The Tall Target (1951)

The Tall Target Poster The Tall Target (1951)

Run time: 78 min
Rating: 7.2
Genres: Adventure | Crime | Drama
Director: Anthony Mann
Writers: George Worthing Yates, Art Cohn
Stars: Dick Powell, Paula Raymond, Adolphe Menjou
The plot to kill Lincoln as he passed through Baltimore on his way to Washington D.C. to be inaugurated in 1861 is in no way historically doubtful. This incident, called “The Baltimore Plot” by such well-known Lincoln scholars as Mark Neely Jr. (“The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia”) is an historical fact. Certainly, the details presented in the movie may themselves be historically doubtful — but not the plot itself. Written by Anonymous
Release Date: 17 August 1951 (USA)

4 responses to “The Tall Target (1951)”

  1. rgkeenan says:

    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.

  2. rgkeenan says:

    After reading the comment from Mr Mike Furlong of Roy Utah, I feel I must reply. The Tall Target is a very interesting film. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the story of the famous journey, that Lincoln made from New York to Washington, for his inauguration. Dick Powell plays a detective (John Kennedy) that gets wind of an assassination plot to kill Lincoln, but as no one will believe him, it is left up to him to try and foil the attempt. As to the scene,where Adolphe Menjou uses a small pistol to shoot Powell, through the newspaper, I suggest that if Mr Furlong watches the film again, he will hear Powell explain, that he removed the lead from the cartridge, but left the remainder of the bullet in the chamber. Thus allowing Menjou to give himself away.

    Good support from all the cast, but Will Geer, as the train conductor deserves special praise. Looking at this film from an history point of view, there is a number of wonderful scenes, including, one that when the train gets to Baltimore, the engine has to be uncoupled from the train, and horses are used to drag the train through the city centre, much to the annoyance of the engineer. Well worth seeing. 9 out of 10.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    "The Tall Target," about a plot to kill Lincoln before his inauguration, is a compact little film directed by Anthony Mann and starring Dick Powell, Adolphe Menjou, Marshall Thompson, and Ruby Dee. Powell plays John Kennedy, a detective and admirer of the future President who finds out about an assassination plot and hopes to stop it, although his written report seems to fall on blind eyes. On board a train, Kennedy finds the person he was to meet is dead, someone is impersonating him, and, from all the political talk, there are lots of suspects who hate Lincoln as the country gets ready for war.

    Most of the action takes place on the train and the atmosphere and black and white cinematography neatly capture the period. The performances are all excellent, including that of Will Geer as the train conductor and Ruby Dee as a young slave whose mistress' brother (Thompson) is a prime suspect in the assassination plot. Twenty years earlier, Dick Powell was a boy tenor playing male ingénues opposite Ruby Keeler; in the '40s, he turned to tough detective type roles, and ultimately became a highly successful producer. He's very good in "The Tall Target" but a little too modern in manner and dialogue delivery. It's somewhat noticeable because the period is captured very well by the other actors.

    This is a very good movie with a neat ending and based on a true incident. There was, by the way, a John Kennedy who was a former law enforcement officer who served in the Lincoln administration. Whether he was involved in this situation, I don't know. It's a wonderful story nonetheless.

  4. IMDBReviewer says:

    Although the film is a work of fiction, The Tall Target is based in part on an actual incident that involved an attempt to assassinate President- elect Abraham Lincoln on his way to Washington to assume the presidency in early 1861. A planned stop in Baltimore was canceled and Lincoln was spirited into Washington in the wee small hours of the morning with no kind of fanfare or publicity, as he put it, 'like a thief in the night'.

    Anthony Mann directed this 19th century noir type film starring Dick Powell as a New York police sergeant who gets wind of a plot to murder Lincoln in Baltimore. After he confides his suspicions to colleague Regis Toomey, Toomey winds up dead and Powell's more convinced than ever of the rightness of his belief. He boards the train that Lincoln is scheduled to board in Baltimore on to warn him, but Powell's got a lot of people on that train ready to do him in and he doesn't know who to trust.

    The Tall Target is very similar to Mann's other classic Winchester 73 in the tautness of the direction and script. There isn't one wasted frame of film in The Tall Target and the suspense is kept throughout, even though history tells us Lincoln dodged a bullet that day. Mann assembled a very strong supporting cast for Powell that includes Adolphe Menjou as a militia colonel called to the colors, Leif Erickson as a Bowery tough, Will Geer as an officious conductor, Marshall Thompson as a southern hothead and resigned West Point cadet and his sister Paula Raymond.

    Best performance in the film though is that of young Ruby Dee who plays a slave to Thompson and Raymond traveling with them. She proves to be the only real friend Powell has on the train. It's a quiet understated performance of dignity and strength.

    By the way in case any of you are wondering why she doesn't just run away and claim her freedom, a couple of things stops her. The Dred Scott decision for one which obliterated the Missouri Compromise of 1820 with the northern free and southerns slave states and the new Fugitive Slave Law from the 1850 Compromise. However Dee knows that freedom is coming her way and soon.

    The Tall Target is one excellent film, one of the best from Dick Powell when he decided to stop making musicals. Catch it absolutely.

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