“Where There’s A Will…” – Rediscovering ‘Lady on a Train’ (US 1945 – 94 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - September 23, 2015
“Where There’s A Will…”  – Rediscovering ‘Lady on a Train’ (US 1945 – 94 mins)

“Why Does My Head Hurt?” – Wayne Morgan
“That’s Where He Hit You” – Nikki Collins

A light-hearted murder-mystery that incorporates a handful of genres, ‘Lady on a Train’ is a fast moving movie which wastes no time in setting up its central mystery. It moves along at a rapid pace while mixing humour, excitement, and even some welcome darker moments.

While her train is standing at Central Station, Nikki Collins (Deanna Durbin) witnesses the murder of a man through the window of a building across the road. Learning that the victim was shipping magnate Josiah Waring, Nikki turns detective and goes to Waring’s estate, which happens to be on the night of the reading of his will. Once there, she’s mistaken for Waring’s girlfriend, nightclub singer Margo Martin, who has inherited a healthy chunk of the estate. After Nikki finds some incriminating evidence at the home, as well as a host of possible suspects, she soon becomes the target of some unwelcome attention.

In one of her best vehicles, Universal Studio’s sweetheart Deanna Durbin was her usual jolly self, and played her part well, in a plot which even allowed her to sing a couple of tunes. There was good support here from stalwarts Ralph Bellamy and Dan Duryea as Waring’s somewhat eccentric nephews. ‘The Mad Ghoul’s’ David Bruce played a mystery author who gets caught up in the goings-on, and George Coulouris was on form as a no-good nightclub boss.

Director Charles David only made one other movie, the lesser-known mystery ‘Fairy Tale Murder’ (also ’45), although he had earlier assisted on some bigger productions such as ‘The Four Feathers’ (’39) and ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ (’40). David and Durbin would go on to marry five years later and would remain together until David’s death in 1999. Durbin herself died fourteen years later, in France, on April 20th 2013. She was 91. The nifty story was by the crime novelist and creator of ‘The Saint’; Leslie Charteris, while multi Oscar-winning composer Miklós Rózsa provided the score, in the same year that he won his first Academy Award for Hitchcock’s ‘Spellbound’.

You do find yourself having to suspend belief on occasion, especially in the opening moments where the main character, who’s reading a murder novel on a train, then sees one committed at the next stop. Still, being a rather whimsical movie, it doesn’t detract the viewer, and the villain was actually a surprise to me.

Overall, ‘Lady on a Train’ is a fun little mystery and a strange hybrid of noir and comedy. But it works, and featuring a hugely likable star and some thrilling moments, it’s a great piece of entertainment from the early Post-War era.

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