This gas-fueled locomotive on tires pulled a sound studio, and the
train traveled from city to city promoting new films and screen testing
for potential new stars.
My father, Russ Stewart, was part of the promotions team, which also consisted of people like Eddie Carrier, Terry Turner, Howard Dietz, and Bill Ferguson.
In 1932 my mother, Phyllis Meehan, met and fell in love with my dad. She happily signed on as makeup girl, and together they traveled all around the United States doing advance publicity for the tour. Sometimes they drove to cities a week or more ahead of the train. There, they hosted preliminary promotional events and beauty contests at the local theater. Then, after they had selected the “hopefuls”, they would prep them for their upcoming screen tests.
When the big day arrived, the train would roll into town, surrounded by huge crowds, bell clanging and whistle blowing. It would move slowly down the main street, accompanied by adoring movie fans. MGM had a deal with the local theater, and like the Pied Piper, the little train led fans right to the theater, where interviews were given and visiting MGM stars sometimes gave their support.
The tour organizers definitely knew what they were doing. Creative scheduling found the little MGM train in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras and Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.
I am currently putting together a family memoir which includes stories about the now almost-forgotten Movie Train.
This is essentially an author's query, and I am hopeful that someone reading this will remember hearing about the tour.
Possibly a member of your family or someone you knew was a part of this historical publicity event. I am looking for any information and/or photographs from this brilliant chapter in MGM's early history, and I would be so glad to hear from you.
— Sherry Stewart