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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 »
Originally, this film was color-tinted in sepia-tone, with blue for night scenes. These prints also had a prologue. Current public-domain prints are in black and white, minus the prologue with a shorter running time. See more »
Dull, but Interesting from an historical perspective
Famous silent film director D. W. Griffiths gave us this plodding straightforward historical biopic of the sixteenth president of the United States. As one of Griffiths' few attempts at 'talkies', Abraham Lincoln is by no means outstanding. Like other films of the period, some of the actors (especially Ian Keith as J.W. Booth and Walter Huston as Lincoln) overact their gestures and facial expressions. While others overcompensate for the new medium and seem to play their roles too subtly (Una Merkel's Ann Rutledge).
The film tells the story of Lincoln's rise from humble roots to become one of the most accomplished American orators of all time, while retaining the plain-spoken character that endeared him to the nation. The film uses an appreciative tone, and does not fairly represent Lincoln's considerable political acumen and the very calculated campaign strategies which put him in office. Instead, Griffiths chose to present Lincoln as the good, but somewhat melancholic president we know him to have been.
The story is told in a series of vignettes depicted in scenes of about equal length - probably a limitation of the film technology available at the time. This mode of presentation does nothing to reduce the boredom factor. Most of the lines are pronounced very clearly with lengthy unnatural pauses between each line. Clearly, Griffiths was a little uncomfortable in the new sound medium and did not wish to experiment a great deal with it. The film picks up a bit as the civil war becomes its main focus. And some of the battle scenes are classic Griffiths' near-silent cinematography. However, even this is somewhat muted by the scenes of the president brooding over the dispatches he receives from his generals describing defeat after defeat.
Recommended for early film buffs and young Lincoln afficionados only
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