Uncut - 03/01/2005
"[T]he small-town whimsy here is undercut with real darkness..."
Sight and Sound - 04/01/2005
"The tone shifts smoothly from folksy humour to suspense, reaching an epic note in the iconic final shot..."
Entertainment Weekly - 02/17/2006
"Henry Fonda manages plainspoken eloquence in this visually simple, morally complex movie, a too rarely emulated model for political filmmaking." -- Grade: A
Premiere - 03/01/2006
"[A] cornerstone of the director's loving but critical perspective on American myth and history."
New York Times - 02/14/2006
"Ford's dual vision of Lincoln leads him to one of the most extraordinary closing acts in American film..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Few historical figures are as revered as Abraham Lincoln, and few director-star pairings embody classic American cinema as perfectly as that of John Ford and Henry Fonda. In Young Mr. Lincoln, their first collaboration, Fonda gives one of the finest performances of his career, as the young president-to-be, struggling with an incendiary murder case as a novice lawyer. Compassionate and assured, this is an indelible piece of Americana.
John Ford's film on the early career of Abraham Lincoln, which centers on an apocryphal murder trial, impressed even the great Sergei Eisenstein. It stars Henry Fonda as the title character, who opts for the law after receiving encouragement from his early, ill-fated love, Anne 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 4th celebration, a man is murdered in a brawl, and the accused are Matt and Adam Clay (Richard Cromwell and Eddie Quillan), two brothers of a family that Lincoln knows. After saving the two men from a lynch mob, Lincoln becomes their defending attorney, a difficult task since each man claims guilt to spare the other. Admiring his courage, Mary Todd (Marjorie Weaver) invites him to her sister's soiree and expresses an intense interest in his future. More pressing is his meeting with Abigail Clay (Alice Brady), who understandably refuses to tell Lincoln which of her sons is the killer. Although entirely fictional, Ford's fable conveys the essence of the great man's character: honesty, humor, wisdom, and a shrewdness that knew how to take a back road to reach the high road. A triumph of acting, writing, and direction, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN features one of Fonda's greatest screen performances.
This biography provides a glimpse into the fascinating life Abraham Lincoln led before he became a politician, focusing especially on Lincoln's prowess in his first career as a lawyer as he defends two brothers accused of murder in what becomes a very incendiary trial.
Additional cast: Judith Dickens (Carrie Sue); Kay Linaker (Mrs. Edwards); Cliff Clark (Sheriff Billings); Clarence Hummel Wilson (Dr. Mason); Billy Watson (Young Matt Clay); Delmar Watson (Young Adam Clay); Harry Tyler (Barber).