Movie Review: Murder in the Private Car (1934)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1934 mystery/comedy starring Charles Ruggles and Mary Carlisle.

Synopsis: A Los Angeles switchboard operator discovers she is the kidnapped daughter of a railroad tycoon and, after a failed attempt on her life, travels to New York by train to meet her father. However, the train trip has been set up by whoever wants her dead and it is up to an uninvited eccentric sleuth to keep her alive.


I came across this film on one of my movie channels a few days ago and, figuring it would be an entertaining way to spend a lunch hour or two, decided to record it. I started watching the movie yesterday afternoon and finished it at lunch today. After seeing it, I have to say I was kind of disappointed by it.

I'm not necessarily opposed to mystery/comedies. But, in the case of this movie, the mystery really took a back seat to the latter. The film consisted mostly of the sleuth, Godfrey F. Scott (Ruggles) making a lot of jokes and hitting on women. Plus, there was a strange and kind of dumb part of the movie involving an escaped gorilla getting on board the train that had absolutely nothing to do with main plot.

The mystery, in comparison, consisted of a strange voice, a dead body and zero clues. And, even then, it was pretty easy to figure out who was behind it all.

Not helping the movie was the fact a lot of the comedy was severely dated. This is especially true of the scenes with the car porter (Toones), which were mostly racially oriented to the point it made me feel much more uncomfortable than entertained (probably because I'm from a younger generation).

I also wasn't overly impressed with the ending, which consisted of a very drawn-out runaway train car scene that basically defied the laws of physics and left me wondering if it would ever end. In all honesty, between that, the gorilla and several other drawn-out scenes, I think this movie was about 75 percent filler material.

Murder In The Private Car

Good news: Switchboard operator Ruth Raymond (Mary Carlisle) is the long-lost daughter of a railroad tycoon. Bad news: The cross-country train trip she takes to claim her birthr...

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Final Opinion

I usually have a lot of success with classic films, especially murder mysteries. But, this one was a dud and I would not recommend it.

My Grade: D

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Updated: 11/26/2018, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/29/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
What a disappointment to hear about the problems with a movie that has such an intriguing title!

Would the film have worked better with your suggested changes, or would it always be a hopeless cause?

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