Friday, July 31, 2015

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for August on TCM

The Tall Target has the three things that make a movie great - trains, murder, and trains.

Released in 1951 The Tall Target is a political and historical thriller from director Anthony Mann. It is only one of the legacy of quality films from Mann in film-noir (Raw Deal, He Walked by Night, T-Men), groundbreaking adult westerns (Winchester '73, Devil's Doorway, The Tin Star) and epics (El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire).

The story and screenplay by George Worthington Yates and Art Cohn is based on the threat of assassination of Abraham Lincoln prior to his inauguration as President of the United States known as The Baltimore Plot.

Adolphe Menjou, Dick Powell

Dick Powell stars as John Kennedy, a police officer once assigned to protect the politician who believes he has stumbled upon a plot to kill President-elect Lincoln, but cannot convince the authorities of the imminent danger. Stripped of his credentials, Kennedy faces a lonely and danger-filled night battling the conspirators on board a train bound for the inauguration.


Is there anyone Sgt. Kennedy can trust? The peacock-proud newly-minted Union officer played by Adolphe Menjou seems willing. A young southern West Pointer played by Marshall Thompson is touchy and flustered, while his sister played by Paula Raymond and their slave played by Ruby Dee are dealing with their own difficulties.

Florence Bates, Will Geer

The all-knowing conductor played by Will Geer has a deceptively distracted air. The over-bearing authoress played by Florence Bates may be more of a hindrance with her forcefully shared opinions. The rambunctious and larcenous youngster traveling with his mother, Peter Morrow and Barbara Billingsley, would only be in the way.

Lief Ericson

The menacing thug played by Lief Ericson leaves Kennedy no doubt as to the validity of the plot and the lengths to which the conspirators will go. I grew up watching Ericson on his series The High Chaparral and he is an actor who intrigues me. He was one of those Group Theatre lads, but I haven't been able to catch him at it.

Ruby Dee, Paula Raymond

It is not only physical danger that is faced throughout the long night. The characters played by Misses Raymond and Dee are forced to face their emotional loyalties and political realities.

Dick Powell

A thoughtful and exciting edge-of-your-seat thriller, The Tall Target is well-written, and energetically performed and directed. The moody black and white cinematography is courtesy of Academy Award Winner (Battleground), Paul Vogel. At a crisp 78 minutes, The Tall Target is as dandy a thriller to ever come out of Hollywood.

TCM is screening The Tall Target on Monday, August 3rd at 2:45 am as part of Adolph Menjou's day for Summer Under the Stars. It couldn't be a better time to be a Night Owl.


  1. A great movie. I keep meaning to blog on it, maybe one day I'll get there. I'm sure those night owls will enjoy it. Great choice.

    1. For years "The Tall Target" was my holy grail, only reading about it in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide and when I first laid hands on it, the DVD wouldn't play! It played on the computer and I thought it was a dreadful way to watch a movie. Now it doesn't bother me. If the only way I can catch a flick is on a computer screen, so be it.

  2. Wow, I'd love to watch this (especially since I plan on doing a profile on Ruby Dee this fall), but 2:45 in the morning might be asking too much. And no, I don't have TiVo. Another time, maybe...

    1. Frankly, I'm surprised at TCM's wee hours scheduling of "The Tall Target". It definitely deserves the primetime spot.

  3. Ooooh, never heard of it before, Pat. Sounds good. As you say, 'train, murder, train' - what could be bad? Florence Bates was always a hoot - but always a kind of menacing hoot. I'm currently watching her in THE BRASHER DOUBLOON which I hope to be writing about for next Tuesday.

    1. I look forward to your look at "The Brasher Doubloon". I have yet to see George Montgomery as Philip Marlowe.

      "The Tall Target" is one of those excellent little pictures that makes you want to applaud at the end.

  4. It's a nifty suspense film, very well acted and directed. Plus, the irony is downright eerie: a film about a man named John Kennedy trying to stop a presidential assassination. I'm not sure why TCM doesn't plug movies like this into its 8:00 PM prime-tome spot more often.

    1. I can't say anything bad about their 8:00 movie "Father Takes a Wife" as I haven't seen it, but anyone who has seen "The Tall Target" knows it deserves that spot.



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