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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.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Ginny Beaufort
Colonel Caleb Jeffers
Lance Beaufort
Rachel - Slave Maid
Richard Rober ...
Lt. Coulter
Homer Crowley - Train Conductor
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?


Character actor Will Geer was blacklisted for anti-Communist activities soon after this movie was made in 1951. He would not appear in another Hollywood sponsored movie until 1962. See more »


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.
See more »


Rally Round the Flag
Music by William B. Bradbury
Arranged by Bronislau Kaper
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User Reviews

Excellent suspenseful period piece
29 August 2001 | by (Leonia, NJ) – See all my reviews

Dick Powell is excellent as John Kennedy, a policeman who stumbles onto a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration. The history is not as muddled as others seem to indicate.

1. Lincoln did travel by train to his inauguration. 2. There were at least two confirmed plots by people who wished to have him assassinated. 3. Abraham Lincoln did have an aide throughout his administrations who was an ex-police officer named John Kennedy (Dick Powell's character in the film).

That is truth enough for backdrop to this impressive thriller. Ruby Dee is very impressive as a slave traveling on the train, and Marshal Thompson is quite good as a Southerner. Adolphe Menjou is terrific as the main bad guy, and Powell gives an earnest portrayal in the lead.

Anthony Mann directs the action very suspensefully, and the movie builds to its climax in interesting fashion.

Finally, the last line is a classic.

I've seen this movie 4 times and would gladly watch it again.

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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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