Films and Internet Sources on Abraham Lincoln

 

 

Abraham Lincoln (1930, Remastered DVD), Director: D.W. Griffith; Running time: 90 minutes.

To date, this D.W. Griffith epic is the only talking-picture effort to encapsulate the entire life of Abraham Lincoln, from cradle to grave. The script, credited to Stephen Vincent Benet, manages to include all the familiar high points, including Lincoln's tragic romance with Ann Rutledge (Una Merkel, allegedly cast because of her resemblance to Griffith favorite Lillian Gish), his lawyer days in Illinois, his contentious marriage to Mary Todd (Kay Hammond), his heartbreaking decision to declare war upon the South, his pardoning of a condemned sentry during the Civil War, and his assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth (expansively portrayed by Ian Keith). This was D.W. Griffith's first talkie, and the master does his best with the somewhat pedantic dialogue sequences; but as always, Griffith's forte was spectacle and montage, as witness the cross-cut scenes of Yankees and Rebels marching off to war and the pulse-pounding ride of General Sheridan (Frank Campeau) through the Shenandoah Valley. Thanks to the wizardry of production designer William Cameron Menzies, many of the scenes appear far more elaborate than they really were; Menzies can also be credited with the unforgettable finale, as Honest Abe's Kentucky log cabin dissolves to the Lincoln Memorial. As Abraham Lincoln, Walter Huston is a tower of strength, making even the most florid of speeches sound human and credible; only during the protracted death scene of Ann Rutledge does Huston falter, and then the fault is as much Griffith's as his. Road-shown at nearly two hours (including a prologue showing slaves being brought to America), Abraham Lincoln was pared down to 97 minutes by United Artists, and in that length it proved a box-office success, boding well for D.W. Griffith's future in talkies (alas, it proved to be his next-to-last film; Griffith's final effort, The Struggle was a financial disaster). (Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide)

 


Abraham Lincoln: His Life & Legacy (2009), Director: A & E Productions; Running Time: 516 minutes (4 disks)

 Abraham Lincoln: His Life And Legacy is the ultimate tribute to the ultimate president and includes the following:

  • Lincoln
  • Investigating History: Lincoln: Man or Myth
  • Man, Moment, Machine: Lincoln and the Flying Spying Machine
  • Conspiracy?: Lincoln Assassination
  • High Tech Lincoln
  • Sherman's March
  • The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth

 

American Experience: Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided (2001), Director: David Grubin; Running Time: 360 minutes (3 disks).

This miniseries weaves together the troubled lives of a dirt-farmer's son and a wealthy Southern slave-owner's daughter. Together, Abraham and Mary Lincoln ascended to the pinnacle of power at the most difficult time in the nation's history, the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln's legacy as the Great Emancipator reshaped the nation while his tragic death left Mary reclusive and forgotten.


 

 
Abraham Lincoln: Preserving the Union (1996), Director: Biography Channel, Running time: 100 minutes
 
Honest, eloquent and courageous, he risked everything to save a young America from self-destruction, and paid the ultimate price. This unforgettable program tells the complete story of Abraham Lincoln, from the rustic childhood that forged his beliefs to the tough campaign that made him president. Historians examine the difficult leadership choices of his turbulent first term, as well as his bouts with depression and troubled marriage to Mary Todd. Experts untangle a web of murder and kidnapping plots to learn the truth about the complex conspiracy that made Lincoln an American Martyr.

 

 
Gore Vidal's Lincoln (1988), Director: Lamont Johnson; Running time: 188 minutes.
 
Originally telecast in two parts on March 27 and 28 of 1988, Lincoln was adapted from the bestselling "factual fiction" by Gore Vidal. Sam Waterston stars as Abraham Lincoln, with Mary Tyler Moore frighteningly convincing as the tragic Mary Todd Lincoln. Predictably, Part One of Lincoln deals with the inauguration, the outbreak of War, and the president's tiltings with his cabinet, while Part Two includes the Emancipation Proclamation, the appointment of General Grant (James Gammon), and the assassination. The through line of the script is the deteriorating mental condition of Mary Lincoln, not to mention her injurious impulsiveness: at one point, Honest Abe must cover up the fact that Mary has stolen a copy of his inaugural speech and sold it. Evidently, the name of Gore Vidal was not considered enough of a drawing card by the NBC publicists, who insisted upon advertising Lincoln as the second coming of Gone With the Wind, adding the teaser tagline "The Untold Story." (Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide)

 

Lincoln (2005), Director: Vikram Jayanti; Running time: 140 minutes.

Innovative and intimate, Lincoln goes deeper than any documentary has before to reveal the troubled depths behind the man known as the Great Emancipator.
Filmed as if through the president's own eyes, Lincoln is a profound and insightful meditation on a man few knew. Burdened by a tragic family life, suicidal urges and unsettled sexuality, Lincoln was able to employ his powerful wit and innate charm to transform his inner demons. A devastating and moving chronicle of a president's last moments, Lincoln captures the dark soul that fueled one of history's brightest lights.
 


Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Director: John Ford; Running time: 100 minutes.

Has Young Mr. Lincoln--the first cardinal masterpiece of director John Ford's career and the finest film of that epochal Hollywood year 1939--been neglected because people fear it's a stodgy history lesson? Even Henry Fonda, drafted to play the title role, was reluctant till Ford testily explained, "This isn't 'The Great Emancipator,' for God's sake--it's a movie about this jackleg lawyer...." And so it is: a small, slow-gathering village tale about a young man whose biggest moments--such as losing the love of his life--occur between scenes, and whose emergence as a historic figure is decades away. Yet the essential Lincoln is being forged in luminous scenes that unfold with the simplicity of fable, only no one knows it's a fable yet. The French title for the movie says it beautifully: Toward His Destiny.

The script, by Lamar Trotti, introduces Lincoln as a frontier storekeeper and drolly inadequate politician. In an early scene, we see Abe receiving his first books of law in a casual transaction with a pioneer family on their way to make a new home in the wilderness. But was it Trotti or the director who decided that this same family should circle back into Abe's life years later for the dramatic heart of the film, a murder trial in which his wit, ingenuity, and bedrock decency shape Lincoln's first public triumph--and that neither Lincoln nor the family recognize they have met before? That's typical of the movie, in which what is most important, most definitive, most valuable, is always outside the frame, out of reach, beyond naming. Even triumph is imbued with a heartbreaking sense of loss.

This transcendently beautiful film was a modest production, without the Pulitzer Prize cachet of Abe Lincoln in Illinois (not a Ford picture) the following year. Fonda, in his first of six collaborations with Ford, is the only marquee name in the cast, though Alice Brady is radiant as the pioneer matriarch (her final performance), and Ford stalwart Ward Bond has a key role. Sergei Eisenstein, no less, wrote a lucid and impassioned appreciation of the film, hailing it as "a movie I would like to have made"--and proved it by stealing a few visual tropes for his own Ivan the Terrible! This is a great, great motion picture, eminently deserving of the Criterion treatment on DVD. (Richard T. Jameson for Amazon.com)


Internet Sites on Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/malhome.html

The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents. The collection is organized into three "General Correspondence" series which include incoming and outgoing correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material. Most of the 20,000 items are from the 1850s through Lincoln's presidential years, 1860-65. Treasures include Lincoln's draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, his March 4, 1865, draft of his second Inaugural Address, and his August 23, 1864, memorandum expressing his expectation of being defeated for re-election in the upcoming presidential contest.

Abraham Lincoln Research Site: http://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln2.html 

The three main sections of this website are the Abraham Lincoln Research Site, Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination, and the Mary Todd Lincoln Research Site.

 


American President An Online Resource Center: http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/lincoln

The University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, following Jefferson's vision    of the University's public service mission, is a leading public policy institution that    serves as a national meeting place where engaged citizens, scholars, students, media representatives, and government officials gather in a spirit of nonpartisan consensus to research, reflect, and report on issues of national importance to the governance of the United States, with special attention to the central role and history of the presidency.

 


 

The History Place is a private, independent, Internet-only publication based in the Boston area that is not affiliated with any political group or organization. The Web site presents a fact-based, common sense approach in the presentation of the history of humanity, with great care given to accuracy.

 


 
Through education programs, public forums, and arts projects the Bicentennial provides an opportunity to re-examine what it means to be American in the 21st century.  
 

Two centuries after Lincoln’s birth, the nation is still in formation. The United States has grown and expanded, one cost of that growth has been a splintering of many parts of our society. Competing values, interests, and beliefs, have complicated Lincoln’s goal to find unity in our diversity.

 

 

 
Lincoln/Net presents historical materials from Abraham Lincoln's Illinois years (1830-1861), including Lincoln's writings and speeches, as well as other materials illuminating antebellum Illinois.