Young Mr. Lincoln
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|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
|Edited by||Walter Thompson|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox (theatrical)
The Criterion Collection (DVD)
Young Mr. Lincoln is a 1939 partly fictionalized biopic 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.
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A family traveling through New Salem, Illinois in their wagon need groceries from Lincoln's store and the only thing of value they have is a barrel of old books including a law book, Blackstone's Commentaries. 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 accused at the jail 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.
- Henry Fonda as Abraham Lincoln
- Alice Brady as Abigail Clay
- Marjorie Weaver as Mary Todd
- Arleen Whelan as Sarah Clay
- Eddie Collins as Efe Turner
- Pauline Moore as Ann Rutledge
- Richard Cromwell as Matt Clay
- Donald Meek as Prosecutor John Felder
- Judith Dickens as Carrie Sue (credit only)
- Eddie Quillan as Adam Clay
- Spencer Charters as Judge Herbert A. Bell
- Ward Bond as John Palmer Cass
- Milburn Stone as Stephen A. Douglas
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.
- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
- 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
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