Abraham Lincoln (November 8, 1930)
Released on November 8, 1930: The story of Abraham Lincoln from birth, through the Civil War and up to his assassination.
Produced by D.W. Griffith
Directed by D.W. Griffith
Written by John W. Considine Jr., Stephen Vincent Benet and Gerrit J. Lloyd
The Actors: Walter Huston (Abraham Lincoln), Kay Hammond (Mary Todd Lincoln), Una Merkel (Ann Rutledge), William L. Thorne (Tom Lincoln), Lucille La Verne (mid-wife), Helen Freeman (Nancy Hanks Lincoln), Otto Hoffman (Offut), Edgar Dearing (Jack Armstrong), Russell Simpson (Uncle Jimmy), Charles Crockett (the Sheriff), Helen Ware (Mrs. Edwards), E. Alyn Warren (Stephen A. Douglass and General Ulysses S. Grant), Jason Robards Sr. (Billy Herndon), Gordon Thorpe (Tad Lincoln), Ian Keith (John Wilkes Booth), Cameron Prud'Homme (John Hay, Secretary to the President), James Bradbury Sr. (General Winfield Scott), James Eagles (Private Corten), Oscar Apfel (Secretary of War Edwin Stanton), Frank Campeau (General Philip Sheridan), Hobart Bosworth (General Robert E. Lee), Henry B. Walthall (Colonel Marshall), Hank Bell (townsman in Offut's store), Maurice Black (conspirator), Ed Brady (Confederate courier), Robert Brower (unknown), Kernan Cripps (conspirator), Mary Forbes (actress), Francis Ford (Sheridan's aide), Robert Homans (a senator, one of Lincoln's advisors), Jane Keckley (matchmaker), Robert Keith (Union courier), Henry Kolker (New Englander), Ralph Lewis (member of Lincoln's cabinet), Carl Stockdale (member of Lincoln's cabinet), Harry Stubbs (unknown), Kathrin Clare Ward (townswoman at Ann's death)
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It Will Take a Bigger Man than George Washington to Keep this Union Together
There is much already written about the pioneering motion picture director D.W. Griffith, so I won't go into a lot of detail about his political views, except to say that he was a proud gentleman of the South at a time when feelings were still very much divided over the U.S. Civil War and the ending of slavery.
Griffith was born just a few years after the end of the Civil War, and I'm confident that his father, who was a Colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, shared many stories of the war, about the proud Southern fighters who lost the war. One of Griffith's most famous films was the silent movie epic during the first days of motion pictures that chronicled the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and portrayed that organization as the savior of the nation.
Fifteen years later, in this story, one of his final motion pictures, Griffith tells the story of Abraham Lincoln from birth to death. Griffith is quick to point out Lincoln's weaknesses and show the feelings of his advisors who thought he was weak and inexperienced, but he is also fair about showing Lincoln's stubborn resolve to ignore the advice of his cabinet and push on with his dream of a united nation without slavery in any of those states.
In spite of the director's bias, or maybe because of it, this is a historical movie that will show the days before the events were 'hsitory' but were just memories of a few years ago. Besides seeing some of the best actors of the day, like Walter Huston, Una Merkel, Jason Robards Sr., and Francis Ford, you will see a depiction of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War that was made while there were still living veterans of that war. Many of the people watching this movie in theaters around the country were alive during that war and had their own vivid memories from those days.
Griffith's version of Abe Lincoln ends with his assassination at the Ford Theater, and a long look at the Lincoln Memorial, which was dedicated only eight years earlier. To give you an idea of how fresh and topical this movie was in 1930, You can watch a television game show from February 9, 1956, some 25 years after this movie, which features a man that was in the audience at the Ford Theater the night that Abraham Lincoln was killed: I've Got a Secret television show with Samuel Seymour.
When the Civil war began President Lincoln needed to organize railroad lines to move men and materials, and the President needed to set up the cutting edge new technology for communication – telegraph lines. For that job a young telegrapher from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was called on, a man known as Andy Carnegie.
In his memoirs about his days in Washington with President Lincon, Andrew Carnege wrote, “All the pictures of this extraordinary man are like him. He was so marked of feature that it was impossible for anyone to paint him and not produce a likeness. He was certainly one of the most homely men I ever saw when his features were in repose; but when excited or telling a story, intellect shone through his eyes and illuminated his face to a degree which I have seldom or never seen in any other. ”
“His manners were perfect because natural; and he had a kind word for everybody, even the youngest boy in the office. His attentions were not graduated. They were the same to all, as deferential in talking to the messenger boy as to Secretary Seward. His charm lay in the total absence of manner. It was not so much, perhaps, what he said as the way in which he said it that never fail to win one. ”
“I have often regretted that I did not note down carefully at the time some of his curious sayings, for he said even common things in an original way. I never met a man who so thoroughly made himself one with all men as Mr. Lincoln.” - Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, 1920
Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
E. Alyn Warren and Walter Huston
E. Alyn Warren
E. Alyn Warren as Stephen Douglas
Henry B. Walthall
Henry B. Walthall
James Bradbury Sr. and Walter Huston
Jason Robards Sr.
Kay Hammond and Walter Huston
Walter Huston and Cameron Prud'Homme
Walter Huston and Una Merkel
Walter Huston and Una Merkel