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The Tall Target (1951)

The Tall Target (1951)

(p.210) Chapter 16 The Tall Target (1951)
The Crime Films of Anthony Mann
Max Alvarez
University Press of Mississippi

Set on a winter night in 1861 at the start of the Civil War, The Tall Target is the subject of this chapter because it is written, designed, structured, and directed, like a contemporary crime story. A former New York Police detective (Dick Powell), determined to alert President-elect Abraham Lincoln of an assassination plot, boards a Baltimore-bound train and soon finds his own life in peril. Anthony Mann arrived late to the M-G-M project but leaves his directorial mark through skilful staging of actors within confined spaces and an assured handling of visually and thematically dark material. The chapter argues that The Tall Target would have benefitted from Mann having greater control over the material, which suffers from one-dimensional characterizations and occasional political ambiguity. The touching début of Ruby Dee as a freed slave is analyzed along with the revised Art Cohn screenplay, which gave greater depth to her character.

Keywords:   Civil War, Lincoln, detective, M-G-M, Ruby Dee, slave

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