Young Mr. Lincoln
|Young Mr. Lincoln|
|Directed by||John Ford|
|Produced by||Darryl F. Zanuck
|Written by||Lamar Trotti|
|Music by||Alfred Newman
Edward B. Powell
Paul Van Loan
Arthur C. Miller
|Editing by||Walter Thompson|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox (theatrical)
The Criterion Collection (DVD)
|Release date(s)||May 30, 1939|
|Running time||100 min.|
Young Mr. Lincoln is a 1939 partly fictionalized biography about the early life of President Abraham Lincoln, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda. Ford and producer Darryl F. Zanuck fought for control of the film, to the point where Ford destroyed unwanted takes for fear the studio would use them in the movie. Screenwriter Lamar Trotti was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing/Original Story.
A family traveling through New Salem, Illinois in their wagon need groceries from Lincoln's store and the only thing of value they have that he'll take in exchange is a law book. After thoroughly reading the book, Abe opts for the law after receiving encouragement from his early, ill-fated love, Ann Rutledge (Pauline Moore). Too poor to own even a horse, he arrives in Springfield on a mule and soon establishes a law practice with friend John Stuart (Edwin Maxwell). At a July 4 celebration, a man is murdered in a brawl: the accused are two brothers. Lincoln prevents the lynching of the two accused at the jail, inter alia by telling the angry mob he really needs these clients for his first real case. Admiring his courage, Mary Todd (Marjorie Weaver) -- later to be his wife—invites Lincoln to her sister's soiree and expresses an intense interest in his future.
The key witness to the crime is a friend of the victim who claims to have seen the murder at a distance of about 100 yards under the light of the moon. The family and Lincoln are pressured to save one of the brothers at the expense of the other's conviction. But Lincoln persists and is able, through the use of an Almanac, to demonstrate that on the night in question the moon would not have provided the light the supposed eyewitness claimed. He then drives the witness to confess that he had in fact stabbed his friend himself.
A scene cut from the film involved Lincoln meeting a very young John Wilkes Booth, his future assassin.
The film has as its basis the murder case involving William "Duff" Armstrong, which took place in 1858 at the courthouse in Beardstown, Illinois—the only courthouse where Lincoln practiced law that is still in use.
Adaptations to Other Media 
- Variety film review; June 7, 1939, page 12.
- Harrison's Reports film review; June 17, 1939, page 94.
- Academy Award Theater archives at the Internet Archive
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Young Mr. Lincoln|
- Young Mr. Lincoln at the Internet Movie Database
- Young Mr. Lincoln at AllRovi
- Criterion Collection essay by Geoffrey O'Brien