(director: D. W. Griffith; screenwriters: John W. Considine Jr./Stephen Vincent Benet/Gerrit J. Lloyd; cinematographer: Karl Struss; editor: James Smith; cast: Walter Huston (Abraham Lincoln), Una Merkel (Ann Rutledge), Edgar Dearing (Jack Armstrong), Russell Simpson (Uncle Jimmy), Hobart Bosworth (General Robert E. Lee), Kay Hammond (Mary Todd Lincoln), Lucille La Verne (Mid-Wife), Ian Keith (John Wilkes Booth), Helen Freeman (Nancy Hanks Lincoln), W. L. Thorne (Tom Lincoln), Frank Campeau (Gemeral Sheridan), Otto Hoffman (Offut), Jason Robards (Billy Herndon), Fred Warren (Gen. U.S. Grant); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: D.W. Griffith; Alpha Video; 1930)
“An archaic biopic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The first talkie by D. W. Griffith (“Orphans of the Storm”/”The Birth of a Nation”/”Intolerance”) is an archaic biopic that earnestly details Lincoln’s life starting with his birth in 1809 in a Kentucky log cabin and takes us through his death by assassination from John Wilkes Booth. It’s based on the straightforward screenplay by Stephen Vincent Benet.
It picks up with Abe Lincoln (Walter Huston) at age 22 as a store clerk in New Salem, Ill. In the spring of 1834, Abe is a rail-splitter and courts the love of his life Ann Rutledge (Una Merkel) while he studies law. She dies abruptly of a fever, leaving him heartbroken. Returning from fighting the Indian wars, Abe opens up a law practice. At a ball given by former governor Edwards, Abe meets Mary Todd (Kay Hammond) and despite misgivings enters into a contentious marriage. Abe wins the Republican nomination and is elected president. The Civil War is started following hostilities at Fort Sumter, and Abe signs the Emancipation Proclamation. The tide of war turns in favor of the Union when General Grant is put in charge of the army. The Confederate forces under Lee surrender, and Abe gets re-elected. On the night of 14 Apr 1865, Lincoln is seated at a box at Ford’s Theatre and he is shot by the fanatic southern actor John Wilkes Booth who shouts “Sic semper tyrannis”as he fires his deadly shots.
The film was a box office success but met with disapproval from the critics, as Griffith was mistakenly believed to be washed-up; it took a long time before he was to direct again.
REVIEWED ON 12/29/2008 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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