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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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
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 »
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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