Cast & Crew
In Chicago, film director Ivan Ivanski and his star April Tremaine, board the New York-bound Broadway Limited express train for a quick publicity tour. Before leaving Chicago, Ivan tells April that his newest attention-grabbing idea is for her to have a baby. April, a Midwestern girl with high morals, rejects the idea. Ivan nonetheless orders his secretary, Patsy Riley, to obtain a child before they arrive in New York, and Patsy calls her friend, Maurice "Mike" Monohan, an engineer on the train and asks for his help. A man overhears Mike discuss the proposition in a diner and, enticed by the $500 offered, delivers a baby to him. The Chicago press goes crazy when they see April with a child at the train station, and at the same time, newspaper headlines report the kidnapping of the Pierson baby. Ivan, April and Patsy re-board the Broadway Limited, unaware that a man named Lefty is now following them. After Mike goes into the engine car and brags that he will become a passenger as soon as they reach their next stop, Myra Pottle, the scatterbrained president of the April Tremaine fan club, joins Patsy and Ivan on board to report on the star for her fan magazine. April, meanwhile, runs into her childhood sweetheart, Dr. Harvey North, when she goes to the bar to get milk for the baby, and later admits to Patsy that she still loves Harvey, who gave her up because of her career. Patsy tells Ivan about Harvey, and Ivan panics that he will lose his star to marriage and thereby lose his own income. Harvey does not believe April's story that the baby is not hers, and they argue in the dining car until Ivan finally admits the truth. Mike then joins the train as a passenger, but becomes worried when he reads a newspaper report about the Pierson baby kidnapping. Lefty follows Mike to April's cabin to check on the baby, and Mike panics when he realizes the baby looks like the Pierson child. Harvey, meanwhile, apologizes to April and tells Ivan about his dream of opening a clinic. Ivan convinces Harvey to again give up April so he will not hurt her career, and frustrated, April then insists that Patsy and Myra take care of the baby. The train stops unexpectedly when railroad officials commandeer the Limited's powerful engine car to pull another train and help evacuate a flooded town. While stopped, Mike tells Patsy his fears, then leaves the baby in a stationmaster's office. When railroad superintendent Mulcahy expresses his doubts to Mike that the smaller engine car they are given can pull the Limited, Mike challenges him to be his fireman, and they get the train steaming against the odds. Lefty, meanwhile, retrieves the baby and returns it to April's room while she is asleep. Myra awakens and panics when she discovers the baby is gone and has the conductor wire ahead to the Harrisburg police. When April tells Ivan that she is through with pictures and is marrying Harvey. Ivan, fearful of losing April, gives Harvey a contract, agreeing to pay for the clinic. Ivan's entourage then successfully hides the baby from the police in Harrisburg, but Myra, an avid listener of the "Renfrew of the Mounted" radio show, develops a crush on the policemen who are dressed like "mounties." At the Philadelphia stop, two more passengers join Lefty, and he assures them that everything has gone as planned. Ivan's entourage worries that they will be arrested for kidnapping when they reach New York, but Myra tells them that they are heroes because they rescued the Pierson baby. Just then, however, they realize that Lefty has stolen the baby. When the train reaches New York, Patsy announces to the press that they have found the Pierson baby and its kidnappers, but is informed that the baby has already been recovered. Lefty admits that he is the baby's father, and that he went along with the ruse so that he could pay for a family reunion with Mike's money. After Patsy quits working for Ivan in order to marry Mike, Harvey and April run off together. They later realize, however, that Ivan's contract stipulates that Harvey's clinic will be located across the street from the studio. Myra then hungrily follows a mounted policeman.
George E. Stone
Gay Ellen Dakin
J. Farrell Macdonald
R. H. Flynn
Hal Roach Jr.
W. L. Stevens
The star Roach tried to create was Marjorie Woodworth, a blonde beauty he was grooming to become the next Jean Harlow. After a few walk-ons, she had signed with Hal Roach Productions, where she started out with a supporting role in 1941's Road Show, which also featured Broadway Limited co-stars Patsy Kelly and George E. Stone. She followed with her first leading role, as a rising star riding the "Broadway Limited" from Chicago to New York. Her producer (Leonid Kinskey) arranges to borrow a baby for a publicity stunt, only to get them all implicated in a high-speed kidnapping investigation.
To provide the right setting for his new star, Roach surrounded her with experienced comic players like Oscar®-winner Victor McLaglen (Best Actor, The Informer, 1935), as the railroad engineer who helps find the baby, Kelly as the producer's secretary, ZaSu Pitts as the president of Woodworth's fan club and Stone as a mystery man with eyes on Woodworth and the baby. Kelly and Pitts were Roach regulars, having co-starred at different times with Thelma Todd in a series of popular comic shorts. Former vaudevillian Stone had worked steadily in films since playing the Sewer Rat in Seventh Heaven in 1927, most notably as New York street types. He would be best remembered as The Runt, the comic side kick he started playing in the Boston Blackie films that year.
Leading man Dennis O'Keefe may have had a Roach connection of his own, though some sources question reports that as a teenager he contributed gags to Roach's "Our Gang" shorts. More recently, he had been working his way up to supporting roles, mostly in low-budget pictures, with a special knack for breakneck farce.
And that's just what Broadway Limited was. In its tidy 75-minute running time, the baby changed hands numerous times as Woodworth and her entourage tried to dodge suspected kidnappers and federal agents. The New York Times critic noted that "...the various characters fly wildly about, as if Donald Duck were behind them." Unfortunately, it also noted that the film seemed a little too similar to Twentieth Century (1934), which had involved John Barrymore and Carole Lombard in a similarly speedy train ride to much better effect. That unfortunate comparison did a great deal to damage Broadway Limited's critical reception.
As a result, Woodworth's career never took off. The Times critic noted, "For the record, this film marks the emergence of the widely-heralded Miss Marjorie Woodworth as a leading lady. For the record only; no other reason." Although praised for her figure, which was amply displayed in various degrees of undress, Woodworth did not make a strong impression on moviegoers. Roach continued to star her in his comic films for three years, after which she moved on to smaller roles at other studios before fading from sight.
More enduring was the career of the steam engine used in the film. Roach had secured the cooperation of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the principal locomotive featured on screen proved so photogenic that it kept turning up in films for decades afterwards, most notably as an historical engine in the turn-of-the-century set for Hello, Dolly! (1969). In the '70s, it was finally retired, but remains on display in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
Producer: Hal Roach
Director: Gordon Douglas
Screenplay: Rian James
Cinematography: Henry Sharp
Score: Charles Previn Art Direction: Nicolai Remisoff Principal Cast: Victor McLaglen (Mike), Marjorie Woodworth (April), Dennis O'Keefe (Dr. Harvey North), Patsy Kelly (Patsy), ZaSu Pitts (Myra), Leonid Kinskey (Ivan), George E. Stone (Lefty), Eddie Acuff (Engineer's Assistant), George Chandler (Photographer at Train), Gibson Gowland (Café Customer).
by Frank Miller
Opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: "In grateful acknowledgement to the Pennsylvania Railroad for their cooperation in the making of this picture." Some opening credits were obtained from a cutting continuity deposited with copyright records. Although a April 26, 1940 Film Daily news item reported that Hal Roach was planning a film titled Broadway Limited, based on a story by Grover Jones, with Victor McLaglen and Victor Mature as the leads and Richard Wallace as director, the relationship between that project and the film released has not been ascertained.