PUSHOVER “introduced” 21-year-old blonde bombshell Kim Novak, tempting Fred MacMurray down a 1954 noir detour from honesty to go along with his previous decade’s descent via another gold-tressed temptress, Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. This time around, eager to pay-for-play, Fred is not an insurance agent but a detective, and the lady in waiting is not unhappily married and evil, just a reckless pawn caught between cops, crooks and a suitcase crammed with cash. *
“Money isn’t dirty. Just people.”
Trying to nail a bank robber, a police surveillance team lays a trap using the crook’s trophy girlfriend, ‘Lona McLane’ (Novak), wiretapping her apartment and watching her through binoculars from another unit in the complex. Lead man ‘Paul Sheridan’ (MacMurray) seduces Lona (and vice-versa) then falls for her and devises a plan for them to grab the money for themselves. His partner ‘Rick McAllister’ (Phil Carey) is more honest (as in, honest), and also has his own watchful eye drawn to Lona’s nice next-door-neighbor, nurse ‘Ann Stewart’ (Dorothy Malone).
“I’ve seen all kinds since we joined the force… B-girls, hustlers, blackmailers, shoplifters, drunks. You know, I think I’d still be married if I could find a half-honest woman. Must be a few of ’em around.”
The script, written by Roy Huggins, who later created TV hits Maverick and The Fugitive, doesn’t delve more than surface level into characterization, but provides some decent dialogue, and director Richard Quine, along with cameraman Lester H. White, keeps it moving crisply and looking sharp for 92 minutes. The generic but fitting score was done by Arthur Morton.
PICKUP ARTIST IN BAR: “I’m afraid I gave you the wrong impression.” LONA: “I doubt it.” PICKUP: “No really, you remind me of someone. Haven’t you ever met me before?” LONA: “Hundreds of times.” PICKUP: “I don’t get it.” LONA: “And you won’t, so try someplace else.”
From this end of the binoculars, we’ll confess feeling that while MacMurray, 45 here, could score as a louse (The Caine Mutiny, The Apartment), or numerous times as a light comedian, it’s a stretch to buy him as a dramatic lead with sex appeal. Novak, dressed to undress, is camera catnip (Columbia intended her to steal thunder from Fox’s Marilyn Monroe) and her hesitant, part-chilly delivery is offbeat enough to intrigue. Carey is better than usual, and Malone does well by her less-showy supporting role.
“Well, it’s been weird knowing you.” Huggins script was adapted from two novels, “The Night Watch“, by Thomas Walsh and “Rafferty“, by prodigious crime spinner William S. Ballinger. On the job are E.G. Marshall, Allan Nourse, Paul Picerni, Paul Richards, James Anderson and Marion Ross. Trimly made for $400,000, Pushover showed a nice profit with a $3,600,000 gross, 95th place in the 1954 rundown.
* Though “introduced” here, Novak had appeared as an unbilled extra in Son Of Sinbad and The French Line. The former ‘Miss Deepfreeze’ (from modeling for a refrigerator company) would again be directed by Richard Quine (they almost married) in Strangers When We Meet, Bell Book & Candle and The Notorious Landlady.