Saturday, January 19, 2013

Abe Lincoln in Illinois

"Abe Lincoln in Illinois" tells of the Old Rail-Splitter's adult, pre-presidential life, from his days as a backwoods Kentucky bumpkin, to his law practice in Illinois and his run for Senate in 1858 against Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart) followed up by the presidential election. We also see glimpses of his relationship with Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard), his supposed true love, and the more contentious society girl Mary Todd (Ruth Gordon). Along with Henry Fonda just before him and Daniel Day-Lewis now, Raymond Massey deserves to stand among the great cinematic portrayers of our 16th President, although his is the hokiest take of the three. John Cromwell's (father of actor James) film adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood's play covers an impressive amount of ground, and as a highlight, features moving and what I believe are word-for-word recitations of Lincoln's "A House Divided" and "This Too Shall Pass" speeches.