Rome Express is a 1932 British thriller film directed by Walter Forde and starring Esther Ralston and Conrad Veidt. Based on a story by Clifford Grey, with a screenplay by Sidney Gilliat, the film is about a European express train to Rome carrying a variety of characters, including thieves, adulterers, blackmail victims, and an American film star. The film won the American National Board of Review award for Best Foreign Film. Rome Express was remade in 1948 as Sleeping Car to Trieste.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Walter Forde|
|Produced by||Michael Balcon|
|Screenplay by||Sidney Gilliat|
|Story by||Clifford Grey|
|Music by||Leighton Lucas|
|Edited by||Fredrick Y. Smith|
|Distributed by||Gaumont British|
Just as the train departs from Paris, two men, Zurta and his colleague Tom, rush onto the platform and just manage to board the train. They have received information that someone they want to see is on the train. Another passenger, McBain, a wealthy businessman travelling with his brow-beaten secretary/valet Mills, learns that a valuable painting by Van Dyck, which he had previously tried to buy and had later been stolen, has still not been recovered, and he says he would do anything to get hold of it. Also on the train are an adulterous couple, an annoyingly sociable Englishman, a French police officer, and an American film star who is tiring of her fame, accompanied by her manager/publicist.
It transpires that the stolen painting is in the possession of a man, Poole, who conspicuously keeps his briefcase close to him at all times. When he agrees to join a poker game on the train, he finds one of the other players is Zurta, and Poole's reaction shows that they know each other. Poole is disconcerted and carelessly lays down his briefcase, which is later innocently taken away by Mills who has a similar briefcase.
After the poker game ends, Zurta follows Poole to his compartment, forces his way in and confronts Poole, who offers to hand over the painting but finds he has the wrong briefcase. Zurta threatens to throw him from the train and they struggle and Poole is killed.
Meanwhile, McBain discovers in Mills' briefcase the stolen painting which he had wanted to buy. When Poole's body is discovered by a train attendant, the police inspector begins an investigation and interviews all those who have been in contact with Poole. Zurta learns that the briefcases have been switched and tries to recover it from McBain's compartment, but is apprehended by McBain and Mills as the police arrive. Then Mills discovers the stolen painting hidden in McBain's compartment and realizes that McBain found it, and he tries to use it to blackmail McBain, but McBain outwits him and takes it to the police. As the police inspector begins to suspect him, Zurta leaps from the train in an attempt to escape, but is killed.
- Esther Ralston as Asta Marvelle
- Conrad Veidt as Zurta
- Harold Huth as George Grant
- Cedric Hardwicke as Alistair McBain
- Joan Barry as Mrs Maxted
- Gordon Harker as Tom Bishop
- Donald Calthrop as Poole
- Hugh Williams as Tony
- Frank Vosper as M. Jolif
- Finlay Currie as Sam the Publicist
- Eliot Makeham as Mills
Like the post-war remake of this film, Sleeping Car to Trieste, details of the 'back story' of the film are few. Zurta appears to be a professional criminal who organised the art theft. McBain has previously attempted to buy the painting.