Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Overlooked Movies: Lady on a Train (1945)

I guess I've heard of Deanna Durbin about as far back as I can remember, but I've never seen one of her movies until now. It's not a musical like most of the other films she made, although there are several musical numbers since part of the story is set in a nightclub. Rather, it's a mystery comedy, with Durbin playing a rich young woman from San Francisco who's come to New York to visit her aunt over the Christmas holiday. While her train is stopped on the outskirts of the city, she happens to witness what appears to be a murder in a building alongside the tracks. She's also a fan of mystery novels and is reading one called THE CASE OF THE HEADLESS BLONDE (sounds like a Perry Mason novel to me).

But no, the book is actually by a writer named Wayne Morgan (played by David Bruce), who happens to live in New York City, and when the body disappears and the cops don't believe Durbin, she hunts him up and demands that he help her solve the crime. Then she realizes the man she saw murdered is really a wealthy shipping magnate, and a clandestine visit to his estate in the country results in Durbin being mistaken for the man's mistress, a nightclub singer involved with gangsters, and during that same excursion she also meets the members of the murdered man's family, which include the sinister Dan Duryea and ever stalwart and boring Ralph Bellamy. She keeps investigating, continues to pose as the nightclub singer, and makes life miserable but interesting for the mystery novelist before they work together, fall in love, and uncover the murderer's identity. (It probably won't come as much of a surprise to most of you.)

This is lightweight fluff, but boy, is it entertaining lightweight fluff! The script hardly ever slows down to take a breath, and since one of the characters is a writer, there are some funny bits about the publishing business. Leslie Charteris provided the original story, and it has his usual breeziness to it. The supporting cast, which includes William Frawley, Edward Everett Horton, Allen Jenkins, and George Couloris, is very good. Durbin is cute as can be as the spoiled but spunky society gal who's determined to solve a murder. We have a couple more of her movies and I'm sure we'll watch them fairly soon.

By the way, this movie is set at Christmas, as I mentioned above, but other than a quick glimpse of a Christmas tree here and there, the holiday doesn't play any real part in what's going on. Otherwise I might have saved this post for December. 

1 comment:

Krauss said...

Great review! At the moment the movie is not available on Netflix. It is available from Amazon to rent or buy.