Union Station (1950) Chicago Train Station In Ransom Film Noir

Union Station (1950) blu ray box cover artwork william holden

This is the start of some more straight to the point reviews. They will probably all end up being Film Noir. Each time I see another one I wanna do a review post but as I usually waffle a bit I thought it’ll be good to work out a structured system to get me to the point. Hope you like. So without further ado here I bring you Union Station

What’s going down?

A speeding car tailing a cloud of dust arrives at a train station. Two dodgy looking guys exiting from either side. Both take up different positions on the train. A female passenger glimpses a side arm. Apprehensive she informs the train guard. Soon a tough Detective is on the case. A case that will involve the kidnapping of a young girl and a ransom.

Where’s it set?

The film’s main action is set within the walls of the giant train terminal of Chicago’s Union Station. With scenes spilling out onto the streets, on trains, down alleyways and railway sidings.

The main players

William Holden – Lt William Calhoun
Nancy Olson – Joyce Willecombe
Barry Fitzgerald – Inspector Donnelly
Allene Roberts – Lorna Murchison
Herbert Heyes – Henry Murchison
Jan Sterling – Marge Wrighter
Lyle Bettger – Joe Beacom

Union Station (1950) Barry Fitzgerald Inspector Donnelly William Holden Lt William Calhoun

Sure I’ve seen them in something?

William Holden is the big cheese in Union Station. You would’ve seen him in countless brilliant films, here’s four. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957), Stalag 17 (1953), Sunset Boulevard (1950) and the The Wild Bunch (1969)
I don’t know Nancy Olson apart from she also starred in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Jan Sterling has popped up in a few films I’ve featured on here like Mystery Street (1950) and Caged (1950). Most will know she’s most excellent in the Billy Wilder’s brilliant drama Ace In The Hole (1951) with Kirk Douglas.
Barry Fitzgerald is one fun guy. He is so suited to these chief inspector movies. He is superb in The Naked City (1948) and also And Then There Were None (1945).  Please feel free to recommend more from him.

Union Station (1950) William Holden Lt William Calhoun Nancy Olson Joyce Willecombe

Notes on production?

Directed by Rudolph Maté. He made the end of the world science fiction tale, When Worlds Collide (1951) and that rather brilliant film noir with Edmond O’Brien in D.O.A. Most will know Rudolph (not me as I’m learning all the time) is probably more known for his amazing work as a cinematographer and director of photography. So you know you are in safe hands for lots of crazy cool camera shots of dark lit corridors.

Union Station is based on a novel by Thomas Walsh called Nightmare In Manhattan. Which had New York City’s Grand Central Station as the center piece for the action. Just to make things a little weird they changed the movie setting to become Chicago Union Station but actually filmed Los Angeles Union Station as the location.

Hits like a sledge hammer

There’s a few big moments of wow. The large squad of menacing men in fedoras and a shocking interrogation scene. There’s also an off screen punch of a female character with just the noise alone making you go “oh shiiit!“. Generally all the hostage scenes are brutal. If you like tunnels and a shoot out you’re in for a treat. Oh and COWS!

Cutting remarks

Don’t ever call me Willy!
She’ll go home…if they ever fish her out of the river.
I may have to beat your brains out
That’s it scream, Cookie. No one is ever gonna hear you down here!
I’ll break any man who takes his eyes off that suitcase.
The people you have to deal with are lice

Union Station (1950) squad of menacing men in fedoras 2


This is one cool film. BUT first you gotta get over the coincidence of the beginning of the story. Once past that it’s just great to watch Lt. William Calhoun wander on down through his station. Stopping everyday crooks as the bigger drama unfolds before him. Watching all his men fill the unique architecture of the station alongside the little Irishman Inspector Donnelly sprouting words of wisdom and orders at every turn. You get stake-outs, suspenseful tails, one of which is on the elevated train line and is especially good. It’s got brutal interrogation, shocking violence and what we love seeing in film noir, many cool backdrop camera angles of vents, pipes, alleyways and tunnels all lit up in beautiful black and white.

With a fast paced run-time of 80 minutes. This exciting film is perfect for a work night.

Rating score

Wolfman’s rating 8.5/10      IMDB 6.8/10

16 thoughts on “Union Station (1950) Chicago Train Station In Ransom Film Noir

  1. Man oh man, so many changes, I’m hardly recognizing the place! 😉 I’m good with either format, so whichever direction you decide on, I’ll be there.

    As you know, I’m a big fan of noir, and Union Station is no exception, and I like it especially for its train station setting and, yes, its unexpected brutality. I was hoping for more shots of period trains, but hey, you can’t have everything. And it’s funny, I ALWAYS think of it as being set in Los Angeles; I’ve been to LA’s Union Station so many times, there’s no way they can fool me into thinking I’m in Chicago!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Todd. Had to device a way to do quicker reviews. I have so many starting to stack up on my “watched list” which I loved and wanna do a post on but just can’t find the time. Still gonna do the longer ones at the weekend. Got a prison one from my youth coming in a couple of reviews time.

      Mate thats so freaking cool you been to the LA Union Station many of times. I’ve been looking at photos of it. It’s a strange building. Love the total mix up of Art Deco and Mission Revival architecture. It’s so unique looking. I can see myself sitting in awe in that building. I so need to visit your wonderful country one day soon.


      • I hate to make you even more jealous but…I’ve boarded and disembarked trains at LA’s Union Station! I’ve also done the same in Chicago, at Union Station (and yes, I walked down the ‘Odessa Steps’ from ‘The Untouchables’), and I’ve explored Grand Central in New York. I lived in San Diego for years, and they’ve got a cool downtown station, too.

        And I know EXACTLY what you mean about reviews piling up; a few weeks back I had to finally throw away about fifty reviews worth of notes, that dated back several years and had long since become moldy (figuratively speaking).

        Liked by 1 person

        • LOL “moldy (figuratively speaking” I know actually what you mean. My note pad is unreadable. I tend to scribble mad nonsense in the dark without moving my eyes from the screen. It kind of makes sense after the film finishes but a week later they have turned into an alien language. Pure gobbledygook!
          I don’t put the films I wanna do posts on in the monthly round ups. So they sit waiting to appear. Now there’s loads I’m just never gonna get to them. Shame you had to throw them. Though I understand why. Hopefully you can start a fresh when time frees ups a little Todd. 🙂


        • Well I never. I’m completely blown away. Just watched “Odessa Steps” on YT. Not only can I not believe that The Untouchables scene was copied from a 1925 Soviet film but further more HOW BRUTAL is that film’s footage. I could feel myself starting to well up. Horrifying. What a factoid drop! Todd. Gonna take me while to get off the floor.

          PS don’t worry I’m not jealous at all of you visiting all those amazing train stations. Wailing and tears, sobs and cry’s. Tries blaming it on the Soviet film but can’t get the words out past sobbing. Yeah I’m well Jell

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This one is indeed a great Noir and another notch on Holden’s gunbelt for a job well done. Great pick. Now on to Barry Fitzgerald who was a scene stealer of the first class. Not to be missed are his trio of films with Bing Crosby. Going My Way for which he won the Oscar, Top O’ the Morning and Welcome Stranger. Then there’s The Quiet Man with The Duke as well which some say is Ford’s best film next to Searchers and it’s hard to disagree.
    Carry on with the Noir fest.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve walked in Todd’s footsteps, I think! Only been to Union Station here in LA a few times but I loved it. It really makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time or you’re in a movie. Same with Grand Central in NYC, where I lived for seven years. In NYC–not in Grand Central Station. [rim shot] [scattered laughs]
    They’re such beautiful buildings, totally imbued with texture and history.
    Thanks for the review. I don’t remember this one but I love Holden. The sound of the lady getting smacked off-screen—OMG, don’t let the SJW get wind of that scene. They’ll probably try to retroactively boycott the film!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a shocker of a scene. Sometimes not seeing things somehow make them worse. These noir dramas utilize such scenes so well. Very effective in there shock value.
      Maybe like Slim Whitman’s “Indian Love Call” saved the world! Possibly we could somehow join all these trigger scenes together from old movies into some form of audio broadcast. Any SJWs too sensitive might get to explode like all the aliens in Mars Attacks? Just saying! 🙂


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