Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)

Approved  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  19 April 1940 (USA)
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Reviews: 31 user | 15 critic

Humble Abraham Lincoln gains the respect of his Illinois neighbors, growing in stature and respect until he is elected President in 1860 and departs for Washington.



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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mary Howard ...
Minor Watson ...
Alan Baxter ...
Harvey Stephens ...
Howard Da Silva ...
Jack Armstrong (as Howard da Silva)
Dorothy Tree ...
Maurice Murphy ...
Louis Jean Heydt ...
Harlan Briggs ...
Herbert Rudley ...


Biopic of Abe Lincoln, 16th President of he United States, from his early days in backwoods Kentucky to his election as President. After a time running livestock to New Orleans, he settles in New Salem where he meets and falls in love with Ann Rutledge who is already engaged to someone. Abe makes a home for himself in New Salem, eventually running a store and becoming the postmaster. He's popular with the locals and is eventually elected to the State legislature but afterward established himself in the practice of law. He eventually meets Mary Todd who would become his wife and and is sent to Washington as a Congressman before he is elected president. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

19 April 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Abraham Lincoln  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director John Cromwell's son, actor James Cromwell, has played two real life Presidents (George Bush in W. (2008) and Lyndon Johnson in 'RFK (2002)(TV)'). See more »


When results for the 1860 election are being received, West Virginia is listed on the the state-by-state tally board. West Virginia didn't become a state until 1863, when it broke off from Virginia after that state had seceded from the Union. See more »


Abraham Lincoln: [discussing why he can't face Mary Todd before his marriage to her] I'd have to tell her that I have hatred for her infernal ambition. That I don't want to be ridden and driven onward and upward through life with her whip bashing me and her spurs digging in me. If her poor little soul craves importance in life let her marry Stephen Douglas. He's ambitious too. I want only to be left alone.
See more »


The Battle Cry of Freedom
(1862) (uncredited)
Music by George Frederick Root
Played by a band in a parade
Reprized by an Army band as Lincoln rides to the White House
See more »

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User Reviews

Best ever portrayal of Lincoln on film.
12 April 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I have seen this film probably 15 times or more and have been a devotee of the Lincoln mythology (for lack of a better term) for nearly 20 years. I remember first seeing the film as a youngster on the same weekend as the death and funeral of President Kennedy in November of 1963. At that time, the two scenes that struck me as most memorable to my young mind was the one where the local woman tells Lincoln that he is the homeliest man in the county; and, the other scene where Lincoln is telling the slightly off-color joke to a crowd about the man fighting the bear. Also, another visual that sticks in my memory is the somewhat haunting scene where Lincoln revisits New Salem after the once thriving city has become a ghost-town.

There are several marvelous aspects of this movie. To begin with, is the near perfect physical and emotional representation of Lincoln by Raymond Massey. Given the photographs of the pre-president Lincoln, making Massey into sixteenth president seems nearly ordained from the beginning. The height, facial structure, and body type is nearly a perfect fit. Regarding how Lincoln spoke, it is hard to determine if that is an accurate representation or not. Historical accounts of Lincoln says that he had a rather high and not necessarily soothing voice. Since, it would be another 30 plus years before there is any kind of recording device, Massey's voice should seem appropriate enough.

Additionally, the cinematography is excellent. The on-location or natural shots are superior by black and white standards. Even though I am a devotee of black and white films, color films seem to have the upper hand when filming wide-open or rustic environments. The feel of the indoor scenes such as the ones within the Lincoln Springfield home is nearly perfect for the times. You can virtually smell the cigar smoke or the burning wood stove. Finally, the lighting during the campaign speech scenes are awesome.

But, the best part of the movie is how even with some artistic license the characters surrounding Lincoln are historically strong and represent in a film microcosm a very accurate historical reality of Lincoln's early years. For example, starting with Ruth Gordon's portrayal of Mary Linoln Todd. With her character, you can easily feel how much she effected Lincoln. Her persistent pressure on Lincoln to achieve political importance and her hard-nose, sometimes loving, sometimes bitter prescience is from my historical reading just about perfect. Since the film takes place before Lincoln is actually president, Mary Todd Lincoln's shenanigans within the White House or her emotional unraveling in her later years is not an issue here.

The romance demonstrated between Lincoln and Ann Rutledge, although later to be historically challenged, then even later to be considered historically (possibly) significant, is quite sadly moving. It is nicely juxtaposition-ed against the image of Mary Lincoln Todd.

Howard De Silva as New Salem's local ruffian is although somewhat embellished, still represents Lincoln's ability to relate to people from all walks of life. The film just seems to find the vital essence of young Lincoln before he became president.

The surreal, final scene of Lincoln leaving Springfield for Washington D.C. (again although actually happening during the day during a rainstorm)after giving one of his many great historical speeches ("this is where I have lived") catches the eerie but profound feel of how important his leadership is going to mean to the struggling republic. The playing of the "Battle Hymnn of the Republic" although premature, is still simple perfect.

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