7.3/10
1,249
32 user 13 critic

The Tall Target (1951)

Approved | | Adventure, Crime, Drama | 17 August 1951 (USA)
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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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Ginny Beaufort
...
Colonel Caleb Jeffers
...
Lance Beaufort
...
Rachel - Slave Maid
...
Lt. Coulter
...
Stranger
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Homer Crowley - Train Conductor
...
Mrs. Charlotte Alsop
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Storyline

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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Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

17 August 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Man on the Train  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In 1861 the train would have traveled on a number of different short line railroads to get from New York to Washington (the Philadelphia & Trenton; the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore; the Baltimore and Washington, etc.); the Philadelphia, Washington & Baltimore Railroad was not formed until 1902 and it was still in existence (on paper) until 1976. Obviously the filmmakers kept the name consistent to provide continuity and to avoid having to repaint the engine and cars after every few shots. See more »

Goofs

Several of the firearms appear to be out of date. One obvious example of this is the Remington Model 95 pistol, which was released over 4 years after this story was set. See more »

Quotes

Rachel - Slave Maid: Freedom isn't a thing you should be able to give me, Miss Ginny. Freedom is something I should have been born with.
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits S l o w l y roll up from the bottom of the screen, over a background of a train station. The word "TALL" is extra tall.. and the credits are followed by: Ninety years ago, a lonely traveler boarded the night train from New York to Washington DC and when he reached his destination, his passage had become a forgotten chapter in the history of the United States. This motion picture is a dramatization of that disputed journey. See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
Railroad noir
3 November 2002 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Train movies are usually kind of fun. Everything is tick-tocking back and forth while the train is underway, so there is a sense of constant motion, of imminence in each scene. Also, you get to see the scenery flashing by, which you don't see in an airplane or aboard a ship. And the train can make multiple stops, with something new cropping up each time, opportunities and missed opportunities, which is likewise difficult with airplanes and ships. The train, further, encloses spaces with varied characteristics -- there are seats, compartments, sleeping berths with curtains drawn across them, dining cars, an observation platform on the caboose, a baggage car, a locomotive with a greasy engineer. Put these all together, along with the limited expense involved in a mockup of a train, and it's all pretty appealing. This one is a rather typical noir set aboard such a vehicle in 1861. It has political undertones too. Nobody believes the hero. As is so often the case he finds himself pursued by both the police and the would-be assassins.

The villainy shifts shape. There are lots of shadows. Too many shadows in fact, except for the one or two brief outdoor daytime scenes. It always seems to be nightime aboard the train, whatever time it may be outside. The acting is competent, with Will Geer doing quite well in the part of the conductor, and Ruby Dee a beautiful young woman. It ends happily.

Well, it had to end happily, really. How can you make a movie that ends up with Lincoln being assassinated in 1861? Actually, Pinkerton did smuggle Abe into Washington, with a set of whiskers newly grown for the occasion, which he kept for the rest of his life. But Pinkerton also went on to serve as head honcho of intelligence during Lincoln's administration and lord only knows how many lives were lost through his consistent overestimations of Confederate strength. He gave McLellan all the reason he needed to develop a case of "the slows." Abe should have thanked Pinkerton, shaken his hand at Union Station, and wished him well. Then maybe appointed John Kennedy in his place. One wonders, where are today's Lincolns? Some of our modern presidents give the impression that they could barely read the Gettysburg address, never mind write it. What a calculated and beautifully framed set of ideas in those two hundred and forty-some words. Gary Wills has a neat book on the subject.


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