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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