If like me you are not overly fussed by film-noir and are even slightly put off by the term then give "Lady on a Train" a try as whilst technically film-noir it is also a wonderful crime comedy which will have you smiling from start to finish. In fact in many ways "Lady on a Train" is more screwball comedy than film-noir and the wonderful Deanna Durbin makes the movie great, well with the aid of a lot of good supporting performances from the likes of Ralph Bellamy and Edward Everett Horton.
On the way to New York on the train, fan of crime fiction Nikki Collins (Deanna Durbin) looks out of her window and spots a man being murdered. With the police thinking she is a time waster Nikki tracks down her favourite crime writer Wayne Morgan (David Bruce) to get his advice in solving the murder.
So "Lady on a Train" is simple, the young Nikki witnesses a murder whilst travelling by train and after the police don't take her seriously sets out to solve it which leads her into various situations including some which are dangerous. That is the thriller part of things but the really focus is on the screwball comedy of Nikki being young, bubbly and energetic as she sets about solving the crime. It is impossible to tell you how funny "Lady on a Train" is because in the first 30 minutes alone it is jammed with so much comedy from visual gags to clever dialogue and snappy banter between characters. And then there is confusion comedy as well as Nikki gets mistaken for someone else whilst sleuthing which also leads to some romance.
Now the reason why "Lady on a Train" works is down to both the writers and director who get it spot on with lots of great dialogue and perfectly time visual gags especially those of the simple variety such as someone hiding behind a door. But the big reason why "Lady on a Train" works is down to the fantastic Deanna Durbin who not only looks pretty and gets to wear a wardrobe full of stylish frocks but whose enthusiasm makes it non stop hilarity. The way she sells a gag is priceless and the look on her face, the mix of naivety and determination makes her such a wonderful character. But Durbin has a wonderful cast to bounce off of with the likes of Ralph Bellamy and Dan Duryea giving her plenty to work with.
What this all boils down to is that if you love screwball comedies "Lady on a Train" is a must watch. It may also be technically film-noir with a crime storyline but the comedy and Deanna Durbin dominates it.