Abraham Lincoln (1930)

Passed   |    |  Biography, Drama, History


Abraham Lincoln (1930) Poster

An episodic biography of the 16th President of the United States.


5.7/10
1,318

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11 November 2007 | wes-connors
7
| Abraham Lincoln Achieves Griffith Sainthood
If one were to commission a film depicting the life of Abraham Lincoln, in 1930, one might well produce this film; and, one would be very satisfied with the resulting "Abraham Lincoln", both artistically, and commercially. Today, however, this is not a very exciting film. It succeeds somewhat as a series of staged vignettes, depicting stories about President Lincoln.

Walter Huston is given the difficult job of portraying the revered Lincoln, and he excels, after a shaky start. Director D.W. Griffith employs a fine supporting cast, with mixed results. Early scenes are hampered by the characterizations offered by Una Merkel (as Ann Rutledge) and Kay Hammond (as Mary Todd); these are "the romances" of Lincoln's life; and, they are awful. The courtship scenes involving Mr. Huston and Ms. Merkel are particularly absurd. Henry B. Walthall is notable, later on; but. he doesn't have much to do. It might have been interesting to see Mr. Walthall play John Wilkes Booth -- admittedly, this was an unlikely consideration at the time; and, Ian Keith is perfectly suitable in the role. Walthall graciously supports Hobart Bosworth (as Robert E. Lee) during his screen time; and, Mr. Bosworth is outstanding.

There is no mystery in the main story elements: he was born in a log cabin, and is assassinated in the end. Griffith acquaints himself well with "sound" in a film, though, in hindsight, it is a technical weakness. There are moments, or flashes, of "greatness" in the film, but they don't contribute to a collective work of consequence. Griffith treats Lincoln with a reverence that is oddly uncomfortable; by the film's end, the story structure confirms Lincoln has become Divine. The ending reprise of "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on..." nicely evokes both "John Brown's Body" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." An appropriate connection.

******* Abraham Lincoln (8/25/30) D.W. Griffith ~ Walter Huston, Kay Hammond, Hobart Bosworth

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