6.8/10
652
9 user 5 critic

The Undercover Man (1949)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 5 September 1949 (UK)
Treasury Department agent Frank Warren takes on the case of a mob leader who has evaded paying taxes on his ill-gotten gains.

Director:

Joseph H. Lewis

Writers:

Frank J. Wilson (article), Jack Rubin (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Glenn Ford ... Frank Warren
Nina Foch ... Judith Warren
James Whitmore ... George Pappas
Barry Kelley ... Attorney Edward J. O'Rourke
David Wolfe ... Stanley Weinburg
Frank Tweddell Frank Tweddell ... Inspector Herzog
Howard St. John ... Joseph S. Horan
John F. Hamilton John F. Hamilton ... Police Desk Sergeant Shannon
Leo Penn Leo Penn ... Sydney Gordon
Joan Lazer Joan Lazer ... Rosa Rocco
Esther Minciotti Esther Minciotti ... Maria Rocco
Angela Clarke ... Theresa Rocco
Anthony Caruso ... Salvatore Rocco
Robert Osterloh ... Emanuel 'Manny' Zanger
Kay Medford ... Gladys LaVerne
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Storyline

Treasury Department agent Frank Warren takes on the case of a mob leader who has evaded paying taxes on his ill-gotten gains.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Terrifying Criminal Rule! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

5 September 1949 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Chicago Story See more »

Filming Locations:

Kernville, California, USA

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Film debut of James Whitmore. See more »

Quotes

Frank Warren: Do you know this man?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Broadway by Light (1958) See more »

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User Reviews

Oddly Neglected
6 August 2009 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

I'm surprised this noirish crime drama hasn't generated more than 3 reviews. It's not top- notch Joseph Lewis, but it is a good, solid film with several outstanding features. IRS agent Glenn Ford wants to get the goods on crime honcho "The Big Fellow". But to do that he has to get a numbers-cruncher on the inside to talk. Trouble is, candidates keep turning up dead, while wife Nina Foch never sees her man. Understandably, Ford wants to quit for a 9 to 5 job, but will he.

One reason these govn't agent films of the late 40's remain interesting is because of artistic conflict. Big money studios want to extol law enforcement while writers and directors like Lewis and Anthony Mann are drawn to the dark side. Thus, the results often raise more questions than they answer, and remain a real contrast to the Dragnet-type paradigm that emerges in the Cold War 1950's. Note, for example, the dramatic highlight of gunmen chasing down a stoolie on a crowded city street. They have to push their way through the sweaty throngs, yet no one stops to intervene, show any curiosity, call a cop or do anything. No, passers-by just go about their business, letting criminality take its course. Why get involved and risk retaliation from an outfit that the community does business with anyway, especially when they play the numbers or handicap horse races. After all, this is a poor neighborhood and gambling, legal or otherwise, holds the prospect of quick riches. So why get involved.

Of course, the episode might be considered nothing more than an effective contrivance. But in its setting, I think it's more than a contrivance and raises interesting questions about the law and community attitudes. Also, consider the aging desk sergeant (a superbly appropriate John Hamilton). He's on the take because he's got a wife and kids to support, not like the bachelor inspector who "can afford to be upright and honest". Now, whatever the opinion of police unions, an underpaid cop is more vulnerable than one that has some organized leverage over pay-grades. I'm not saying this is a social conscience movie. It's not. I am saying that these noirish crime dramas often contained touchy issues that the old studio- system, especially, had difficulty dealing with.

As an IRS agent, Ford is appropriately professional and humorless; at the same time, I'm wondering where I can sign up for the Nina Foch fan club. No wonder Ford wants more time at home. What she lacks in curves, she makes up for in sheer beauty and I'm definitely smitten. But it's that human oil slick in a thousand dollar suit that steals the movie. As master fixer Edward J. O'Rourke, pudgy Barry Kelley is simply superb. He's so effectively oily, we ought to start pumping right now. Also in a standout role is the little girl Rosa (Joan Lazer), unfortunately her only movie credit. Anyway, it's a fairly fast-paced film, with a good, tense ending, and a suitably ironical last line. My only complaint is "The Big Fellow"— why such a awkwardly silly description when any old fictional name should do. Nonetheless, the movie remains, all in all, a credit to the Lewis canon.


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