Saturday, April 30, 2011

NATIONAL TRAIN DAY- Saturday, May 7 - A Week Ahead of Time

Next Saturday, May 7th is National Train Day but since it's also the day before Mother's Day, I'm posting a week early in order to give trains their full and worthy due. (I have a special Mother's Day post lined up for next Saturday since, ahem, I'll be busy on Sunday with Mother's Day duties. A heaping BIG THANKS to Jacqueline over at Another Old Movie Blog for cluing me in on this greatest of all days - at least for those of us who adore trains and train travel. (I've done very little travel on trains in reality, but in my dreams, ah, my friends, I've been there and back.) Be sure and read Jacqueline's fun train post.

Eleven Films in which Trains are, at least, part of the action: (I realize that there are many more films in which trains are featured but I wanted to stick with films I've actually seen.)

1) MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974) by Agatha Christie (1934) - The mother of all train films and books, I suppose. The train in the film directed by Sidney Lumet is beautifully and affectionately photographed. The film's music doesn't work, but other than that, it's a terrific film. Even if for you, like me, Finney is not the ideal Poirot.

2) THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN (2006) An excellent PBS Mystery version of a good book by Agatha Christie (1926). Not filled with many sympathetic characters, the mysterious death of a spoiled heiress on board a train is nevertheless, intriguing.

3) NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH Starring Rex Harrison and Margaret Lockwood in a film directed by Carol Reed. The title says it all. A terrific Brits against the Nazis spy film. Rex Harrison is young and surprisingly sexy.

4) MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944) Several key scenes in the beginning of this super Ray Milland noir-ish spy thriller take place on a train. One of my favorite films. Review here.

5) THE 39 STEPS(1935) Starring Robert Donat and based on a book by John Buchan (1915). Parts of this superb spy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock take place on a British train as John Hannay (Robert Donat) tries to escape the cordon closing in around him.

6) TWENTIETH CENTURY (1934) Starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. Second half of this hilarious film takes place on the cross-country Twentieth Century train to Los Angeles. A brilliant spoof of melodramatic Broadway and Hollywood types directed by Howard Hawks. My review, here.

7) THE LADY VANISHES (1938) Starring Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood. An early spy thriller from Alfred Hitchcock in which an enigmatic old lady (played by Dame May Whitty) disappears from aboard a train. Next to 39 STEPS, my favorite Hitchcock.

8) UNION STATION (1950) Starring William Holden, Barry Fitzgerald and Nancy Olson. Tense action on board a train, also in and around the famous train station as authorities search for a kidnapped blind girl. Features Lyle Bettger as an odious bad guy - a role he specialized in. Directed by Rudolph Mate.

9) NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) Starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock who is obviously fond of trains. An innocent man on the run, not sure who from, not sure why. Action in more ways than one aboard a train.

10) THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946) Starring Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury and John Hodiak in a musical directed by George Sidney. One of my very favorite Judy Garland films almost done in by Ray Bolger's interminable dance routines. Lansbury plays a 'bad' girl with heart and Garland plays one of the 'Harvey' girls heading west by train - goody girl waitresses hired to work the new Harvey restaurants up and down the line. Features the great number, "Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe."

11) TERROR BY NIGHT (1946) Starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson in a weak story having not much to do with Conan Doyle. But since the action takes place on a train headed to Scotland, there are still elements of interest in the proceedings. Alan Mowbray is properly slimy as Colonel Sebastian Moran. Directed as usual by Ray William Neil.


  1. What a fine idea for a poster post. They are great, but the last one is my favourite.

  2. Dorte: Thanks. I loved working on it. Trains, especially as seen in vintage films, hold a great fascination for me. I love the last one too. :)

  3. What a swell roster of train movies (and book), Yvette. I love the posters, but I agree with Dorte, that last one is a gem.

  4. Jacqueline: Yes, a serendipitous find. :)

  5. This is a great post! I like movies with train scenes, there are so many.

    An absolute favorite is The Lady Vanishes, which I resaw about six months ago. I loved it even more this time.

    I've written down on the TBS (To Be Seen) list "The Mystery of the Blue Train," "Union Station," and "Terror by Night."

    Yes, and in my head I travel all over the world by train on the Trans-Siberian express, the Canadian express from coast-to-coast, and across the U.S., not to mention throughout Europe, and even India and China. And I listen to friends' train adventures avidly.

    But these movies are terrific and the posters are also.

  6. I missed number 4- and-2 so I will keep my eyes open for them.
    There was also a movie with Farley Granger where he meets a nut case on the train that suggests they switch murders.

  7. Hello Yvette!! i always admire and read your blog!!! and the truth is i like all your posts!!!
    the lady vanishes is one of my favorite films ever!!!!
    i just realised i want to see it again!!!!!

  8. "The Narrow Margin," a noir/train movie from the 1950s (not to be confused with the remake from the 1990s) takes place almost entirely on a train. A mob wife is being escorted by law enforcement to a trial where she is going to testify, but there are mob assassins on the train. Very suspenseful, with a great performance by unsung noir queen, Marie Windsor.

  9. Kathy: All three of those movies are available on Netflix. THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN was a PBS Mystery show which I classify as a film - why not? David Suchet is great, as usual, as Poirot. Enjoy.

  10. Yvonne: You mean Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN with Farley Granger and Robert Walker. Yeah, I remember that. But it is not one of my faves, so I didn't list it. Too creepy for me. Although I acknowledge it is a great noir film. In MINISTRY OF FEAR, only the first fifteen or so minutes takes place on a train, but it sets the whole film in motion after Ray Milland's character has won the suspicious cake at the seemingly 'innocent' afternoon fete. :)

  11. Again, you have the most fabulous art on your blog. I, too, love trains and train travel from the first half of the 1900s. I'm also addicted to planes from the same period, although that sort of travel tended to be more solitary (think Beryl Markham, Ameliea Earhart, Antoine de Saint-Exupery). The travel posters are so evocative of romance, mystery, and adventure that I get excited just looking at them!

  12. Martha: Thanks! THE LADY VANISHES is one of my very faves as well. My daughter gave me the DVD for Christmas a couple of years ago and I watch it all the time. Love it!!

  13. Deb: Well, you've stumped me. :) I've never seen or heard of this film. I'll definitely look for it. Sounds good!

  14. Thanks, Joan. Yes, maybe it's time to do an early airplane list as well. I'll think about it. So much fun in those days to travel - or at least they made it look fun in the movies. I love looking at the travel posters too, I'm always looking for excuses to post them on my blog. :)

    I have Beryl Markham's autobiography here on my TBR pile - A definite read for this year, soon as I get into a non-fiction mood.

  15. I found "The Mystery of the Blue Train," "Union Station," and "Terror by Night" at the library reserve, and reserved the first of the three, and checked on the other two; the library has them, so I'll be getting them soon (my reserves have reached maximum, so I have to wait for more dvd's and books).

    I like the posters here, too.

  16. Thanks, Kathy. Don't forget to let me know how you like them. TERROR BY NIGHT isn't much of a Holmes movie, but it's fun anyway. :)


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