Monday, May 3, 2010

Trains in the Movies

This Saturday, May 8th, is the 3rd annual National Train Day, so to celebrate we cast a nod to the importance train travel has had in old movies. As you probably know, the Golden Age of Hollywood was also the era in which most people moved about the country by train.

Bette Davis, impatient to see her bosom buddy Miriam Hopkins, leaps from the train before it comes to a complete stop.  For more on Old Acquaintance (1943), have a look here.

When James Cagney pursues Priscilla Lane, he does it on the train.  For more on "The Roaring Twenties" (1939), have a look here.

When Harold Lloyd goes to  college, he arrives on the train.  For more on "The Freshman" (1925), have a look here.

Whether it's Alan Hale and Barbara Stanwyck behaving in an unseemly manner on a train in "Stella Dallas" (1937), or Barabara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray throwing her dead husband's body off one in "Double Indemnity" (1944), trains are so much a part of classic film because they were so much a part of American life up until the late 1950s and early 1960s when a network of highways and a generation of muscle cars made them quaint and anachronistic, if not exactly obsolete.  They have never been obsolete.  For many reasons environmental, political, and logistical, passenger train travel may one day grow to be as important as ever in many areas of the country. 

The movies found them irresistable from the start.  Here is "The Great Train Robbery" (1903). 

For more on National Train Day and the history of train travel in the US, have a look at these websites.


Caftan Woman said...

I haven't taken a "real" train journey in almost 40 years. My expectations at this point would include a murder mystery as in "The Lady Vanishes", "Sleepers West" and "Lady on a Train". I'm such a romantic!

Stefan said...

Here in the U.K. trains (and train stations) have played an important part in many great films. From The 39 Steps and Night Train To Munich to Brief Encounter and Oh, Mr. Porter! My favourite of all though is Hitchcock's 1938 classic The Lady Vanishes

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

You're right, Stefan, trains have also played an important role in many British films. I haven't seen "The Lady Vanishes" in years, I've got to see that again.

Caftan Woman, my last train trip was a couple years ago, and was very enjoyable. However, like you, I felt somewhat bereft of intrigue. Next time I'm going to at least hire someone to wave a hanky at me as my train pulls out of the station.

John Hayes said...

Oh, so many great train scenes! What fun--I didn't know about National Train Day. Two that pop into my mind are the train scene at the conclusion of Vivacious Lady & the scene when Irene Dunne gets off the train in Theodora Goes Wild.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

That's great, John. I should have asked for favorite train scenes.

Tom said...

Mine is North By Northwest, when Cary Grant meets Eva Marie Saint.

Sally said...

This is sadly overdue but this is a great post! Trains play such a major part in movies. I had no idea there's a National Train Day. I will have to make sure I observe it next year!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, Sally, welcome aboard. I hope National Train Day picks up momentum in years to come. Maybe we could do a "whistle stop tour".

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