Tag Archives: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Bad Day at Black Rock 1954

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Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

Wow, what an opening! Southern Pacific Railroad hosted one of the most spectacular railroad-themed opening credits ever done for a movie. The star is an SP passenger train in splashy “Daylight” dress led by a pair of equally classic “Black Widow” EMD F units.

Helicopter shots, distant shots, pacing shots were all added by associate producer Herman Hoffman after principal photography had ended. Test audiences had been unimpressed with the rather bland movie opening, so MGM rented a couple trainsets from Espee for filming on SP’s “Jawbone” line near Lone Pine, CA.

Once again, I am grateful to IMDb Trivia and particularly James Tiroch at Cinetrains for details about the railroad operations. The comments from Cinetrains/The Black Widow of Black Rock were extremely helpful in identifying the equipment used.

Let’s take a look at the zenith of Southern Pacific passenger cars led by silver-nosed freight engines as they barrel through the desert.

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In a pacing shot, EMD F3A #6151 and EMD F7B #8149 are towing an articulated chair car (note the single truck between the two cars).

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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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3 Godfathers 1948

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Southern Pacific Railroad #9, a 1909 narrow-gauge 4-6-0 from Baldwin, stars alongside John Wayne in this gritty, parched western directed by John Ford. Indeed, before the opening credits start to roll, we see SP #9 trundling along through the vastness of the western desert.

This movie will make you thirsty. Have plenty of water on hand before watching. The film features a great deal of stumbling through sand dunes and sagebrush as the 3 Godfathers continually search for water.

But that’s not why we’re here. The movie makers treat us to a wonderful little train led by SP #9 painted up for the fictitious “Rio Bravo Mogollon Railroad”. Sister locomotive SP #8 was previously seen/reviewed in my review of Sinister Journey 1948.

Come along and see how MGM used a boonie narrow gauge line in the Owens Valley of California to tell their story.

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SP #9 smokes it up coming into the God-forsaken water stop of Apache Wells. A white train? Hmmm….more about that later on in the review.

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