Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


David Bruce and Deanna Durbin
LADY ON A TRAIN (1945). Director: Charles David.

Nikki Collins (Deanna Durbin) is on a train a few minutes from Grand Central Station when she sees a man being murdered from the window. [Agatha Christie used a similar premise -- on an English train, of course -- 12 years later, and did a lot more with it.] Unable to explain the situation with any intelligence to the police due to her "cute" ditsyness, she decides to take her problem to a well-known mystery writer, Wayne Morgan (David Bruce), but his girlfriend (Patricia Morison) objects to her presence. Learning the identity of the murdered man, she attends the reading of his will, and is mistaken for his paramour as in Something in the Wind. [And this takes place at Christmas time as in Durbin's Christmas Holiday.] The actual paramour is Margo Martin (Maria Palmer), a singer at the Circus nightclub, where some of the action  takes place. And so on. This is a fairly dull comedy-mystery, but at least the identity of the murderer may come as a slight surprise. Edward Everett Horton nearly walks off with the picture as an apoplectic employee of Nikki's father; Elizabeth Patterson gives Durbin a good whack in the face at one point when she thinks she's gotten all of the dead man's money; and William Frawley [Fred Mertz] is funny as a desk sergeant who thinks Nikki is nuts. Otherwise, there are only a couple of chuckles in this. Dan Duryea, Ralph Bellamy and Allan Jenkins are also in the cast, and dour George Coulouris seems to be in another movie entirely. Durbin warbles "Silent Night," "Give Me a Little Kiss" [in the nightclub], and "Night and Day" and does a fine job with all of them. Her acting is only so-so, however. Durbin later married the director.

Verdict: Some nice things but it isn't very good all told. **.

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