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February 12, 2009


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Ryland Walker Knight

Yep. I wish I had the wherewithal to go tonite... Or, you know, the stamina.


Regrettably, I've only seen "Young Mr. Lincoln" (though I'd particularly love to check out "The Prisoner of Shark Island"). But what I especially liked about the Ford/Fonda movie is that it plays like a folk tale, like Dieterle's "The Devil and Daniel Webster". Any eye-rolling you might be inclined to do is checked once you realize that.


It would be interesting to explore why Lincoln is up front in so many silent and studio-era movies. Sometime after World War II he became a far more rare sighting in American film. I wonder why? Post-war cynicism? Overfamiliarity making him too hard to portray realistically?

Glenn Kenny

Probably some combination of the two. Also, events fading so far back in history that one could makes jokes about them. "Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" See also the opening credits of pretty much every episode of "Police Squad"...

Tom Russell

If I remember my popular history (and I think I do) there was a lot of Civil War nostalgia-- maybe nostalgia's the wrong word, but you know what I mean-- during the silent film era. IIRC, it was during that time that revisionist groups like the Daughters of the Confederacy were going around putting pro-Confederate markers all o'er the country. And so Lincoln was probably even more prevalent then then he would have been otherwise, his reputation as a Great President notwithstanding (compare: George Washington never got even close to that much cinematic treatment[*]). Then, the reasons Campaspe and Glenn mention pretty much put the nail in the coffin.

Speaking of Lincoln-- looking very much forward to David Simon's adaptation of MANHUNT. Makes me which I had cable.

[*-- and speaking of cinematic Washingtons: my favourite is Kelsey Grammer in an otherwise really shitty TV-movie about Benedict Arnold. Least favourite: Jeff Daniels in another really shitty TV-movie, this one about Washington.]

Lou Lumenick

One of my favorite cinematic Lincolns is Charles (Ming the Merciless) Middleton in a bizarre musical short that Warners made for the NRA, "The Road is Open Again'' (1934) with Dick Powell (Alan Dinehart was Washington). Middleton also played Lincoln's father in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois,'' an actor playing Lincoln in "Stand-In'' -- and Jefferson Davis in one of the more entertaining Warner historical western farragos, "Viriginia City'' (1940)

My favorite Washington, hands down is the inimitable Alan Mowbray, who played him straight in "Alexander Hamilton'' (1931) and sent him up in the wonderful "Where Do We Go From Here'' (1944). By far the worst I've seen is Jon Voight in "An American Carol'' (2008), who takes a Michael Moorish filmmaker on a tour of Ground Zero in a jaw-dropping sequence.

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