Tag Archives: Film Noir

Murder is my Beat 1955

Allied Artists Productions

I first heard about this B noir picture from reader Tony Wilson. As I researched, I discovered a good copy on both archive.org and YouTube. The film features at least 3 different Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotives pulling various heavyweight and streamlined passenger equipment.

It’s a relatively short flick at just 77 minutes, but there are two train sequences at the 31 minute and 70 minute marks packed full of onboard and train exterior goodness. I had a great time discovering the equipment used — made harder by B&W night-time footage. And there might just be a little cheesecake in there for our more mature readers.

Let’s go ride “The Friendly” Southern Pacific!

Churning, spoked drivers roll along an impeccably-groomed roadbed…which segues into this shot of a steamer pulling a 5 car passenger train down a weed-choked right-of-way.

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Appointment With Danger 1950

Paramount Pictures

Let’s hear it for the Post Office! Or to quote from the film’s opening with triumphant march music playing in the background: “We’re proud of our Post Office, because we have confidence in its efficiency”. Well, things have changed a bit since 1950, but back in the day….

Many thanks to reader Mark Herrmann who tipped me off about this film noir goodie. After purchasing the DVD, I researched it and discovered train scenes filmed in Indiana AND Southern California. In addition to Alan Ladd (who plays the tough-as-nails Postal Inspector, Al Goddard), there are small parts played by Jack Webb (“My name’s Friday”) and Harry Morgan as two gang henchmen. That’s Al stepping off the caboose above.

As always, I’m gonna concentrate on the railroad pulchritude and leave the plot and gangster genre for others who may follow. C’mon, let’s check out trains from NYC, Pere Marquette, C&NW, Pennsylvania and Union Pacific railroads!

Gary (Indiana) Union Station was a beautiful structure when constructed in 1910 – as well as a pivotal plot point in this movie. Located between the New York Central and Baltimore & Ohio mainlines, both roads were served by this two-story edifice.

In these two views, we get a look inside and out of the passenger terminal. The depot still exists, but is literally a shell of its former self. That’s a 1949 Checker Cab (Thanks, big brother Mark!).

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Sudden Fear 1952

RKO Radio Pictures

A cross country train trip on a through sleeping car is the highlight of today’s feature. Believe it or not, back in the 1950’s, you could ride from New York City to Chicago, then on to San Francisco (Oakland) in the same sleeping car. Other railroads also offered similar coast to coast service.

What we see on screen (and out the window) is a wonderful mish-mosh of various railroads — some that would definitely NOT be on our movie’s NYCBurlingtonD&RGWWP routing.

Myra Hudson (played by Joan Crawford) is a successful playwright whose smash hit is running on Broadway. Whilst riding the train out of New York, she spots Lester Blaine (played by Jack Palance) boarding at an intermediate stop. Myra had rather abruptly dismissed Lester from her play. Well. This might be a touch uncomfortable.

Palance turned in a wonderfully-creepy performance in this picture and Crawford… oh, those scary eyebrows. No wonder she wound up portrayed in the campy horror classic, Mommie Dearest. “Tina!! Bring me the axe!”

Anyway. It’s film noir on a train and that’s always a winner. Remember The Narrow Margin, anyone?

Can’t have a noir flick without smoke. Through the haze we see the studio’s recreation of Grand Central Terminal.

Note in the background, Track 25: Commodore Vanderbilt (Train 67) and Track 24: State of Maine Express. Myra would have taken Train 67 which carried the through 10-6 sleeper.

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Across the Bridge 1957

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The Rank Organization

Carl Schaffner (played by Rod Steiger) is a British financier in New York City who is into his company for about $9 million. As details emerge of his embezzlement, Rod/Carl decides to take it on the lam. Thus, he heads down to Pennsylvania Station taking a sleeper on the first train to Texas and eventually Mexico.

Interestingly enough, the Pennsylvania Railroad had a train, the Penn Texas, which ran from New York to St. Louis, MO with connecting sleepers on the Missouri Pacific to Dallas, TX and from there on the Texas and Pacific (a Mopac subsidiary) to El Paso, TX.

This being a British film, most of the interiors were shot in Shepperton Studios with exteriors of American railroad scenes (mostly in the dark) thrown in for good measure.

Train scenes are only present for 20 minutes, but it was enjoyable to hunt down pictures and identify the locomotives shown. Let’s get onboard with shyster Schaffner as he makes a run for it.

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The Pullman Porter has his suspicions about the cranky old guy in Bedroom C.

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Grand Central Murder 1942

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Mostly filmed on the MGM lot in Culver City, Grand Central Murder is the tale of a Broadway stage actress who uses and discards people like Kleenex — until someone snaps and bumps her off. But who dunnit? And how? There’s not a mark on her. There IS a list of suspects a mile long.

And oh, what a set. MGM spared no expense using actual railroad passenger cars and a passable recreation of Grand Central Terminal’s underground high-level platforms and third-rail infrastructure. Southern Pacific Railroad’s subsidiary Pacific Electric served Culver City and you can briefly see SP EMD NW2 switcher #1315 shuffling cars around during a couple scenes.

As always, I’ll concentrate on the train bits, but the movie itself is well worth an evening’s viewing. All Aboard!

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Van Heflin (as “Rocky” Custer) checks out the heavyweight Pullman named, “Thanatopsis” for this picture. If you clink the link in the previous sentence, you’ll see it’s a not-so-subtle reference to what takes place on board.

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