Abe Lincoln in Illinois
Now on the screen!
Abe Lincoln in Illinois is a 1940 biographical film which tells the story of the life of Abraham Lincoln from his departure from Kentucky until his election as President of the United States.
An earnest and appealing look at the early years of Abraham Lincoln's political career, ending with his election to the office of President. Like 2012's Lincoln this film is firmly in the "Great Man" school of history: Raymond Massey as Honest Abe is virtuous, funny, generous, beloved by everyone, and burdened with a glorious purpose he doesn't want. He reluctantly accepts the destiny thrust upon him by his character, with help from his ambitious wife Mary.
I found this movie quite entertaining, despite its occasional grandiose moments. It would actually make a pretty decent double feature with Lincoln: the two films are similar in tone and in their portrayals of Abe and Mary.
A stirring, well constructed and effectively poignant adaptation of Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize winning play, led by a moving, subtly compelling and beautifully achieved central performance from Massey.
Follows Lincoln from a young man to his becoming President, with a young Ruth Gordon playing Mary Todd. Hard to make direct comparisons to the current Lincoln given the stories never intersect, but I found it to be the more interesting of the two, with just as good performances in the two lead roles.
With Daniel Day-Lewis's definitive Lincoln now on film, Raymond Massey's Oscar-nominated turn seems more clumsy than it might have in years past. His tall, gawky frame allows him to bring physicality to the role, but his Lincoln is an empty-headed yokel. It's no easy task removing the intrigue from such a fascinating man. However, the scenarios here are downright goofy; Lincoln wins respect by wrestling a local bully and charms Mary Todd by hitting his head on a chandelier. Reducing his history to anecdotes, the film does no justice to the man. Ruth Gordon, high-voiced and wild-eyed, is a beguiling Mary Todd, at least. James Wong Howe's accomplished cinematography opens up this stuffy adaptation.