Lady on a Train (1945)

Deanna Durbin, Ralph Bellamy, Edward Everett Horton, Allen Jenkins,
In New York, a woman who partially witnesses a killing from a train window seeks the aid of a crime novelist to solve the murder.
  • 6.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Edmund Beloin, Robert O'Brien, Leslie Charteris, Writer:
  • Charles David, Director:
  • Felix Jackson, Producer:

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7 / 10

Great cast and very entertaining

Deanna Durbin is a "Lady on a Train" in this 1945 mystery/comedy also starring David Bruce, Dan Duryea Edward Everett Horton, Ralph Bellamy, Patricia Morison, and George Coulouris. The film is directed by Durbin's future husband, Charles David.

Photographed and wardrobed like the great star she was, Durbin plays Nikki Collins, a débutante who comes to New York to spend the Christmas holidays with her aunt. On the train en route to Grand Central, she looks out the window and sees the murder of an old man. Determined to investigate, she appeals to the mystery writer whose novel she was reading (Bruce). She nearly wrecks his life. His fiancée (Patricia Morison) is suspicious of Nikki, and thanks to Nikki, he gets beat up a lot. Meanwhile, her father's assistant (Horton) can never find her. Nikki finds herself involved with the victim's money-grubbing family and puts herself in danger.

A screwball comedy with the delightful Durbin doing a great job, singing like a dream, and looking fabulous. It's very slight but fun and directed by David with a good pace. The child Durbin was a little manic for me, but I love her adult work. Plus, she had possibly the best voice and best trained voice in films. The rest of the cast is wonderful, particularly David Bruce as the hapless author.

It's a shame that Universal, with such a valuable commodity, didn't buy and/or develop better properties for her. Durbin is often compared with Judy Garland, who definitely got better treatment at MGM.

Durbin was smart to retire while at the top, though with the coming musicals of the '50s, I'm sure her star would have risen even higher. In many hearts, 60 years later, she's still a star.

5 / 10

I'm in the minority on this one...

As I read through the reviews for "Lady on a Train", I was very surprised at how positive they were. After all, I thought the movie was poorly written and, at times, a bit dumb. Sure, the actors tried their best (it did have a pretty impressive supporting cast for Deanna Durbin), but the film often just made little sense.

When the film begins, Nikki Collins (Durbin) is on a train bound for New York. However, at one of the stops, she sees a man being killed outside her window. Does she pull the emergency cord to alert the driver to stop? Nope. Does she make the conductor stop the train? Nope. Instead, she waits until the train arrives at the station and then goes to the nearest police station--and babbles like an idiot and explains what she saw in a very poor manner. Naturally, the policeman at the desk thought she was a nut. Does she go to another cop or another police station? Nope...she decides to find a mystery writer and get his help!!! He tells her to go to the cops--and instead she runs off on some insane lark to investigate the case for herself!

Soon Nikki reads that the man she saw murdered was a rich guy who's allegedly died by falling off a ladder. So, she tells the cops, right? Nope. Instead, she sneaks onto the dead guy's property and is nearly torn apart by guard dogs. When she is discovered, the guy who found her thinks she's come for the reading of the will--and she then poses as Margo Martin--the nightclub singer who is about to inherit everything! Not surprisingly, this offers her a chance to sing a few songs at the nightclub--where no one (including the band) seemed to notice that she wasn't Margo! Huh?!

There's a lot more to it than this. However, whether you'll care will depend on if you buy the story. I didn't. I hate a film where repeatedly the viewer needs to accept that the leading character NEVER behaves rationally or makes normal decisions. It made watching the film a real chore for me--though as I said before, most reviews on IMDb are very, very favorable. The bottom line is how willing are you to suspend disbelief? And, how much do you adore Miss Durbin? If the answer to both is yes--than by all means watch and most likely you'll enjoy the film. I just couldn't get past the sub-par writing and Durbin deserved better. For me, it's a watchable time-passer and not much more.

8 / 10

Good fun for a snowy evening!

This was the first Deanna Durbin film I've seen, and while it's much different than her other films, it seems a great place to start! The first thing that struck me was how likable Ms. Durbin is in the lead role. She keeps the tone light and airy, and the film flies along at a joyous speed! The photography is amazing (the snowy Manhattan sets and Ms. Durbin's close-ups are wonderful!) Deanna's vocals on "Night and Day" hint at a sensuality that wasn't present in her other pictures, and her rendition of "Silent Night" is divine.

I won't summarize the plot, as it has been done in other comments, just suffice to say that this hilarious whodunit is perfect viewing while curled up with a hot drink on a snowy winter evening!

7 / 10

Deanna Does Drew

Lady On A Train represents Universal Studios trying to transition Deanna Durbin into more adult roles. Although the film has its fun moments in the comedy department, Deanna is essentially still playing her goody two shoes teenage self. As this involves a mystery, this could have been the plot of a Nancy Drew story.

As the New York Central is going down Manhattan's spine taking Deanna on the last leg of her cross country journey she spots what she thinks is a murder in one of the passing apartments. That would be enough to upset anyone, but Deanna is a girl who loves mysteries, we see her reading one on the train. As she's a bit of madcap she has trouble getting police desk sergeant William Frawley to take her seriously.

After she sees a newsreel and recognizes the victim as a millionaire who was reported to have died at his Long Island mansion, Durbin interjects herself into that family. The victim disinherited his relatives Elizabeth Patterson, Dan Duryea, and Ralph Bellamy and left his estate to nightclub singer Maria Palmer.

Deanna just gets deeper and deeper until she solves the mystery. As for the culprit, given casting stereotypes a real big red herring is tossed at the audience. But she's as determined as Nancy Drew to get to the bottom of things.

Some nice standards are given Durbin to sing, Night And Day and Silent Night is sung because the story does take place at Christmas time. Lady On A Train should please the still strong legion of Durbin fans.

7 / 10

"Type that up!" ... "Tear it up?"

Terrible vehicle for Universal's resident singing star Deanna Durbin (here, at 23, still finding her footing as a womanly actress rather than as a teen starlet) attempts to combine a noir scenario with a comedic, screwball script, keeping Deanna breathless, illogical and dithering for nearly 95 minutes. Arriving in New York City by train to visit her relatives, Durbin witnesses a murder from her passenger window; naturally, the police are of no help, so she enlists the expertise of a detective stories writer to help her solve the crime. Screenplay by Edmund Beloin and Robert O'Brien, from a story by Leslie Charteris, is full of fast, silly talk--most of it more annoying than amusing--and off-putting characters. Deanna alternates between inquisitive kid and grown-up fashion plate. The rest of this 'mystery' is just as uncertain. *1/2 from ****