“Do you suppose there’s a human being who wants peace more than I do?”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Abraham Lincoln has been somewhat unfairly maligned over the years — most notoriously by Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss in their book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (1978), where the authors call out (among other things) the melodramatic acting style of Merkel (who they refer to as “very simply beneath contempt”):
… the occasionally clunky dialogue (“Oh, Ann! I love you so!”), and the screenplay’s revisionist tendencies (i.e., Lincoln spouting part of his inaugural address before settling down to watch his final play at Ford’s Theater).
However, Medved and Dreyfuss’s attack simply comes across as mean-spirited — as is their entire book, come to think of it. While Abraham Lincoln hasn’t dated all that well, and is far from accurate as a nuanced history lesson, it’s not nearly the clunker these authors claim it to be. Abraham Lincoln is primarily a victim of its own era — the transition between silent films and talkies, a time when few directors were getting things completely “right”. In addition, the episodic nature of the screenplay doesn’t do the subject any favors, with far too much material covered in too short a time. Huston does a fine job as Lincoln:
… though I ultimately prefer Henry Fonda’s more introspective interpretation in John Ford’s superior Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: