In my continual search for obscure train movies, I came across Whispering Smith from 1948. I was able to obtain a good Technicolor print from the Universal DVD collection. It turned out to be sort of Paramount’s rendition of the more famous Union Pacific movie of 1939. Both movies even featured Robert Preston as the hero’s buddy gone bad. Preston really gets to howl in this picture (literally) as will be seen below.
Starring Alan Ladd, as the strong, silent-type railroad troubleshooter, Whispering Smith has a decent portion of railroad scenes for the train buff including the aftermath of a spectacular wreck on the mainline. Time for some shoot outs, hornswoggling and 1880’s railroading. Highball!
Nebraska & Pacific 4-4-0 #19 belches black smoke during a scene from Whispering Smith. This engine was most likely purchased by Paramount from the Virginia & Truckee railroad in Nevada and filmed on the Paramount Ranch back lot.
The fictitious Nebraska & Pacific (whose route map seems to closely follow the actual Union Pacific Railroad) is being plagued by train wrecks and hold ups. None of the trains are getting through unmolested, so Alan Ladd is brought in from back East to remedy the situation.
The Barton gang prepares to board N&P #22 at Coyote Creek and hold up the train; The Barton’s take over the locomotive.
While falling from the cab, Alan Ladd gets off a spectacular hip shot, stopping the hold up; Nice view of the locomotive as Alan Ladd runs back to the train in search of more bandits.
After the shootout, a wounded Alan Ladd wakes up in the arms of his former flame Marian (played by Brenda Marshall…and certainly NOT a librarian…), now tragically the wife of Robert Preston!; Later on, Ladd has it out with Preston at the Roundhouse Saloon about his shady dealings.
Train Wreck! At N&P #22’s staccato whistle blasts, the townsfolk load up the wrecker train and head out to the scene.
Quite a detailed wreck scene complete with mountain background painting; Unloading the lading from the cars — but is it salvage or booty?
Robert Preston loots the train wreck. Soon he is passing out Glaro Cigars and XXX Brandy to the boys. Party on!
Once more Alan Ladd tries to stop Robert Preston from hauling the plunder away to his ranch. Preston responds by having the boys destroy the goods!
Emboldened by the day’s haul, Preston then goes on a rampage derailing trains and stealing the cargo, almost at will; Preston tilts his head back and chortles in triumph. Very nice gold fillings on those molars!
Crates, barrels, burlap sacks, even cattle make great plunder along the Nebraska & Pacific line!
N&P #25 slides its spoked drivers down the track in a vain attempt to stop.
Will Alan Ladd get off his duff and stop Robert Preston? Will virtue triumph over evil? Will the Chicago Cubs ever win another World Series? Well, for the Cubs, the answer is a resounding NO. For Whispering Smith…you’ll just have to find out for yourself! All in all, not a bad picture. Enjoy!
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Here’s what IMDb has to say about Whispering Smith:
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Excellent overview — thanks for posting!
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Whispering Smith was not a copycat of the film, Union Pacific. Rather, Whispering Smith was actually adapted from a novel of the same name written by my great great great Uncle — Frank Spearman. The novel was published in 1906, and it had been adapted into films several times, beginning in the silent movies era. On the other hand, the film Union Pacific was based on a novel called Trouble Shooter, written by Ernest Haycox. It was published in 1936. It’s bad enough that directors and actors seek to grab all the credit for screenplays which they never wrote a word of. (Except for when the movie is a bomb, then — and only then! — they seek to give all the credit to the writer. LOL) So it’s important for film buffs such as yourself to be conscientious about extending the proper credit to the author of the source material.
Info – At least part of Whispering Smith was filmed at the Sierra Railway in Jamestown, California, and I am almost certain that the train pictured is the famous Sierra Number Three. My grandfather, Bill Tremewan, was the master mechanic at that railway (died in 1954) and helped in many film productions. My father, Bob Tremewan (died in 2002) was thirteen or fourteen years old and worked as an extra in a roundhouse scene. He is seen standing in the roundhouse observing some work in progress. He told me that he just happened to be hanging around the roundhouse that day watching another movie being made when he was asked to work in a scene and paid a few dollars. He told me that his sole value in the scene was to stand in front of some piece of modern machinery (modern for the late1940’s, anyway) that would have looked out of place in a western set in the late 1800’s.
Much appreciate your posting. ‘Whispering Smith’ was one of the first railroad films I saw after its release in Britain around 1950, and it was shown on ‘Talking Pictures’ TV in Britain a couple of weeks ago. I thought it very authentic and it still holds up well today. In 1950 I never expected to see this equipment, but several visits to CA and NV in 1980-90s brought me into close contact with Jamestown and V&T 22, lovingly cared for the team at thew Nevada State RR Museum.
Love the comments above – this film was one of the earliest I remember watching on TV as a child (anyone remember ‘Legends of the West’?) No 22, of course, is the V&T ‘Inyo’, star of numerous western movies. The No 18 is actually the V&T’s ‘Dayton’, still wearing the diamond stack she carries in ‘Union Pacific’ and No 25 is yet another V&T engine, a tenwheeler. Thankfully all three, together with No 11, ‘Reno’, and No 12, ‘Genoa’ are still with us. Incidentally, I came across a poster for an earlier film version of ‘Whispering Smith’ once, which looked like a more contemporary, mid-30’s setting for the film. Thanks to films like these, I have an undying love for the classic 4-4-0 locomotives of the old West. My wife says she doesn’t have to watch the flick to know what’s happening – she can tell simply from the music! Ah, those were the days…..