake and that she really loves him. Steve falls for her ploy, and when a big haul of jewels has to be turned over to him for a reward she double-crosses him by having her husband go to the address where the switch is supposed to take place. Ellen’s husband kills a police officer and steals the jewels that were given to Steve by a gangster named Franko, who is doing the deal for some punk gangsters who robbed a theater’s ladies’ lounge dressed in drag as society ladies. This results in Steve being framed for the murder with the police after him, while the mobsters are after him because they think he stole the jewels.
In the film’s finale, it returns to where the flashback story began and Steve is fighting for his life and whatever dignity he has left.
It was strictly a B-film with an ordinary and predictable story, and with below average acting. If you ask no questions about it, it is mildly enjoyable. Otherwise the film never quite faces up to the moral implications of Sullivan and his cabbie friend, as they do business with criminals while thinking they are not doing anything wrong. When Sullivan gets his comeuppance, it’s done in a breezy style that is not all that convincing. The screenwriter was Sidney Sheldon, who by the 1970s was to go on to bigger and better things in the mystery genre.
REVIEWED ON 10/30/2001 GRADE: C +