Ruth Raymond works on the switchboard and her boyfriend is John Blake. It has taken 14 years, but a detective named Murray has found her and confirmed that she is Ruth Carson. As a child, ... See full summary »
Ruth Raymond works on the switchboard and her boyfriend is John Blake. It has taken 14 years, but a detective named Murray has found her and confirmed that she is Ruth Carson. As a child, she was kidnaped by her uncle and is the daughter of a wealthy railroad tycoon. Under the watchful eye of Godfrey D. Scott, an attempt on her life is foiled. But a fake telegram put her on a private railroad car heading east. It is in this car that her life is again in danger and people are murdered. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Delightful trifle - even while asking "what were they thinking!?"
Seldom will the words "what were they thinking?!" come to mind while enjoying a film as often as while watching this pseudo-mystery from the early days of sound at MGM - though not as early as the haphazard writing would suggest.
Enjoy it you will, however, as the odds and ends the entertainment are assembled from are largely quality remainders, borrowed from all kinds of other films than the mystery the title leads one to expect.
Who knows what the original mystery play ("The Rear Car") the film is based on was really like? It lacked sufficient merit to make it to Broadway (neither did "Everybody Comes To Rick's," but that didn't seem to hurt CASABLANCA much), but the stagy "thriller" aspects of the center part of the film suggest that the tossed in ingredients didn't hurt it any.
Chief among the "tossed in" ingredients is Charlie Ruggles' Godfrey Scott, a supposed "detective" occupied far more with the kind of bumbling burlesque comedy Ruggles had been perfecting since his movie debut back in 1914 (and would continue to mine right up until his death in 1970). By the 1930's Ruggles was a well recognized Hollywood commodity in such hits as Brandon Thomas' CHARLEY'S AUNT, THE SMILING LIEUTENANT, LOVE ME TONIGHT and ALICE IN WONDERLAND. MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR must have seemed a decidedly second tier assignment to the comedian, but he gave it his all . . . though the biggest laugh in the script may come in the credits - "Edgar Allan Woolf," one of the co-writers was clearly named after Edgar Allan POE, the founder of the modern mystery format with his "C. Auguste Dupin stories in the 1840's! So much for legitimate mystery credentials in this film.
The silly plot (a lost heiress found and at risk) had already been the subject of too many musicals and farces to be taken entirely seriously, and the film makers don't spend to much time seriously laying out the clues and red herrings even though the golden age of the murder mystery was near its peak. Instead, they pull out the stops with cinema-friendly special effects like runaway trains and (never explained) secret panels.
It starts and remains a supremely silly hodge podge, but fun nonetheless for all but the serious mystery fan the title seems to want to attract. Watch for Ruggles and Una Merkle, and don't worry so much about the title murder(s) and a good time is to be had.
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