Written and Posted by Sarah
This is one of my personal favorite Duryea roles. I'm not going to go into a synopsis of this film, so if you would like to see the full story from TCM just CLICK HERE. I am just going to continue with notes about the film --- particularly as it relates to Dan Duryea.
Don't read any farther if you haven't seen this film yet.
This is an excellent movie and one that would have been a true A-Film, had it not been for Deanna Durbin and David Bruce. It doesn't sound right to say that the stars are poorly cast, but that's the truth of it when it comes to Lady on a Train. The supporting cast is fabulous! It's a murder mystery that resembles the basic plot of Agatha Christie's 4:50 from Paddington. Deanna is on a train from California to New York. As she is arriving in NYC, she looks out of her compartment window into the window of a commercial building and sees a man being murdered. Unfortunately, she spends most of the movie acting fourteen, and David Bruce was obviously cast to lend some comedy into scenes that would otherwise look ridiculous. All this said, it is one of my favorite Deanna films --- because of all the other performers.
Other supporting players include Ralph Bellamy, George Coulouris, Edward Everett Horton and Elizabeth Patterson. You won't find one of them out of place. The casting is brilliant, because mostly everyone is cast against type (except for Edward Everett Horton --- who is as funny as ever!). By rights, it should be Dan D. who commits the murder and organizes the whole ring of criminals. But it is not. Dan proves himself to be a nice, genial sort of fellow --- even if he does sneer a few times!
Dan falls for Deanna, but of course it is David Bruce who wins her affections. When it comes to the final "show down" in the family warehouse, Dan does a great job. You really think it is him. He even lowers his voice for the whole discussion with Deanna while they are driving in his car. This is a technique that he didn't use very often. The largest role where he used the lower voice was a few years later in Criss Cross.
If you haven't seen this film, then it's definitely worth watching. There aren't many of these films that show scenes of Dan's "light side". As a fun note: Take a look at the door man working outside of the "Circus Club" in the film. He is the same man who would go on to play Gort the Robot in The Day the Earth Stood Still.