James Garner is riding the narrow gauge rails of the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) Railroad in this Western spoof follow-up to 1969’s Support Your Local Sheriff!
Train scenes in this film were brief, but feature 4 different steam locomotives, one of which I’ve not been able to positively identify. A big shout out to Larry Jensen whose “Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume 3” book helped me identify one engine used on the CBS Studio City (CA) lot.
As usual, I’ll concentrate on the railroad scenes in my review, even though the movie itself is great fun to watch — back when Tinseltown knew how to make an enjoyable, entertaining picture.
Let’s take a trip on the 3-feet-between-the-rails Rio Grande railroad. Highball!!
D&RGW #478, a narrow gauge K-28 class 2-8-2 Alco class of 1924, leads a short train of “Grande Gold” and silver coaches along the Animas River on the Silverton Line.
Helicopter shots of this train were used at the beginning and ending of today’s reviewed movie.
While not particularly OBSCURE, (Trains Magazine rated it the #1 greatest railroad film, evah), this black & white MOVIE is chock full of TRAINS from start to finish. So, two out of three ain’t bad.
Mind you, it’s a foreign film, which I usually don’t review, but The Train features so many explosions, spectacular derailments and is steam locomotive-propelled throughout, I just couldn’t pass it up.
Burt Lancaster, American accent intact, stars as the engine driver Labiche (pronounced Labeesh) — more about his funny last name later.
So come on, all you World War 2 buffs, let’s check out how the railway workers of the French Resistance take on the Germans in this gritty, over-exposed iron horse opera.
Colonel Franz Von Waldheim (played by Paul Scofield) is the art connoisseur who has looted a trainload of paintings from the Musee du Jeu de Paume and intends to take it back to Germany for ransom (“enough to equip 10 panzer divisions”).
How come English stage actors seem to make the most sinister and convincing stiff-arm saluting German officers?
Buster Keaton’s masterpiece from 1926 is both a silent picture and black and white, which makes it about as obscure a train movie to modern audiences, as can be. Based on the true-to-life Andrews Raid during the Civil War, location shooting took place on the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern railroad near Cottage Grove.
Filmmakers were able to discover three 4-4-0 locomotives in Oregon to use for the movie. They were:
OP&E #4, built by Cooke Locomotive Works in 1886. This became W&A #3, “General”.
OP&E #5, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1881. This became W&A #5, “Texas”.
OP&E #1, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1881. This became USMRR #8, unnamed.
Chock full of railroad scenes featuring some incredible stunts by Keaton, I had a difficult time chopping down over 200 screen caps to a manageable 64 for this review.
Our story begins in 1861, Marietta, Georgia….
…where a despondent Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) has been denied enlistment, account being too valuable as an Engineer on the Western & Atlantic (W&A) Railroad. As he rests on the main driving rod of the 4-4-0, a hostler moves General into the shed.
Tony Curtis is “Josephine” and Jack Lemmon is “Daphne” in this screwball comedy featuring 24 minutes of the boys dressing up as women to travel with an all-girl band on board a train headed for Florida. What’s not to like?
Add to this frothy situation the presence of Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk and travel on an old section Pullman sleeper never looked better.
Although the movie was filmed in black and white, many of the studio stills were in color including this group photo of the girl band onboard Clover Colony.
I swear that looks like Angela Lansbury on the far right, but she’s nowhere listed in the film’s credits. It was most likely actress Joan Shawlee who played bandleader Sweet Sue.