Lady on a Train

Movie Information

In Brief: While aboard a train stopped outside Grand Central Station, Deanna Durbin — on her way to spend Christmas with her aunt — witnesses a murder in a building near the tracks. Of course, no one believes her — and thereby hangs the plot of this comedy mystery with songs and a Christmas setting. It's a lot of fun in that slick 1940s way.
Genre: Mystery Comedy
Director: Charles David
Starring: Deanna Durbin, Ralph Bellamy, David Bruce, Dan Duryea, Elizabeth Patterson, Edward Everett Horton
Rated: NR

Lady on a Train (1945) is the Asheville Film Society’s Christmas offering. The lady of the title is Deanna Durbin (with her hair dyed blonde) as detective-fiction fan Nikki Collins (we first see her reading something called The Case of the Headless Bride) , who’s on a train to New York to spend Christmas with her aunt. As luck (and the needs of the plot) would have it, she happens to look out the window — while the train is stopped waiting to go into Grand Central — and sees a man (unbilled Thurston Hall) being murdered with a crowbar in a nearby building. Unfortunately, the murderer’s back is toward her so she doesn’t know whodunit — and not surprisingly, no one believes what she saw. So with the kind of logic known only to the movies, she tracks down Wayne Morgan (David Bruce), the author of The Case of the Headless Bride, to get him to help solve the mystery. Before long, she’s figured out who the victim was and attempts to crack the case on her own. Yes, it’s pretty absurd, but it’s also a marvelously entertaining — and offbeat — movie for Durbin. (Of course, she gets to sing a few songs — “Silent Night,” “Give Me a Little Kiss” and “Night and Day” — in between murders.) The supporting cast is excellent and the usually underused David Bruce (most famous as the title character in The Mad Ghoul) proves himself a very adept light leading man — and unwilling sleuth. Director Charles David made only this and one other movie, but he perhaps didn’t mind much since he married Ms. Durbin.

The Asheville Film Society will screen Lady on a Train Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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