Lincoln in the Movies

This first video is perfect for a course on Lincoln and/or Civil War memory.  It provides a nice overview of how Lincoln has been interpreted in Hollywood movies and television since 1915.  The only reference that I was unfamiliar with is the recent short animation, Robot Chicken: Jedi in Chief, in which George W. Bush faces off against Lincoln.  Enjoy.

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It’s striking to see (and more importantly, to hear) most of these Lincolns set against the Daniel Day-Lewis version. So many of the actors have or aim for a deep, rich baritone voice, as if Lincoln’s profound words must have been pronounced with equal vocal profundity. Makes for an interesting contrast between the Lincoln of memory and the Lincoln of history.

Its also why I kind of giggle when you hear George C. Scott’s throaty roar as George S. Patton. The original actually had a high, squeaky voice.

I was intrigued by the scene depicting Sam Waterston’s Lincoln’s racism. It is a rare, but honest, depiction of a facet of Lincoln’s humanity in Hollywood. But it is clear to one who has read Lincoln’s writings and speeches, including the Lincoln-Douglas debates, that it was not the evil type of racism that leads to the belief that slavery is the proper state for black people. The fact that Frederick Douglass mourned Lincoln’s death says a lot in this regard.

I forgot to state what I originally intended to state, which is that Lincoln might not have won the presidency if he had run for office in this age of looking and sounding good. We are very fortunate that he lived in an age where the written word was king.

Interesting interpretations – Raymond Massey’ seems to have set the “stentorian” tone, with an assist by John Huston. There’s some discussion of the varied portrayals of Lincoln in Bruce Chadwick’s “The Reel Civil War,” which I am sure you have read.

Personally, I found the fact that Bush kills the resurrected Lincoln in front of the Vietnam War Memorial particularly subversive; I believe those are actual names, if you slow it down.

Best,

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