The Tall Target (1951)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Crime, Drama  |  17 August 1951 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,063 users  
Reviews: 27 user | 12 critic

A New York City detective, traveling by train between New York and Baltimore, tries to foil an on-board plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln before he reaches Baltimore to give a major pre-Inauguration speech in 1861.



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Complete credited cast:
Paula Raymond ...
Ginny Beaufort
Colonel Caleb Jeffers
Lance Beaufort
Rachel - Slave Maid
Richard Rober ...
Lt. Coulter
Homer Crowley -Train Conductor
Florence Bates ...
Mrs. Charlotte Alsop


The historical fact of a possible assassination attempt on the President-Elect Abraham Lincoln makes the movie very interesting. The drama comes from a fictitious New York police sergeant discovering the plot and boarding the last train to Washington, DC, to protect the new president to be. Dick Powell does a very good job using deduction and logic to find who on the train could be conspirators. He is foiled at different times but manages to succeed even when the conspirators have caught him. The movie's action takes place mostly on the train and the effects of travelling are well done. Historically, several states have already seceded from the union and that included Virginia. That's why Lincoln had to travel to Washington, DC, through Maryland, also a slave state. When he was taking his own "Inaugural Train" the plan was to kill Lincoln in Baltimore during a long stop but Lincoln's supporters did some slight of hand to sneak him on board the last train to the capital. Maybe not ... Written by Zack Rinderer

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Release Date:

17 August 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Man on the Train  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The names of all the stations mentioned in the film on the line as the train travels south out of New York would be familiar to a traveler on the modern Northeast Corridor as they are still used by Amtrak, except for Darby Junction which is a now a station on the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's Wilmington/Newark regional rail line. Their placement in the film is geographically accurate - Darby Junction would have been the first place the train could have stopped south of Philadelphia. See more »


The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Music by William Steffe
Arranged by Bronislau Kaper
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User Reviews

Lincoln makes a "tall target"
21 June 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The Tall Target," about a plot to kill Lincoln before his inauguration, is a compact little film directed by Anthony Mann and starring Dick Powell, Adolphe Menjou, Marshall Thompson, and Ruby Dee. Powell plays John Kennedy, a detective and admirer of the future President who finds out about an assassination plot and hopes to stop it, although his written report seems to fall on blind eyes. On board a train, Kennedy finds the person he was to meet is dead, someone is impersonating him, and, from all the political talk, there are lots of suspects who hate Lincoln as the country gets ready for war.

Most of the action takes place on the train and the atmosphere and black and white cinematography neatly capture the period. The performances are all excellent, including that of Will Geer as the train conductor and Ruby Dee as a young slave whose mistress' brother (Thompson) is a prime suspect in the assassination plot. Twenty years earlier, Dick Powell was a boy tenor playing male ingénues opposite Ruby Keeler; in the '40s, he turned to tough detective type roles, and ultimately became a highly successful producer. He's very good in "The Tall Target" but a little too modern in manner and dialogue delivery. It's somewhat noticeable because the period is captured very well by the other actors.

This is a very good movie with a neat ending and based on a true incident. There was, by the way, a John Kennedy who was a former law enforcement officer who served in the Lincoln administration. Whether he was involved in this situation, I don't know. It's a wonderful story nonetheless.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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No one has commented on this yet... mlknchz
Will Geer and some food for thought........... jimjoejohnmoore
Kennedy's clothes rdkaram
great seeing this knowing Geer's progressive credentials danielj_old999
Who portrayed the little boy on the train? Sheila_Beers
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