Silver Streak (1976): Arthur Hiller’s Buddy Comedy, Starring Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor

Arthur Hiller directed Silver Streak, a buddy comedy thriller about a murder on a Los Angeles-to-Chicago train journey, starring Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, and Richard Pryor.

The supporting cast includes Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty, Clifton James, and Richard Kiel.

This film marked the first pairing of Wilder and Pryor, who would be paired in three more films.

Book publisher George Caldwell, en route to a wedding aboard the Silver Streak, meets salesman Bob Sweet and Hilly Burns, secretary to Rembrandt historian Professor Schreiner.

While sharing nightcaps in Hilly’s sleeper car, George sees Schreiner’s body fall from the train outside her window. Investigating Schreiner’s train compartment, George encounters Johnson, Whiney, and Reace, toughs who have ransacked Schreiner’s belongings. Reace throws George off the train.

After walking along the tracks, George meets a farmer and they overtake the train in her biplane.

George sees Hilly with art dealer Roger Devereau and his employees Johnson (impersonating Schreiner), and Whiney. Devereau apologizes to George for the misunderstanding involving Reace, also under his employ. Sweet reveals himself to be an undercover FBI agent named Stevens. The bureau has been investigating Devereau, a criminal who passes himself off as an art expert.

Deverau’s plan is to discredit Schreiner’s book that would expose Devereau for authenticating forgeries as original Rembrandts. Inside Schreiner’s book, George finds letters written by Rembrandt that would prove Devereau’s guilt. Reace kills Stevens, thinking he is George. A fight ends on the roof of the train, where George shoots Reace before being knocked off by a train signal.

George is captured but he and Hilly are rescued from Devereau’s room by Grover, disguised as a steward. After a shootout, George and Grover jump off the train and are arrested. They meet Federal Agent Donaldson, former partner to Stevens, he tells George and Grover that the police knew all along that George didn’t kill Stevens, the police were only trying to protect George from Devereau and Donaldson made up the story in the news about Stevens’ murder. After George explains Devereau’s plan, Donaldson has the train stopped. Devereau burns the Rembrandt letters.

George boards with Grover as Devereau climbs onto the locomotive and shoots the fireman. Whiney is wounded by Donaldson and kicked off the train by Devereau. George shoots Johnson and Devereau shoots the engineer, placing a toolbox on the switch to keep the engine running. Devereau is disabled by shots from George and Donaldson and meets his end by an oncoming freight train.

George uncouples the runaway train from the passenger cars. The engine roars into Chicago’s Central Station, destroying everything in its path. The passenger cars follow, gliding safely into the station. Grover steals a Fiat X1/9 and drives away. George and Hilly leave together.

Gene Wilder as George Caldwell
Jill Clayburgh as Hildegarde ‘Hilly’ Burns
Richard Pryor as Grover T. Muldoon
Patrick McGoohan as Roger Devereau
Ned Beatty as FBI Agent Bob Stevens / Bob Sweet
Clifton James as Sheriff Oliver Chauncey
Gordon Hurst as Deputy ‘Moose’
Ray Walston as Edgar Whiney
Scatman Crothers as Porter Ralston
Len Birman as FBI Agent Donaldson
Lucille Benson as Rita Babtree
Stefan Gierasch as Professor Arthur Schreiner / Johnson
Valerie Curtin as Plain Jane
Richard Kiel as Reace
Fred Willard as Jerry Jarvis
Ed McNamara as Benny
Henry Beckman as Conventioneer
Harvey Atkin as Conventioneer
Robert Culp as FBI Agent (uncredited)
J.A. Preston as Waiter (uncredited)