Grand Central Murder: Half Hardboiled, Half Hyperbole
S. Sylvan Simon's Grand Central Murder (1942) is a yarn so good you might consider knitting a sweater out of it. It would make a great hand-me-down if it was anything like the movie--which I'd feel more comfortable recommending than a lot of better movies, such as Antonioni's noir-influenced Story of a Love Affair. Grand Central Murder is a comedy about a money-crazed actress found dead in her private train car. Sam Levene plays the detective assigned to the case. He rounds up the usuals--the understudy, the fiancé, the ex-husband, and the maid--as well as Private Dick Van Heflin, seen snooping around the crime scene around the time of the murder. The whole crew gets together and, in between accusations and heart attacks, recalls the downed diva's past life and a thousand reasons why she should be murdered. The conclusion to the tale is wonderfully anti-climactic: it is a quick "in and out" comic touch that differentiates from dramatic spectacle. Many such touches grace the film, including the liquor-starved Levene who is stuck with a dozen bottles of soda (and drinking straws, of course), and the cigar-smoking Swedish masseuse who was the deceased's maid. And then there's Van Heflin, the smart-ass P.I., who with great skill carefully balances hardboiled and hyperbole.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.