Sight and Sound - 08/01/2002
"...ABRAHAM LINCOLN provides a fascinating insight into how Griffith imagined adapting his silent techniques to sound..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
D.W. Griffith, "the man who invented Hollywood" directs the life of Abraham Lincoln in epic fashion with this lavish production which was selected as one of 1930's ten best films by the New York Times. Walter Huston turns in a towering performance as Lincoln, powerfully supported by a cast that includes Una Merkel, Jason Robards and Ian Keith as John Wilkes Booth. Famed author Stephen Vincent Benet wrote the screenplay, the only one ever attempting to encompass Lincoln's entire life. The work of master production designer William Cameron Menzies is evident throughout, particularly in touches such as the brilliant ending sequence. Abraham Lincoln is regarded by film critics as an important document of Hollywood's great transition to talkies, and master director Griffith's first sound production would prove to be a box office success.
Silent film master D.W. Griffith's first talkie works as a companion piece to his classic BIRTH OF A NATION, providing a detailed biographical sketch of the 16th president. We see his birth in a log cabin, the tragic death of his first love, Ann Rutledge (Una Merkel), his debates with Douglas, his accepting of the presidency, the terrible toll of the Civil War, and finally the tragic assassination at Ford's Theater. Griffith shows his usual meticulous attention to period detail, and the framing of the various vignettes has the feel of historical photographs come to life. Walter Huston is excellent in the title role, with a portrayal that subtly evolves from laconic, wizened rascal to noble elder statesman. This is a fascinating, worthy film, and an interesting historical document in and of itself.
Significant for many reasons, not the least of which is that this is Griffith's first talkie as a director. Tracing the life of the president from his humble birth to his career in politics, Griffith's portrait is factual and sincere--with a stand-out performance by Walter Huston (father of John and grandfather of Angelica) as Lincoln.
Civil War |
Essential Cinema |
Personal Triumph |
Silent Cinema |
True Story |
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