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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
While waiting at a train station, Nikki Collins witnesses a murder from a nearby building. When she brings the police to the scene of the crime, they think she's crazy since there's no body. She then enlists a popular mystery writer to help with her sleuthing. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The 1930s and 40s had some lovely actresses. But few of them could compare to the dazzling Deanna Durbin. With her sparkling eyes, her wholesome smile, her beautifully blonde hair, and her charming personality, Durbin outshines everyone else in this film by far, and lifts a drab story to the level of enjoyment. She plays Nikki Collins, a smart young woman, the "Lady", in Charles David's "Lady On A Train", who, from her train compartment, witnesses an unlikely murder in a nearby building.
Technically, the film is a whodunit. But, from the beginning, viewers understand that the story is a spoof, not to be taken seriously. Playing amateur detective, Nikki races around amid various characters and comic situations, attempting to find the killer. But she's just too lucky and too clever for the plot to be considered credible.
The setting is New York City on Christmas Eve, with snow falling. As a result, the film has a soft, soothing feel to it, despite the criminal component. The film's humor is what I would describe as old-style. For example, one sequence has Nikki trying to get the attention of a mystery writer, while the writer and his girlfriend sit in a crowded theater. Nikki moves in and out of rows, disrupting the audience, with predictable humorous consequences.
In the film, Durbin sings a couple of songs, and thereby interrupts the film's flow. But, in one case, the interruption is justified, as it becomes, for me, the highlight of the entire film. Into a telephone, she sings two full verses of "Silent Night". With her magically radiant face and her beautiful singing voice, she exalts the already beautiful Christmas carol to resplendent melodic purity. This sequence is almost hypnotic in its simple beauty, and alone redeems the film from its many flaws.
Usually, I don't care for films that exist seemingly just to advance the career of the film's star. However, "Lady On A Train" is an exception. The story is not very interesting, the gags are tiresome, and the acting is average. But, through sheer force of her charming personality, Deanna Durbin alone makes this film worth watching.
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