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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Caught on Tape: Abraham Lincoln

caught on tape

It seems that Abraham Lincoln is all the rage right now – he is appearing in books, movies, and tv right now and attracting all kinds of name actors. I figured that this would be the best time to take a look at some of the great Lincoln films out there.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

The fates of two families intertwine in this controversial silent drama, a period saga that recounts the genesis of the U.S. Civil War, the destruction it wrought upon the populace and the ascent of the Ku Klux Klan in the war's aftermath.

This is one of those films that are almost always discussed in any film class – typically because of the dramatization of African Americans as played by white men in blackface. Because of this being the only thing spoken about this film, I had no idea that it was about the Civil War or involved Abraham Lincoln. Well, I have learned something! In D.W. Griffith’s infamous silent film, Joseph Henabery plays Lincoln – however he is a less than starring character. The video clip below doesn’t really show the best of the Lincoln portrayal, however it does show his assassination – which I thought was well acted considering the time period. The actor playing Lincoln looks remarkably striking. The movie appears at number 44 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Films.

Abraham Lincoln (1930)

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.

Fifteen years following The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s comes out with another film…about Lincoln – descriptively titled…Abraham Lincoln. Unlike, Birth of a Nation, this film is a “talkie”, one of only two made by Griffith. This film gives you a little bit of everything – the early life, Presidency, and assassination. Walter Huston plays Lincoln this time and Kay Hammond plays Mary Todd Lincoln. I have to wonder, how Griffith’s portrays the assassination differently than in the previous film – so as not to be covering the exact same territory. From what I have read, the portrayal of the Young Lincoln is extremely accurate, but less than so during the Civil War aspect. You can watch the entire film below.

The Blue and the Gray (1982)

Based on the works of Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Catton, this miniseries depicts -- with great attention to historical accuracy -- life in the United States just prior to and during the Civil War as seen by an artist correspondent. With a legendary ensemble cast (including Gregory Peck, Lloyd Bridges and Colleen Dewhurst), riveting battle sequences and intense drama, the war between the Blue and the Gray rips a nation -- and families -- apart.

Gregory Peck plays Abraham Lincoln in this series – and I’m not personally sure this was the best casting decision – he doesn’t really look like Lincoln to me and I think he has been better in other things. I have read reviews that range from it being a cheesy “soap/war drama” to being a well portrayed tv epic – so I don’t know what to believe on this one. It is a three part miniseries. The clip below is the deliverance of the Gettysburg Address.

Bedazzled (2000)

Nerdy computer programmer Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) learns the devil is in the details when he makes a pact with Beelzebub (a sexy Elizabeth Hurley), who grants Elliot seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Trouble is, old scratch throws a curve ball into all of Elliot's "happily ever afters." A funny remake of the 1967 original starring Dudley Moore.

Ok, so forgive me on this one – but I had to throw this in here because it sounds hilarious! Brendan Fraser as Elliot has seven wishes which he uses to try and get the girl, however each of these turn him into a different person to fulfill his wish. One of these wishes, to be the President of the United States so he can change the world for her, turns him into Abraham Lincoln on the night of the assassination. Unfortunately, I cannot find the clip! Anywhere! I find Fraser to be funny in these sorts of role and am going to have to re-watch this film again. I had to include some lighter fare here. Despite not having the specific clip, here is the movie trailer.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012)

Honest Abe: he was the 16th president, the Great Emancipator ... and a righteous slayer of the undead spurred to action by his mother's vampiric murder. History and legend are both turned upside-down as Lincoln tracks the creatures of the night.

This is one turn of Lincoln that I didn’t think that I was going to like – due mostly to the ridiculous nature of him being a vampire hunter – however, this film really worked for me. This film takes the history of Lincoln’s rise from a no-body to president while embellishing it with his secret quest to eradicate vampires due to their murder of his mother as a child. What’s a little history without a little blood? I thought that Benjamin Walker made a convincing Lincoln – although he really looks nothing like him either. It received mixed reviews, but I found it escapist fun. I hadn’t read the book by Seth Grahame-Smith so I had nothing to compare it to, but I have read several reviews from those who have (including my boyfriend) who thought it didn’t live up to the book. I thought I had already reviewed this movie, but apparently I didn’t…so review to come!

Lincoln (2012)

Director Steven Spielberg takes on the towering legacy of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his stewardship of the Union during the Civil War years. The biographical saga also reveals the conflicts within Lincoln's cabinet regarding the war and abolition.

And now for the most recent…the film that has won many awards this season, especially for portrayal of Lincoln by Daniel Day-Lewis. This film was based on the non-fiction book, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and focuses on the 4 months revolving around the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. The cast is chock-full of other notable actors and actresses, among them: Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robert Todd Lincoln), and Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stevens). I haven’t seen this film, but I want to!

Have you seen any of these films? What have you thought about the portrayals? Any you would recommend? Who was your favorite Lincoln?


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