Shamedown #4: Streamline Express

Obscure Train Movies

Our fourth Shamedown, all. I can’t believe May first is TOMORROW. Anywhoo, if anyone would like to find out what a Shamedown is, Cinema Shame’s 2023 announcement post can be found here. Past 2023 Shamedowns can be found here. All righty, here we go…

Ever heard of Victor Jory? He’s probably best known as the overseer-turned-carpetbagger, Jonas Wilkerson in Gone WIth the Wind. It was the kind of part that seemed to be par for the course for him, as he was often cast as unsympathetic types due to his beefy physique, although he did play a lumberjack once.


I always thought Jory was rather underutilized because he was a classically trained actor with theater experience (My favorite role of his is Oberon in 1935’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), so it’s interesting that he was usually typecast as a villain. 1935’s Streamline Express gave him a breather, though, kind of, and he plays opposite the lady who would go on to voice the Blue Fairy in Pinnochio, so that’s cool. Too bad the movie is a stinker.

Jimmy Hart’s (Victor Jory) Broadway show is in rehearsal. It’s a period piece, with everyone in powdered wigs and women in colonial-era dresses and it’s probably going to be great, even if the prop boy falls asleep when he should be working. Problem is, leading lady Patricia Wallace (Evelyn Venable) is about to skip town with her fiancé, Fred Arnold (Ralph Forbes) with the idea of getting married in Santa Barbara and leaving the theater world behind. Jimmy yelled at her in front of the entire company and she’s had it.


Besides, Patricia has important business to attend to. She’s all set to christen a new super-fast, super-luxurious train, the Streamline Express, which can travel from New York to Los Angeles in twenty hours at speeds up to one-hundred sixty miles per hour.

Since the show must go on, Jimmy high-tails it to the train station, but as the launching of the Streamline is so prestigious security is really tight and no one gets in without a ticket. Jimmy tries to buy a ticket but they’re sold out. He tries to pose as a florist making a delivery but a steward takes his arrangements from him and zooms off. He pretends a random child is his son and got in by mistake but the kid doesn’t go along with it. He tries begging. He hides in a luggage cart but gets discovered. Finally Jimmy talks a steward into pretending he has a family emergency so Jimmy can take his place. Whew.


Patricia and Fred aren’t the only people on the maiden voyage of the Streamline. There’s also expectant father Mr. Jones (Vince Barnett) who’s supposed to inherit a fortune as long as his kid is born in California. There’s also John Bradley (Clay Clement) who’s eloping with his mistress Elaine (Esther Ralston), except that John’s wife, Mary (Erin O’Brien-Moore) has also talked her way onto the train and confronts John about his infidelity.

As if all this weren’t enough, Elaine gives a diamond pendant John gave her to an unsavory friend of hers, Gilbert Landon (Sidney Blackmer) because Gilbert not only can’t keep a secret to save his life, but he’s kind of a troublemaker. He’s already figured out there’s something off about Jimmy and he doesn’t mind saying so.


Oh yeah, and Patricia isn’t too jazzed about Jimmy being on board the Streamline. She’s kind of mad about it, actually. All of these little dramas and subplots play out in their own ways, and all the while that fancy new train speeds toward California, bringing everything to what we hope is a startling and positive conclusion.

Eeeep, this movie. The premise is all right and it’s got its cute spots, but there’s so much untapped potential, namely the train itself. When I heard the thing could do one-hundred sixty miles an hour and cover three thousand miles in twenty hours, I thought of that one episode of The Simpsons. I couldn’t help it.

If anyone hasn’t seen “Marge and the Monorail,” I highly recommend it.

Anyway, the Streamline Express is a marvel in more ways than one. It’s the size of a single Pullman car but it has multiple decks, it’s got posh Art Deco detailing everywhere, it’s got a spacious bar and restaurant, and it’s got ten expansive staterooms with plenty of knickknacks on various shelves. Oh, and it glides so smoothly no one acts as if they’re on a train. It’s pretty magical. I kept having to remind myself as the movie went on that the train was still a thing.


It’s a shame the train wasn’t utilized more than it was, but it’s only a footnote and a lame attempt at stake-raising. Anyone hoping for pre-Mission: Impossible suspense isn’t going to find it in Streamline Express. Not only that, but the plot is really clumsy and half the characters have no reason to be anything but background players.

And if the security at the train-launching was so tight, how is it that the press and the other dignitaries got in without tickets? They weren’t on the train.


Not to mention, why would Patricia agree to christen the train at the same time as her dress rehearsal? One would think Jimmy would have known about it, so we can only presume she was offered the task when the ticket office noticed who was going to be on the maiden voyage.

An ensemble cast setup would have been workable and probably funnier for this movie, but no dice. Or the movie could have been an exercise in screwball comedy, with Jimmy gradually making his presence felt and maybe messing with Patricia’s head. They don’t do any of that, and the movie is forgettable as all getout. It didn’t go anywhere at the box office, either, and got more than eclipsed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Victor Jory must have been relieved.


All right, now for this month’s Pick My Movie Tag. The winner is:

Le from Crítica Retrô!

Congrats, Le! The mission, should you choose to accept it, is to review a favorite musical from the 1930s. Here are the tag rules if you haven’t seen them yet. As usual, anyone who wants to jump in on this tag is completely welcome to do so. Enjoy!

Coming up in May (click the image for more info)…


Okeydokey, a new Stage To Screen is on the way Wednesday. Thanks for reading, all, and have a good Sunday…

Streamline Express is available to own on DVD from Amazon, and is free to stream for Prime customers. It can also be seen on YouTube.

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If you’re enjoying what you see on Taking Up Room, please look for additional content on Substack, where you’ll find both free and subscriber-only articles. I publish every Wednesday and Saturday.

2 thoughts on “Shamedown #4: Streamline Express

  1. I did find Victor Jory compelling in Midsummer Night’s Dream, and he’s really interesting in Light of the Western Stars, but I’ve mostly seen him play heavies, which is a shame, as you say here. He’s much too interesting to be wasted in roles menace and threaten all the time. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

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