I realize it was mere fiction. But there’s a part of me that, every time I’m in Chicago’s Union Station, wants to go find the spot where the train locomotive crashed its way off the tracks and into the station lobby in the film “Silver Streak.”
That 1976 film was the first of several that paired up the duo of comedian Richard Pryor with actor Gene Wilder. Its storyline of Wilder’s character seeing a murder occur on a Los Angeles-to-Chicago passenger train is a bit ridiculous. But the two did show a natural pairing that was enhanced four years later in “Stir Crazy.”
AND YOU HAVE to admit, that finale scene of the train crash into the lobby is something you don’t forget. That and something like the scene in “Running Scared” where we see bags of cocaine being dumped all over the floor of the Thompson Center state government building – thereby upsetting a youthful actor Jimmy Smits who played the heavy in that particular film? Yet another image that pops into my head every time I have reason to set foot in the state building.
Along with that old Mount Prospect squad car jumping over the 95th Street bridge in "The Blues Brothers," that would be a "top three" in my mind. It’s scary that some of the images of Chicago that stick most closely in my head are things that never really happened – even though I can picture every lasting detail.
Anyway, all these images are what popped into my head when I learned Tuesday of the death this week of Wilder -- whose career may well extend beyond those films he made with Peoria native Pryor. Particularly that train crash!
Yet they are among the bits of cinema that I truly can never tire of, finding myself stopping to watch them anytime I happen to be flipping through the mass of channels of programming we now have to pick from and stumble across them.