“The Train Goes East” is a hugely enjoyable romantic comedy that could still entertain auds today if reissued. Story about a girl and a navy officer forced to travel together from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast, Leonid Malyugin’s witty script bears more than a passing resemblance to Frank Capra’s 1934 “It Happened One Night,” and not only in the couple’s mutual diffidence toward each other.
Story in Yuli Raizman’s pic begins on V-Day, 1945 and the country is coming out of a tragic war. As the two travelers cross the entire Soviet Union by train, plane, horse-drawn buggy and on foot, they find signs of reborn optimism everywhere as people prepare to put the war behind them and make a fresh start.
Zina (Lidia Dranovskaya) is a saucy little blonde who loves to tease; she passes herself off as twice-married to prissy officer Lavrentyev (Leonid Gallis), who shares her sleeping car. At the first stop, he gallantly gets off the train to look for her, and the it leaves without them. A series of adventures takes them east through farming regions, industrial areas, forests and a major seaport. Dranovskaya and Gallis establish terrific chemistry that keeps the amusing script full of surprises up to the obviously happy ending.
Though a huge hit with audiences (16 million admissions), the film didn’t please Stalin, who left in the middle of his screening without explanation. After that, the picture disappeared until after his death. It was released in France as “Rapide Extreme-Orient,” and shown in New York in ’49.