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Films >> Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) >>

1) We may be too quick to commit the opposite sin these days: debunking our heroes and exposing their clay feet. Nonetheless, "Abe Lincoln" can often seem like an extended exercise in hindsight. (Richards)

2) Although Abe Lincoln in Illinois is burdened by lengthy stretches of earnest liberal soapboxing, and a far-too-long first act fixation on Lincoln's (actually mythical) relationship with soon-to-die Ann Rutledge, Robert Sherwood's script and Massey's performance give Lincoln a vulnerable, brooding interior life that is by no means inexorably headed for Mount Rushmore. Instead, we meet a Lincoln whose intelligence, decency and physical vigor inspires confidence in others, who keep insisting that he involve himself in public affairs. (Fellerath)

3) “There is always that one reaches for things with Lincoln that one can't quite grasp, whether it's the early romances or his own mystical association with the Bible," says Holzer, who recently edited "The Lincoln Anthology," a 964-page collection of essays, poems and plays about Lincoln by everyone from Leo Tolstoy to E.L. Doctorow. "Yet at the same time, he's not elusive, like a king," Holzer adds. "He's the most accessible of all presidents, the quintessential common man. He is on the most common of coins and he sits on the pedestal in the grandest monument in the capital city." (Marks)

4) Through all this, “Honest Abe” is portrayed with extreme sympathy as a charming, able young man who is rent within by bitterly conflicting emotions, a creature of two warring personalities, driven along the road of destiny against his will by forces out of his control. (New York Times)

5) The 1930’s and 40’s saw democracy under attack in the world. For the Americans of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II, Lincoln came to represent their abiding faith in democracy. (Boritt, The Lincoln Enigma 196)

6) The medium of moving pictures was created too late to capture the real Lincoln and gives us only imitators. Are these merely actors laden with makeup, or are they, as Woodrow Wilson said of the movies “writing history with lightening.” (Boritt, The Lincoln Enigma 200)

7) They used to say that George Washington was first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen, and Ben Franklin was first in everything else. But we know better. Recent polls of professional historians in 1948, 1968 and again in 1983 concur in placing Abraham Lincoln first among American Presidents. More significantly, when twenty five years ago the Gallup poll asked common Americans to name three persons past or present they wished they could take home to dinner, Lincoln led all the lists…Lincoln still is living witness to the power of humor to hide the pain, heal the hurt, sustain the spirit. (Boritt, The Historians’ Lincoln)

8) Abraham Lincoln is so deeply ingrained in our national consciousness that his image can be found practically everywhere. In a sense, Lincoln is inescapable. (Reinhart 1)

9) Three major factors likely led to the film and television industry’s ongoing fascination with Lincoln. The first was the invention of still photography during Lincoln’s lifetime…The second factor was the importance of the Civil War experience in defining the modern United States…The third and perhaps the most important factor was simply that Lincoln had become a legend in the minds of many Americans. They viewed his life story as a personification of the American spirit, embodying the virtues of intelligence, compassion, resolve, and love of country. (Reinhart 8)

10) Abe Lincoln in Illinois is a memorable, well-executed drama, but it is unfortunate that this film which disregards so many facts relating to Lincoln’s life has come to be regarded by many as one of the greatest Lincoln screen portrayals. That said, however, it should always be remembered by those with an interest in Lincoln related cinema for Raymond Massey’s excellent performance. (Reinhart 29)

11) In children’s hagiographies the boy Lincoln is portrayed as an idealized Huck Finn, shoeless but merry, manfully fetching water from the well, gazing into his Mom’s eyes as she tells stories from the Bible, cheerfully helping his Daddy to chop wood or pick pumpkins…But in the early 1800’s, when the whole country was scarcely inhabited, and families like the Lincolns had to hack and scratch a living out of a forested wasteland, forever plowing, hoeing, building fences or shooting turkeys, to an intelligent and imaginative boy a lifetime in these parts must have seemed an uninviting prospect. (Morris)