Movies and Film

Not as Tough as He Seems – Pushover (1954)

Fred MacMurray stars in Pushover, a Columbia Pictures release from 1954 and while one can always count on the man for a good performance, the film feels more like Double Indemnity-lite than anything else. Both movies feature a couple of similar plot points such as MacMurray falling for the wrong woman, a trope that is always fun to explore no matter how many times filmdom decides to exploit it as everyone loves a bad girl and him trying to outmanoeuver her before succumbing to what everyone can see coming a mile away. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but again, it has been seen before and from MacMurray as well of all people. Where Double Indemnity was intricate and gutsy though, Pushover hits more like a hammer – simply moving from one scene to the next and laying it all out for the audience with little to draw them in other than the performances of its key players.

The movie is most notable for not necessarily being a MacMurray vehicle, but being the first screen appearance of Kim Novak, the sultry actress who would soon move on to bigger and better things like starring alongside Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece. Here one can see her just beginning, but definitely having the chops to star opposite the veteran MacMurray. Whether one thinks this film slides into the noir category or is simply a thriller, Novak was essentially born for the genre – tailor-made not only because of her looks, but her talent and ability to play the femme fatale to perfection. She is not quite as sophisticated as Barbara Stanwyck was from the aforementioned Double Indemnity where one could never tell just what it was she was thinking or her motivations for doing what she did, but Novak has that allure that would drive a man mad and that is exactly what happens here to MacMurray. As it is, Novak and her co-star do work well together and there is a bit of chemistry present, but it feels just slightly off as MacMurray is trying to be the hard-boiled detective and it is not that he cannot do as such, it is that one can see that he is ‘trying’ instead of the usual natural performance he normally gives. It takes little away from the film and overall, the actors are what make this film as good as it is including Philip Carey and Dorothy Malone who also star.

As for the story, it involves some stolen money that Novak wants and as MacMurray wants her, he has to get the money. A couple of people lose their lives along the way and towards the final act, the tension and the excitement pick up as it is soon a race against the clock between the couple and the cops. Either they will make it out or they will not and director Richard Quine does a great job at moving things along at quite the brisk pace. There is one surprising moment come the end of the film involving Novak’s character, the final scene that shows that maybe the bad girl is not quite so bad as everyone had thought and was a sublime way to leave things off on. Pushover is definitely a good film, but if given the choice, watch Double Indemnity instead.

3.5 out of 5

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