Danger Lights (August 21, 1930)

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Danger Lights
 

Released on August 21, 1930: A railroad thriller including historic footage of old steam railroads, with lovely Jean Arthur as the center of attraction between two tough railroad men.

Produced by William LeBaron

Directed by George B. Seitz

The Actors: Louis Wolheim (Dan Thorn), Robert Armstrong (Larry Doyle), Jean Arthur (Mary Ryan), Hugh Herbert (Professor, hobo), Frank Sheridan (Ed Ryan), Robert Edeson (Engineer Tom Johnson), Alan Roscoe (Jim, General Manager), William P. Burt (chief dispatcher), Jim Farley (Joe Geraghty), James Donlan (picnic barker), Frank Mills (hobo), Lee Phelps (railroad worker)

 

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Guest Review by Frank M. Roberts

For starters, let me let you know that this is 'A-number one entertainment.' There is a love story floating around but, for the most part, that's not what moviegoers wanted to see; They wanted to see 'ye olde' trains, and this movie shows them off beautifully. It is 10-star entertainment.

The flick dates back to the early '30s when those big, beautiful, noisy, smoky steam engines ran across America. The railroad scenes are so doggone impressive you will want to do what I did - turn the film back on and start all over again.

There are so many scenes that are so impressive, including the train in a swift-moving run to Chi-Town. Its lone passenger is quite sick and, naturally, no local docs have the equipment to handle his case. The odds of getting to that 'dawdling town' are not in the choo-choo's favor. The viewer can take it from there.

More excitement: The 'down 'n out' battle between two locomotives pushing against each other in a tug of war to see who can cross the line first. That has been done before but with lowly human beings.

The authentic scenes in the rail yard are massive and fascinating. I lived several miles from the old Sunnyside, Long Island yards and can testify that the look is for real. (We had the added attractions of some subway cars thrown in); The scenes of the men doing their every day jobs on the massive engines are grabbers; Any and all scenes involving the locomotive: They are what moviegoers want to see, and such scenes dominate the movie.

To deviate. Of course, there has to be a love story - and that has to involve two very different types of the male species. The men are vying for Jean Arthur's attention (and who wouldn't vy?). In one corner we have the dapper looking, nattily dressed Robert Armstrong going against the rough-looking Louis Wolheim.

He is a pal of her daddy's and all concerned just know that 'he' and 'she' will eventually become one and, just maybe - might give birth to little engineers; Wolheim, best known for his excellent role in "All Quiet On the Western Front," plays his part to the hilt. It's the old 'mean-but-with-a-heart-of-gold' syndrome.

Armstrong who, in those years, seemed to be in, at least, every other movie, is on the sidelines at first but, as you might well imagine, he becomes the main man.

As I noted - that is the plot involving human beings. Miss Arthur only shows signs of the darling girl who is later to become - and rightfully so - a box-office favorite.

Getting back to what you most want to see - the movie opens with an engine chugging away and moving swiftly in your face. It is exciting to watch and the excitement never lets up.

Trains have been a favorite topic since movies began, but "Danger Lights" is top of the list. The sights and sounds of trains coming and going are photographed wonderfully. There are documentary shots mixed with the Hollywood offerings - and it is a mix that really works.

Another scene to look for - and this had been done so many times before and after - is Mr. Armstrong getting his foot caught in locked tracks, and the train is bearing down. Hold your breath for that one.

Of course, there has to be comedy relief and Hugh Herbert, who was also the movie's dialogue director, is in and out for no particular reason.

But, do what they did in the movie - clear the tracks so that the mercy train can get to Chicago in record time. Speaking of time, the movie is just over an hour long, but the time speeds by. Let's say it goes as fast as a speeding train. (chortle- chortle).

To re-iterate - if you like train movies, you will love "Danger Lights" and, you might be surprised how wonderful and well done this movie is, considering its age. Let's face it - smoke-belching locomotives are more interesting and more fun, than are today's hip, speedy, clean counterparts.

An interesting thing is Jean Arthur's house, where she lives with poppa. It is just a few feet from the tracks and they can watch the trains go by from their own backyard.

Gotta keep the trains moving, and no train movie moves as swiftly as "Danger Lights." Watch it, and see for yourself.

Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Robert Armstrong, Jean Arthur and Louis Wolheim
Robert Armstrong, Jean Arthur and Louis Wolheim
Frank Sheridan
Frank Sheridan
Frank Sheridan and Louis Wolheim
Frank Sheridan and Louis Wolheim
Frank Sheridan
Frank Sheridan
Hugh Herbert and Louis Wolheim
Hugh Herbert and Louis Wolheim
Hugh Herbert
Hugh Herbert
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur dancing with Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur dancing with Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur and Robert Armstrong
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur
Jim Farley and Louis Wolheim
Jim Farley and Louis Wolheim
Jim Farley and Robert Armstrong
Jim Farley and Robert Armstrong
Louis Wolheim
Louis Wolheim
Louis Wolheim and Alan Roscoe
Louis Wolheim and Alan Roscoe
Louis Wolheim and Frank Sheridan
Louis Wolheim and Frank Sheridan
Louis Wolheim and Frank Sheridan
Louis Wolheim and Frank Sheridan
Louis Wolheim and Jean Arthur
Louis Wolheim and Jean Arthur
Louis Wolheim and Jim Farley
Louis Wolheim and Jim Farley
Louis Wolheim and Robert Armstrong
Louis Wolheim and Robert Armstrong
Louis Wolheim and Hugh Herbert
Louis Wolheim and Hugh Herbert
Louis Wolheim
Louis Wolheim
Robert Armstrong
Robert Armstrong
Robert Armstrong and Jean Arthur
Robert Armstrong and Jean Arthur
Robert Armstrong and Jean Arthur
Robert Armstrong and Jean Arthur
Robert Armstrong and Louis Wolheim
Robert Armstrong and Louis Wolheim
Robert Armstrong
Robert Armstrong
Robert Armstrong kisses Jean Arthur
Robert Armstrong kisses Jean Arthur
Robert Armstrong and Louis Wolheim
Robert Armstrong and Louis Wolheim
Robert Armstrong
Robert Armstrong
Robert Edeson and Louis Wolheim
Robert Edeson and Louis Wolheim
Robert Edeson and Louis Wolheim
Robert Edeson and Louis Wolheim