Monday, December 14, 2015


It's GRAND HOTEL meets IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT as we follow a group of passengers traveling by bus from New York to San Francisco. Steve is riding with his wife Nita, much to the disgruntlement of his mistress Sue who sits by herself. Norman is the playboy son of a logging company owner—his father is having him brought out to his camp in Seattle to make a man out of him. He and Sue meet cute in the first minutes of the film when, as they arrive at the bus station, her suitcase full of lingerie falls open from the top of a double-decker bus and into Norman's open car below. Murphy has been hired by Norman's father to keep him out of trouble on the bus trip which makes it difficult when he starts to fall for Sue. May is a sweet gold-digger who flirts with the bus driver to get her seat, but later when they change drivers, she has to hit up male passengers for her fare. We find out that Steve and Nita have a racket going where they scan the local obituaries to find relatives of the recently deceased and try to squeeze some money out of them by claiming they're delivering a Bible that the dead relative ordered. There's also Willy, a talkative man who prattles non-stop about all the cities they pass through. In Denver, when Nita keeps making trouble, Steve kills her (with a bow and arrow!) in a department store and props her body up like a mannequin in a store display. The police eventually stop the bus to sort things out, and Steve tries to blame the murder on Sue. Can Norman figure out a way to entrap Steve and clear Sue's name?

This is an enjoyable, fast-paced film, mostly comedic, which will interest pre-Code fans because of the brazenness of the affair between Sue and Steve, and the fact the Sue gets off with a happy ending. The plot keep moving, often into unexpected places, and the acting is quite good: among the actors I knew were Lew Ayres as Norman, Alice White as May, Eugene Pallette as Willy (he makes an especially obnoxious but somehow still likable blowhard), and Alan Dinehart and Minna Gombell as the Steve and Nita. Craig Reynolds has a small role as the first bus driver, June Knight (with whom I am not familiar) is fine as Sue, and the eagle-eyed will catch Walter Brennan and Jane Darwell. White and Ayers are pictured above. [YouTube]

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