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An insurance investigator smells something wrong when he looks into a small-town suicide.
While riding a bus back to her mid-Western home town with insurance investigator Sam Donovan, attractive Anita Weatherby learns from the bus driver that Roger Phillips, a local, has committed suicide by shooting himself. When they arrive in town, Anita introduces Sam to her parents, Stu and Bessie, and her younger sister Cathie, and tells them that Sam is there to investigate the Phillips case. Sam goes to see county sheriff Larry Best and asks for the coroner's report but is told that the coroner has left town for Christmas. Larry appears evasive and Sam tells him that Phillips' insurance policy had a double indemnity clause and that the beneficiary might wish to attempt to prove that Phillips was murdered. When Sam threatens to get a court order to exhume the body, Larry reluctantly produces two bullets from a Luger that he claims were extracted from Phillips' body. Sam next visits jeweler Abbey, who discovered the body, but he offers little information beyond the fact that he did not see any gun. Later, the undertaker tells Sam that there were no powder burns on the body, which would have indicated suicide. When Sam revisits Larry, he discovers that he owns a Luger. After phoning his boss with a progress report, Sam takes Anita to the movies and kisses her goodnight. The next day Sam talks with Phillips' beneficiary, Margaret Baker, the dead man's niece, who does not believe him when he tells her that her uncle was murdered. After he learns that Stu, a banker, also owns a Luger, Sam and Anita go to the Phillips house and discover that the sheriff has chalk-marked the crime scene, indicating murder. Larry confirms to a worried Anita that Phillips was killed by a Luger and tells Sam that Margaret eloped the night her uncle was killed. At the Weatherby home, Sam tells Stu that Phillips was killed with a Luger, and Anita is alarmed when her father fails to admit he owns such a gun until Hilda, the maid, reminds him that he gave the gun to a doctor. Later, Sam and the Weatherbys attend a ceremony in the town square, at which the much-loved Dr. Gerrow is scheduled to officiate at the lighting of the town's Christmas tree. However, when it is discovered that the doctor died of a heart attack earlier in the evening, Stu pays a warm tribute to him. Back at the house, while hiding her diary from her inquisitive sister, Anita finds the gun her father had supposedly given away. When Sam interrogates Margaret's husband Frank, he learns that Phillips did not approve of Frank, prompting Sam to suggest that Frank killed him. However, Margaret points out that her uncle summoned Larry to throw Frank out and that Larry was there when they both left. Later, after Abbey admits to Sam that he saw Frank running away from the house, Stu tells Sam that he had promised Frank a personal loan and had met him at the bus depot, from which the couple were leaving, before Frank could possibly have doubled back to the Phillips house. Sam tells Stu that he intends to look for Stu's Luger at Gerrow's house, but Anita gets there ahead of him and places the gun in Gerrow's collection. At Stu's bank, Sam asks him to identify the gun and tells him that it is probably the weapon that killed Phillips. Larry then confides to Sam that Phillips was a blight on the community and that many people wanted him dead. Later, Sam asks the editor of the town's newspaper to plant a story that he is bringing in a scientist from the Chicago Police Department to run tests on the carpet on which the killer stood. At his home, Stu looks for the gun, but finds Anita's diary instead. On Christmas Eve, Sam waits in the Phillips house for the killer, knowing that the parties involved will have read the newspaper story. Larry joins Sam at the house and tells him that no one else will be coming to his party. Stu, meanwhile, is about to leave his house, when Anita begs him not to go. He explains that he has read her diary and knows of her suspicions, but has to go anyway. When Stu arrives at the Phillips place, Sam learns that Dr. Gerrow killed Phillips and that Larry and Stu knew and were covering it up. Stu discovered Gerrow, gun in hand, and Gerrow wanted to turn himself in but was persuaded to wait until after the holidays. Larry then tells Sam that Margaret had informed him that the insurance money could go to a charity as long as her uncle's death was not ruled a suicide. He also asks Sam not to make public the details of the case as the townspeople had such love for Gerrow and such hatred for Phillips. After Anita shows up and learns that her father is not responsible for the killing, she departs with Sam.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1949||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Strand Productions, Inc.|
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A Real Who Dunnit
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