As movies go, this one is kinda thin on railroads. I’m pretty sure all train exteriors and interiors were done on studio sets. Although a few heavyweight passenger cars labeled “New Haven” parade up and down the platform at the “Benton, Connecticut” railroad depot – motive power is only heard, not seen. At least they got the branding correct as New Haven Railroad monopolized passenger service between Boston and New York City via New Haven, CT.
Still, I found a complete copy of this picture online, (link at bottom), so cost was $0 and a couple Hollywood Star cameos made it fun to watch. Let’s tune in.
Professor Alexander “Alec” Stevenson (played by Ray Milland) and Ice Queen Professor Susan Manning Middlecott (played by Rosalind Russell) have many questions for the Benton station clerk. For 10 points, which actor is playing the clerk? (cameo #2).
No trains in these early scenes, but it explains how the two Professors became an item. Local gossip columnist Teddy Evans (played by Janis Carter – ROWF!) is out at the airport with the boys to get pictures of an arriving celebrity (cameo #1).
Why, it’s actress Lucille Ball, just in on an American Airlines overseas flight from London! Coincidently, Prof Alec is right behind, coming down the stairs. Lucy prevails upon Alec to hold her lapdog whilst she poses for pictures. “How’s this boys? That’s swell!” Notice the TWA “Connie” airliner in the background.
Anyhow, Teddy strikes up a conversation with Alec who tells her he’s in town to present something to Professor Middlecott. Teddy plants an exaggerated story in the paper and, well, you’ll see what happens.
About 11 1/2 minutes into our feature, we visit the fictional town of Benton’s railroad station – I think I saw the same depot (notice the brick) done up as Stevenson, Iowa, in The Major and the Minor 1942. One of the many studio railroad stations available to filmmakers back in the day.
Here’s one of those steam-heated heavyweights. Hello all you rivet counters! (model railroaders). Start counting.
Armed only with his briefcase (talk about traveling light), Alec detrains and heads into the Benton waiting room.
Unbeknownst to Alec, Susan has come up behind him to buy a ticket to Boston. In order, Alec asks the clerk (to his growing annoyance) for paper, pen, envelope, stamp, and finally a train ticket. Hey, that’s Gale Gordon playing the ticket clerk (cameo #2).
Gordon would later appear as a regular on both The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy.
Heavyweight coaches roll into the station with NEW HAVEN clearly displayed as Susan waits. English gentleman that he is, Alec assists Susan with her luggage as they board the train. Note the Pullman porter in the gangway and conductor checking tickets.
Nicely furnished dining car set (with the studio high ceilings). As the steward prepares to seat him, Alec notices Susan at a table. Without further invitation, he sits at her table and starts up a very chatty patter which she tries to ignore. Observe they are both filling out their own meal tickets for the waiter to collect.
As the waiter comes to take their order, Alec spots the planted newspaper story about him “Traveling Three Thousand Miles for Love”. Still unaware of who either one is, they set about maligning each other as “a dull, crusty old fossil” and “probably an old spinster or crotchety old maid”.
Uh-oh. There’s Teddy again at the Boston info booth (with rear screen projection). She finds out their train is arriving on Track 17. Meanwhile, Alec & Susan are having a friendly little chat on the platform when the Gossip Queen shows up, snaps their picture and FINALLY introduces them to each other by name.
Whereupon…an outraged Susan decks him with her purse, WHAP! What terrible things he said about her!
Faster than you can say, “Susan Manning Middlecott”, she’s in Boston’s South Station buying a return fare to Benton. As the train begins to pull out, she climbs aboard with the aid of the conductor.
Right behind her (Let me explain!) is Alec who is himself being chased by the press. Finally onboard, Susan hides in Compartment A. Check out those nifty Pullman washcloths in the rack!
As the train pulls into Benton, Alec finally corners Susan and explains his actions. With violins playing sadly in the background, Alec relates how a dying French officer rescued from a German prison camp asked for her locket to be returned to Susan, his wartime love.
Susan remembers and dismisses the moment, saying “It was only a trinket – I hardly knew him.”
Now royally brassed off, Alec charges after her saying, “You’re the coldest woman I’ve ever met! I made a sad mistake when I brought you that locket. I should have brought you a suit of long woolen underwear!” POW! He gets clocked with the purse again. Ice Queen, indeed.
“Professor Stevenson, would you care to make a statement about your romance? (Still recovering from Susan’s handbag attack) Yes it’s been wildly exaggerated!”
There’s another brief station scene at the end of the movie, but it hardly bears watching. No train visible, thus we’ll just end this review right here.
If you’d like to watch it yourself, the link is here:
That is, if it’s still online…
Here’s what IMDb has to say about A Woman of Distinction:
If you have ANY information about this movie you’d like to share, please contact me at: Lindsay.Korst@gmail.com, or leave a comment. Thanks and enjoy the blog!