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Wick's Review

Created Apr 27, 2015 07:00PM PST • Edited Oct 15, 2015 11:30PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    Young Mr. Lincoln happily Hollywoodizes our future greatest President. It’s a funny and frequently illuminating movie. Young Henry Fonda played upstanding young men especially well, while John Ford remains one of Hollywood’s greatest directors, with Young Mr. Lincoln in the second tier of his canon.

    This deserved hagiography of our most beloved American archetype celebrates Honest Abe’s good nature, gentle cunning and ragtag beginning. So what if it’s more inspired than exacting in relating Lincoln’s early career. The murder trial that animates the latter half is mostly true, albeit time-shifted. Abraham Lincoln really did get his client acquitted in quite dramatic fashion. Other elements of his life also shine through, making Young Mr. Lincoln historically satisfying even as it tickles our fancy about the lovable Lincoln.

    It’s not for everyone however.

    Largely un-ironic, John Ford’s 1939 B&W film is no doubt too cheesy for most 21st century sophisticates. But if you want a gut-level understanding of Lincoln’s America, Young Mr. Lincoln delivers the mail.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    Henry Fonda was 33 when he played Abraham Lincoln for John Ford. We think of the great Fonda as an old man, but he was young once, the perfect young American to play Young Mr. Lincoln.

    • Marjorie Weaver as a refined Mary Todd
    • Milburn Stone as a dandified Stephen A. Douglas
    • Pauline Moore as a virginal Ann Rutledge
  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Very Good 3.5
  6. Female Costars Good 3.0
  7. Male Costars Very Good 3.5
  8. Great 4.0

    John Ford couldn’t call Young Mr. Lincoln one of his big hits, yet it stands the test of time, even if he stooped for hokey instead of standing for honesty. Box Office has always spoken louder than accuracy.

    He earns an LOL with the tug-o-war scene. More significantly, he doesn’t flinch from showing Americans as simpletons prone to mob thinking. Yet the fact of Lincoln coming from that rabble is Ford’s message.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Great 4.0

    Lamar Trotti’s screenplay twists facts and goes maudlin more than once, yet doesn’t obscure Abraham Lincoln’s homespun sagacity.

  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5
  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.2
  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Fierce 1.6
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.0
  18. Glib 1.3

    “All the slaves coming in, white folks couldn’t hardly make a living” said a son of antebellum Kentucky. Abraham Lincoln knew from an early age that slavery was wrong for everybody, not just for the slaves. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln brings forth the same point made by then President Lincoln.

    My research on 12 Years a Slave deepens the proposition.

    • Did Abraham Lincoln really ride a mule, as shown in Young Mr. Lincoln? Some say no.
    • Amongst the fascinating scenes is the Independence Day Parade, featuring a wagonload of Revolutionary War veterans. The film is set in the 1830s, when Lincoln was in his twenties and those veterans would be in their seventies. How’s that for a continuum of American heroes.
    • Lincoln really did win an acquittal in the celebrated murder trial of William ’Duff’Armstrong. However, he did it in 1858, one score and seven years after the movie purported it.
    • HistoryOnFilm.com assesses Young Mr. Lincoln
  19. Circumstantial Glib 2.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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