A fictionalized account of the early life of the American president as a young lawyer facing his greatest court case.A fictionalized account of the early life of the American president as a young lawyer facing his greatest court case.A fictionalized account of the early life of the American president as a young lawyer facing his greatest court case.
The film marked Ford's first of nine collaborations with Henry Fonda and is also a quintessential example of Ford's folksy Americana vein. A beautifully made and pictorially quite poetic piece of work, the courtroom sequences (and eventual revelation) in its second half still pack quite a wallop, apart from giving stalwart character actor Donald Meek a memorably meaty role as the prosecuting attorney.
Fonda is, of course, perfectly cast as a bashful, inexperienced but rigorous and humanistic lawyer who was destined to become President; Fonda would go on to portray other fictitious politicians on film - most notably in Franklin J. Schaffner's THE BEST MAN (1964) and Sidney Lumet's FAIL-SAFE (1964) - and it's surprising now to learn that he was reluctant at the time about accepting the role of Lincoln since, in his view, that was "like playing God"!
It is interesting to note here that Ford had previously tackled Abraham Lincoln (tangentially) in THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936), a superb but perhaps little-known gem which has, luckily, just been released as a Special Edition DVD by the UK's veritable Criterion stand-in, Eureka's "Masters Of Cinema" label. Besides, I also have two more Abraham Lincoln films in my DVD collection which I've yet to watch and, incidentally, both were directed by D. W. Griffith - THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) and ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1930) - and, had I not just received a bunch of films I've never watched before just now, I would have gladly given them a spin based on my highly-satisfying viewing experience with YOUNG MR. LINCOLN.
- May 6, 2006