Brief vignettes about Lincoln's early life include his birth, early jobs, (unsubstantiated) affair with Ann Rutledge, courtship of Mary Todd, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates; his presidency and the Civil War are followed in somewhat more detail, though without actual battle scenes; film concludes with the assassination. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subtitles correctly describe the bombardment of Fort Sumter by the Confederates as starting the Civil War, but the film depiction shows the reverse. It has the fort firing on the Confederates. See more »
[an aide suggests that General Lee surrender]
Gen. Robert E. Lee:
Surrender? My poor army! Why I'd rather die a thousand deaths than to do that to them.
There, there, General. You must lie down and rest.
Gen. Robert E. Lee:
Rest... that's a beautiful word.
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"Battle Hymn of the Republic"
(ca 1856) (uncredited)
Music by William Steffe
Lyrics by Julia Ward Howe (1862)
Played during the opening credits and often in the score
Sung by an offscreen chorus during a civil war scene See more »
"A nightmare of the mind and nerves" indeed, for Griffith and us!
No doubt about it, D.W. Griffith was one of the great directors of the early silent era. "Birth of a Nation," "Intolerance," "Orphans of the Storm," even a lesser-known film like "The Musketeers of Pig Alley" are all now regarded as classics. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, Griffith couldn't maintain his success record, and, by the time he made his first all-talking film, "Abraham Lincoln," he was in the midst of a major slump that he just couldn't pull out of. The film is static, stilted, and moves at a snail's pace. Walter Huston, Ian Keith, Henry B. Walthall, and most of the rest of the cast all had distinguished careers in sound films, but here they are merely wasted, unable to cope with the tedious dialogue and Griffith's uncharacteristicly stiff direction. Worst-served of all, though, is Una Merkel, here in one of her first films. I can't believe that Anne Rutlidge could have been such a sugary simp as we're led to believe by her performance here, and her death scene is only exceeded for bathos by Ali McGraw in the last scene of "Love Story." In sum, a major disappointment, a good cast wasted, and a sad farewell form one of American film's true pioneers. Griffith described making this film as "a nightmare of the mind and nerves," and, unfortunately, that's just what it is, for him and us.
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