Leslie Charteris Oddity: Lady on a Train

Monday, September 15, 2008

A bunch of buddies hereabouts maintains a movie club. Once a month we get together for lunch, pick a movie to watch in the ensuing month, circulate DVDs of that movie, and spend the following month's lunch discussing (or failing to discuss) that pick.

This time around, we picked the Deanna Durbin film Lady on a Train (1945), which I had wanted to see for some time, having bought the paperback at an earlier point. The back cover of the paperback, signed "The Publishers," was clearly written by the publisher -- but that happened to be author Leslie Charteris (1907-1993) himself. Of interest to me when I bought the used copy was that it was a non-Saint mystery (though, despite what the cover copy says, it does have one passing reference to Simon Templar).

In any case, the short novel has another distinction, outlined by mystery writer Charteris inside the front cover. (See left.) And I embarked on the most sensible method of consumption: I watched the movie first, then read the book. And found massive changes in the story.

And, yes, the story in the novel is an improvement over the story in the film. Charteris added several new characters and better defined the Deanna Durbin character's motivation for being where she is and doing what she does.

On the other hand, he deleted one of the major characters in the film: mystery writer "Wayne Morgan," who becomes involved in attempts to solve the puzzle. Played by David Bruce (1916-1976), Morgan is reduced almost to comedy-relief status at times, as Durbin's character barrels ahead relentlessly to untangle the threads of where and when and how and who. But an additional gag (whether from the screenwriters or Charteris) is that Bruce bears a startling resemblance to Charteris himself.

If you find this interesting enough to pursue, the film is on a set of Durbin DVDs titled Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack. On the other hand, the book isn't as accessible. I find a few on Amazon, starting at (yikes!) $52.39, and bookfinder.com starts at $56.38 and ranges as high as $114.25. It apparently only had the one edition: a saddle-stitched paperback. Maybe it's time for Universal to bring out a collector's edition of the movie and the book in a single package? Just a thought ...


Anonymous,  August 17, 2012 at 8:15 PM  

How does the reference to Templar occur?

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