The Tall Target (1951)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Crime, Drama  |  17 August 1951 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,086 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:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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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 »


John Kennedy: Abe Lincoln will be a sitting pigeon for those sharp shooters.
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The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Music by William Steffe
Arranged by Bronislau Kaper
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User Reviews

Intriguing and original movie about a plot(s) to assassinate Lincoln.
23 March 2008 | by (Groningen, The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

Movies mostly set in trains often work out extremely well. It's an enclosed and restrained environment, that creates a feeling of claustrophobia and tension but also with a lot of pace, since the train is always on the move. Just think about other movie examples set- or partly set on trains such as "North by Northwest", "Murder on the Orient Express", "Shanghai Express" and "From Russia with Love". This is a movie that deserves a spot on this list as well.

This is a rather intriguing and original movie concerning plots to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before or during his inauguration as the president. It's based on true fact. There really were several plots being brewed to assassinate Lincoln because of his outspoken opinion against slavery and because he mostly was seen as a friend of the north, among various other reasons. But of course the movie takes lots of liberties with the story, also because nobody really knows what happened really.

The story focuses on a New York police man who suspects that there is plot to kill Lincoln. Only problem for him is his superiors don't believe him and won't take him serious, which is reason for him to take matters into his own hands. Aboard the train to Baltimore, where Lincoln would pass through on his way to Washngton D.C. to be inaugurated, there is a lot of political talk aboard between Lincoln 'fans' and 'haters' and other various characters that act very suspicious. It makes this a good and interesting movie on several levels. It gives a good view into the time and minds of American people who lived in the 1860's and at the same time also gives the movie a tense mysterious/thriller story.

In 1951, action-movies were still non-existent so to speak but this movie at times show some early premises of the genre. It's mostly notable in its pace and toward the ending of the movie.

Interesting detail is that the main character in this movie is named John Kennedy. There always have been a surprising lot of similarities between Abraham Lincoln and the other assassinated US president John F. Kennedy, so the fact that the main character is named John Kennedy in a movie about Abraham Lincoln, 10 years before Kennedy became president is an odd coincidence to say the least. Also one of the plots, as described in this movie, to kill Lincoln in this movie show a surprising amount of similarities to how John F. Kennedy many years later got assassinated.

One of those movies that really deserves to be known better and needs to be seen be more.


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