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"Murder-on-the-train" mystery has lawyer Malone chasing his paroled embezzler client (Kepplar) who still hasn't paid Malone's fee. When Kepplar jumps parole on a train to Chicago, Malone follows, in company with Kepplar's ex-wife, a police inspector and Mrs. O'Malley, a hearty radio contest winner from Montana. Kepplar is murdered, and a game of musical corpses commences, with hijinks in coach corridors as Malone and Hattie search for the killer. Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
Marjorie Main and James Whitmore are Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone in this delightful 1950 comedy that was probably a second feature. I wish some main features were as good.
Let me get this out of the way first. George Carlin, before he became what he was most known for - political comedy, black comedy, etc. - was just a regular comic. He once referred to Marjorie Main as "that saucy little Italian tart." I can't hear her name or see her without remembering that.
Onto our story. Mrs. O'Malley lives in a Podunk town and wins $50,000 on a radio show. She has to take a train to New York in order to pick up her prize. Meanwhile, a womanizing, money-hungry attorney, Malone, is after a paroled embezzler who owes him $10,000. The man, Kepplar, was in prison for a robbery, but the money was never found. Malone is sure Kepplar has the money on him.
Kepplar jumps parole by boarding the same train on which Mrs. O'Malley is traveling. Malone jumps on as well, in hot pursuit. He's not alone in searching for Kepplar. It's a merry band: his ex-wife (Ann Dvorak) and a police inspector Tim Marino (Fred Clark).
Kepplar is murdered, and the murderer is trying to set Malone up to take the fall. With the help of Mrs. O'Malley in the berth next to his, the two of them start moving Kepplar around, all along trying to catch the killer.
Whitmore and Main are fabulous together, and Whitmore's comic timing is excellent. The dialogue is snappy and funny, and the slapstick is great. Fred Clark's serious and frustrated demeanor makes his scenes even funnier.
Phyllis Kirk is Malone's pretty secretary. Ann Dvorak, as Kepplar's ex-wife, is marvelous in a light role. This is a late-ish part for her she was most prolific in the '30s and '40s. It's a shame she didn't stay in films, but she would retire the next year.
This should have been followed up with more films featuring O'Malley and Malone. A shame it didn't.
If you spot this on TCM, don't miss it.
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