7.3/10
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33 user 13 critic

The Tall Target (1951)

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.

Director:

Anthony Mann

Writers:

George Worthing Yates (screenplay), Art Cohn (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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A lonely, mentally unbalanced woman invents a fictitious daughter and has the "daughter" write to a Marine stationed in the South Pacific. When the soldier returns back to the States, he ... See full summary »

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: William Terry, Virginia Grey, Helene Thimig
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Dick Powell ... John Kennedy
Paula Raymond ... Ginny Beaufort
Adolphe Menjou ... Colonel Caleb Jeffers
Marshall Thompson ... Lance Beaufort
Ruby Dee ... Rachel - Slave Maid
Richard Rober ... Lt. Coulter
Leif Erickson ... Stranger
Will Geer ... Homer Crowley - Train Conductor
Florence Bates ... 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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 August 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Man on the Train See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$966,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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

In the opening scene as the train backs into the station, the bell on the engine is ringing. The train stops and the bell stops as well, but the soundtrack still has the bell ringing. The next scene shows a close up of the bell ringing which had stopped in the first scene. See more »

Quotes

John Kennedy: Abe Lincoln will be a sitting pigeon for those sharp shooters.
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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

 
Mann delivers the perfect companion piece to Reign of Terror.
29 September 2011 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

"Ninety years ago a lonely traveller boarded the night train from New York to Washington D.C., 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 dramatisation of that disputed journey."

The Tall Target is directed by Anthony Mann and written by George Worthing Yates, Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Holmes) and Art Cohn. It stars Dick Powell, Paula Raymond, Adolphe Menjou, Marshall Thompson and Will Geer. As the above opening salvo suggests, story is disputed, it's based around the so called Baltimore Plot, a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln; the tall man of the title who is on the train heading for his inauguration.

Set mostly aboard a train, Mann's The Tall Target is a very tight noirish type period thriller that sees Powell's gruff detective try and protect Abe Lincoln from assassins lurking within the confines of the locomotive hauled express. Although a low budget production, there is some smart period detail to enjoy and the cramped setting of the train interiors allows Mann to infuse the story with paranoia and claustrophobic tints. Major bonus is that the makers excellently capture what must have been a powder keg of political uncertainty in 1861, this is born out by the number of interesting characters with a voice aboard this train. Thus the suspense and mystery elements are not confined to being of the obvious variety.

With Paul Vogel's black and white photography adding some period bite, and putting the noirish sheen to scenes such as the ones involving smoke, it's a shame that the cast are mostly hit and miss. Powell just about carries off the tough-guy persona, with the scenes shared with Menjou good value, and Geer is the stand out as the jobs worth conductor. Raymond is lovely, but hardly puts a stamp on proceedings, while Thompson is badly inadequate when it comes to putting the threat into threatening situations. But they are only minor itches that fail to derail the film from the tracks, because ultimately it's the story that is the star, a story boosted no end by Mann's taut direction. 7.5/10


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