The Narrow Margin (1952)

Not Rated  |   |  Film-Noir, Thriller  |  4 May 1952 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 4,828 users  
Reviews: 76 user | 53 critic

A woman planning to testify against the mob must be protected against their assassins on the train trip from Chicago to Los Angeles.



(screen play), (story), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Gordon Gebert ...
Queenie Leonard ...
Mrs. Troll
Peter Virgo ...
Paul Maxey ...
Harry Harvey ...
Train Conductor


When a mobster's wife decides to testify against his evil deeds, she goes under cover to avoid being killed. Now that he's coming to trial, she has to be escorted across country by train in order to testify. Cop Walter Brown and his partner are assigned the task, but the mob are on their trail. Written by Col Needham <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 May 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Target  »

Box Office


$188,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was RKO's biggest money-maker for 1952. See more »


Two scenes show a Southern Pacific Daylight locomotive which ran along the California coast, not Chicago to Los Angeles. See more »


Joseph Kemp: The name's Neil, but the name doesn't matter.
Walter Brown: It matters plenty!
See more »


Referenced in Siskel & Ebert: The Worst Films of 1990 (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

Great camera work. Sensational Marie Windsor. Implausible story, though.
23 November 2004 | by (Padova, Italy) – See all my reviews

"The narrow margin" is a remarkable film-noir with great merits, unfortunately marred by an implausible story.

There is a policeman (Charles McGraw) committed to protect a key witness (Marie Windsor), in severe danger of life, along a train journey. The only reasonable and likely behavior for the cop is to take some sandwiches, lock in the cabin with the witness, and sit down with a machine-gun on his lap. Of course, that would be the end of the film. So, to get a story, McGraw goes everywhere and does everything on the train, but staying with and protecting the witness. There is also a big surprise at the end. That is really unexpected. But if we think back to the previous events, this big twist makes the behavior of some characters wholly illogical.

Well, enough with the faults of the movie. The merits of this low-budgeted B-movie overcome its defects. The stylish cinematography is first-rate, and the camera-work is outstanding. The (few) action scenes are brilliant and filmed in a very original way. See, for instance the play of mirrors in the finale. Marie Windsor is sensational, and every scene with her is a treat. What a gangster moll, gutsy tough gal she is! In my opinion, she is even better here than in "The killing". Her lines are a perfect instance of cynical wisecracking. McGraw and the rest of the cast make a good job, as well. There is a good amount of suspense and no moments of bore.

Let me conclude with a somehow daring comparison. Independently by the composers, classic music of the 18th century is always beautiful. In a similar way, I think that American movies of the 1940s and early 1950s are all good: that is just a question of style, and how I love this style!

I recommend "The narrow margin", for its intrinsic merits, and to pay homage to a great season of cinema.

27 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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