Abraham Lincoln (1930 film)

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Abraham Lincoln
AbrahmaLincoln1930.jpg
Directed by D. W. Griffith
Produced by D. W. Griffith
Joseph M. Schenck
Written by Stephen Vincent Benet
John W. Considine Jr.
Gerrit J. Lloyd
Starring Walter Huston
Una Merkel
William L. Thorne
Music by Hugo Riesenfeld
Cinematography Karl Struss
Edited by John W. Considine Jr.
James Smith
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • November 8, 1930 (1930-11-08)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Abraham Lincoln, also released under the title D. W. Griffith's 'Abraham Lincoln', is a (1930) biographical film about American president Abraham Lincoln directed by D. W. Griffith. It stars Walter Huston as Lincoln and Una Merkel, in her second speaking role, as Ann Rutledge. Her first speaking role was in a short film, Love's Old Sweet Song (1923) filmed in the Phonofilm sound-on-film process.

The script was co-written by Stephen Vincent Benét, author of the Civil War prose poem John Brown's Body. This was the first of only two sound films made by Griffith. The film was not a hit at the time, but in recent years it has come to be regarded as one of the definitive films on Lincoln.

The first act of the film covers Lincoln's early life as a storekeeper and rail-splitter in New Salem and his early romance with Ann Rutledge, and his early years as a lawyer and his courtship and marriage to Mary Todd in Springfield. The majority of the film deals with Lincoln's presidency during the Civil War and culminates with Lee's surrender and Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theatre.

The film covers some little known aspects of Lincoln's early life, such as his romance with Ann Rutledge, his depression and feared suicidal tendencies after her death, and his unexplained breaking off of his engagement with Mary Todd (although the film surmises that this was due to unresolved feelings over Ann Rutledge and adds a dramatic scene where Lincoln stands Mary up on their scheduled wedding day, which never happened).

While the early scenes of Lincoln's life are remarkably accurate, much of the later scenes contain historical inaccuracies. The famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, in addition to the historically accurate topic of the extension of slavery, have been turned into an argument about secession. Lincoln was famously an underdog for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1860; in the film it is suggested he is the sole nominee as a result of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The outbreak of the War seems to be the North firing on Charleston from Fort Sumter, rather than the other way around. Also, early in hostilities, General Winfield Scott is depicted as being overconfident of a quick victory (and something of a buffoon), when in reality he was one of the voices in the minority claiming the war would be long, costly, and bloody. He would also have been taller than Lincoln at 6'5". Finally, in the climax of the film, Lincoln delivers a conflation of famous words from the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865 - just moments before being assassinated. This was Griffith's second portrayal of Lincoln's assassination, the first being in The Birth of a Nation.

Years later, Abraham Lincoln was included as one of the choices in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

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