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>
The startling revelation of the real, human Lincoln- blazing with mighty drama, raging passion, tender romance- has aroused more widespread acclaim than any picture in fifteen years! (Print Ad- Philadelphia Inquirer, ((Philadelphia, Penna.)) 26 October 1930) See more »
Due to the Blue Laws prevalent at the time, no newspaper in America could publish on Sunday in 1809 (Abraham Lincoln was born on Sunday February 12, 1809). See more »
I've hung my hat and here it stays till they knock it off with a bayonet. From now on, Mary, I'm going to run this war!
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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 »
Charming biopic undermined by historical revisionism
If Griffith had stuck to Lincoln's personal life, this could have been an interesting, amusing, and occasionally insightful film. Griffith gives us a multi-layered and largely accurate portrait of Lincoln the man. We see the ungainly country lawyer, countrified in speech and manner, often serious, even melancholy, but with a rare ability to find humor in the most unlikely places and to laugh even at himself. We see Lincoln the inveterate story-teller, the insomniac, the doting father, the determined commander-in-chief the patient husband. If this had been the whole of the film, it would have been easy to overlook its painfully outdated style and to forgive its frequent omissions and exaggerations as poetic license.
Unfortunately, the film necessarily includes Lincoln's political life, and here it moves from poetic license to outright falsehood. Slavery was the central issue of Lincoln's political career, a fact that Griffith tries to obscure, going so far as to turn Lincoln's pivotal 'House Divided' speech into an argument against secession. This is particularly ironic since it was really Lincoln's battle cry against encroaching slavery. When South Carolinians seceded two years later, this was the speech they pointed to as proof that when Lincoln took office, "the slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government ... and the Federal Government will have become their enemy."
During Lincoln's presidency, the question of slavery occupied much of his time and attention, yet again Griffith chooses to ignore it. His Lincoln spends more time admiring the courage of Confederate soldiers than worrying about slavery. Even the Emancipation Proclamation gets only the briefest attention. Lincoln reads a line from the document, signs it, and says, "Well, gentlemen, it is done." It's oddly dismissive, coming from a man who considered emancipation the central act of his presidency and the most meaningful act of his life.
Denied his opposition to slavery and concomitant commitment to democracy and the inalienable rights of man, Lincoln is reduced to endlessly repeating, "The Union must be preserved." Why it must be preserved is left to the audience's imagination. The film never gives us the slightest clue.
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