O'Keefe, using his pen name Jonathan Rix, wrote the film with Jerome Odlum. O'Keefe worked as a writer on a few other films, including his starring film THE DIAMOND WIZARD (1954).
The movie is filled with cozy small-town ambiance, a sweet romance, good dialogue, and some wonderful wry bits of humor, especially involving a sourpuss housekeeper (Doro Merande) and a wordless deputy sheriff (Dan White).
Sam finds everyone in town exceedingly close-mouthed about the death, which he begins to suspect is murder. Even the sheriff (William Bendix) refuses to offer much help. And is it a coincidence that Anita's father (Art Baker) once owned a Luger, the same kind of gun which killed the deceased?
Sam may not make much headway with the case, but as he lingers in town he and the sparkling Anita, whom he dotingly calls "Sugar," find themselves trading increasingly passionate goodnight kisses.
And then on Christmas Eve Sam has an idea to solve the case once and for all...
I loved this film from beginning to end; it's a real charmer. I'm surprised that I don't recall Turner Classic Movies running this one at Christmas, as the movie is set against the backdrop of a small-town Christmas, complete with shopping, decorating, and a tree lighting in the town square. (One odd thing: the tree which Anita and the housekeeper Hilda decorate on Christmas Eve was already decorated earlier in the movie! Maybe they were just adding more to it?) TCM's article on the film calls it "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) brushed with noir dust."
The more I see of Dennis O'Keefe, the more I like; in this he's got a great combination of determination and charm. Knowing O'Keefe was also a talented writer only adds to the admiration I feel for him. He and Britton have very believable chemistry and make a most appealing couple.
Ann E. Todd plays Anita's cute younger sister; you can read more about her life and career in my review of STRONGER THAN DESIRE (1939). The cast also includes Virginia Christine, Russell Arms, Helen Spring, Paul E. Burns, and Ruth Lee. Hank Worden pops up briefly as the town undertaker.
Alfred E. Green and filmed by Ernest Laszlo. I've been trying without success to learn where the movie was filmed; if it was done on a backlot, it makes a convincingly realistic small town, which seems genuinely cold and windy.
COVER UP is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The DVD print is for the most part excellent; some of the shots of Barbara Britton are stupendously beautiful, although there are a few scenes, especially near the end, which are more faded or have a faint line on the screen.
For more on this film, please see Caftan Woman's post from last December.
I'm always glad to find a new Christmas movie, and I'll be pulling this one out again in future Decembers!