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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Classic Film Review: Lady on a Train (1945)

Lady on a Train tells the story of Nikki Collins (Deanna Durbin), a woman travelling to New York to spend Christmas with her aunt who witnesses a murder in a property just before the train gets into Grand Central. When she goes to the police they think she's wasting their time so she tries to enlist the help of her favourite mystery writer, Wayne Morgan (David Bruce). However, he's perturbed by the attention so she has to set about investigating the matter herself. By accident, she ends up masquerading as the dead man's nightclub-singer lover which brings her into contact with the household and, in particular, his nephews Jonathan (Ralph Bellamy) and Arnold (Dan Duryea). Has she put herself in danger? Rounding out the cast is the excellent Edward Everett Horton as Nikki's chaperone in New York.

This is an absolutely brilliant film. I saw it described in another review as 'screwball noir' and that certainly fits. It doesn't take itself too seriously, there's always something going wrong for Nikki's investigation but there are some real moments of tension and suspense. I'm not sure how it manages to mix the two up so superbly but it does.

Deanna Durbin evidently relished the part. She brings warmth and energy to the role and bounces off everyone in sight. Her interactions with David Bruce as Wayne when she follows him into a movie theatre to try and get his help are nothing short of hilarious. There are plenty of little moments throughout where she makes her mark and, of course, there are the requisite songs, including a beautiful version of 'Silent Night'. However, the scene that had me in stitches was the 'shush, I'm a chair' scene. Pure gold. The rest of the cast is great too, though special mention goes out to Edward Everett Horton for being the loser in every scene he's in.

The identity of the murderer was neatly obscured by the conspiracy around it. I didn't try too hard to work it out though - I was enjoying the ride too much. Definitely recommended and Deanna Durbin has been added to my list of favourites, rather belatedly, I know.

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