Genre blender of considerable worth.
Lady on a Train is directed by Charles David and adapted to screenplay by Edmund Beloin and Robert O’Brien from a Leslie Charteris story. It stars Deanna Durbin, Ralph Bellamy, David Bruce, George Coulouris, Allen Jenkins, Dan Duryea and Edward Everett Horton. Music is by Miklos Rozsa and cinematography by Woody Bredell.
Part murder mystery, part film noir, part comedy and part musical! And it’s a Christmas movie as well! Lady on a Train has a lot going on for sure. It’s a fun packed little movie that gives Durbin full licence to show her various talents before she retired out of the limelight three years later. In main essence it’s the murder mystery aspect that drives the picture forward. Durbin plays Nikki Collins, a spunky young woman who loves reading detective mysteries, so when she witnesses a murder being committed from her train window seat, she’s obviously all of a tingle. However, convincing the authorities of what she saw proves to be difficult and she decides to take up the case herself. Pretty soon she is up to her neck in intrigue and life threatening peril.
Things start getting twisty once Durbin meets the victim’s bizarre family, a veritable roll call of miserablists and shifty shysters. Aided by mystery writer Wayne Morgan (Bruce), Nikki has to run the gamut of bluffing and boldness to stay one step ahead of the game, including imitating a chanteuse singer. This allows Durbin to the chance to warble three songs, with a version of “Silent Night” beautifully tender and a sensuous and sultry rendition of “Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Yah, Huh?” Having us in the palm of her hand. It builds nicely to a darkly tinged last third, where Bredell’s noirish photography comes into its own and the resolution of the tale is most satisfactory. Good laughs, good suspense and good songs, well worth a viewing. Story was filmed as a straight British thriller in 1940 titled A Window in London, with Michael Redgrave starring. 7/10