Abraham Lincoln (1930)





Director:  D. W. Griffith

Starring:  William L. Thorne (Tom Lincoln),  Lucille La Verne (Mid-wife),  Helen Freeman (Nancy Hanks Lincoln), Otto Hoffman (Offut),  Walter Huston (Abraham Lincoln),  Edgar Dearing (Jack Armstrong),  Una Merkel (Ann Rutledge),  Russell Simpson (Uncle Jimmy, Lincoln's employer),  Charles Crockett (Sheriff), Kay Hammond (Mary Todd Lincoln),  Helen Ware (Mrs. Edwards),  F. Alyn Warren (Stephen A. Douglas),  Jason Robards (Herndon),  Gordon Thorpe (Tad Lincoln),  Ian Keith (John Wilkes Boothe),  Cameron Prudhomme (John Hay, secretary to the president),  James Bradbury, Sr. (General Scott),  Jimmie Eagle (Young Soldier),  F. Alyn Warren (General Grant),  Oscar Apfel (Sec. of War Stanton),  Frank Campeau (Gereral Sheridan),  Hobart Bosworth (Gen. Lee),  Henry B. Walthall (Col. Marshall),

Walter Huston plays the part of honest Abe and does an excellent job, but there is not that much of interest otherwise.  


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

February 12, 1809.  The wind is howling through the area.  The mid-wife comes to get Tom Lincoln.  Nancy Hanks Lincoln has given birth to a boy who she shall name Abraham. 

The Story of a Man Begins.  Lincoln is the clerk in a general store run by Mr. Offut.  A ruffian, Jack Armstrong,  comes in looking for a fight and chooses Lincoln.  He pushes Abe outside of the store.  There they start wrestling with each other.  Abe wins the contest.  Armstrong's buddies starts attacking the tall man, but Armstrong stops them saying he beat him fair.  They go into the general store to drink some liquor, but Lincoln doesn't drink.  A fellow asks him if he is a regulator of whiskey?  Abe says he's only interested in regulating his own intake and that's all. 

While Abe is splitting wood Ann Rutledge reads to him from a law book.  It's obvious he's sweet on her.  He keeps grabbing her tighter.  His boss, Uncle Jimmy, stops his buggy by Abe and tells him:  "Abe, I ain't paying you no 40 cents a day to spark a pretty gal."   He tells Ann that Abe is the best rail-splitter in the country.  Ann says:  "He'll be more than a rail splitter." 

Abe keeps courting Ann.  He asks her to marry him when he gets out of debt.  She says she will marry him. 

Ann has been feeling ill.  The doctor  tells Abraham:  "It's hopeless Abe."  Perhaps she will live until tomorrow but no longer.  He goes in the cabin to see Ann.  She tells Abe that she feels afraid. 

The doctor comes to visit Abe, but Abe has been an emotional mess for five days.  He walks around mechanically and has not been speaking. 

The sister of Mary Todd says to Mary that maybe she will become the wife the great gentleman Stephen A. Douglas, but Mary mentions the name of another:  Abraham Lincoln.  Douglas comes to Mary's home to see her.  The maid tells them that Douglas is down in the parlor.  Mary and Douglas dance, while Abe look very uncomfortable and out of place standing over by the fireplace.  The sight makes Mary start giggling.  Lincoln comes over to Mary and Stephen and asks Stephen if he would introduce him to the young lady.  Stephen introduces Mary and Abe and Mary is shocked to know that the man she was just laughing at is Abraham Lincoln, lawyer of Springfield. 

Stuart and Lincoln law office.  Abraham tries on a stove-top hat.  Inside the hat he carries his marriage license. He tells his partner that Mary scares him.  She has been telling him that he can be president of the United States one day. 

Abe is one hour late for the wedding.  Mary is getting a bit angry at him.  Stuart says he will tell Mary that Abe is on his way.  Lincoln, still in his office, looks at Ann's photograph and says:  "Anne!  Anne!"  Lincoln is even more late now and some start thinking that perhaps Abe just ran away.  Mary starts telling the wedding guest that they may as well go home.  She also shocks the guests by referring to Lincoln as a "country baboon".

Two years later.  A woman has worked hard at bring Abe and Mary back together.  Abe comes in and tells Mary that he thinks he has finally settled down at last.  Mary says they won't say any more about the subject for she feels that he really needs her.  They hug. 

Douglas and Abe are running for one of the senate seats for Illinois.  They carry out what becomes known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates.  Douglas thinks that free and slave states can live together in one nation.  Douglas says each state should decide for itself on the slavery issue.  Lincoln says"  "We will not allow the extension of slavery to any state.  We will not allow the secession of any state.  Above all, and before all, the union must be preserved.  A House divided against itself must fall."

Lincoln says to his partner he is 50 years old and a failure at everything.  Mr. Ferrell is introduced to Lincoln and Herndon.  Ferrell says that Lincoln has become a national figure due to the Lincoln-Douglas debates and he is here to ask Lincoln if he would be the Republican Party's candidate for the presidency of the United States.  Lincoln says this needs deep consideration, but he will talk to Ferrell at his hotel after the Lincolns have their dinner. 

John Brown and his small group of men take over Harper's Ferry in Virginia (now in West Virginia).  He wanted to start a war to rid the nation of slavery.  In Virginia the people on the street seem very alarmed at this prospect.  A man named John Wilkes Booth:  "I'll shoot on sight every abolitionist who dares to defile the soil of Virginia."

Lincoln is elected to the presidency and the family moves into the White House.  Mary barks like a drill instructor at the soldiers brining in the belongings of the Lincolns.

The cabinet wants to abandon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina to avoid civil war.  Lincoln decides that relief shall go to Fort Sumter.   

Fort Sumter.  4:30 A.M.  April 12, 1861.  The cannon open up on the fort.  Civil War begins.  Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers. The South mobilizes its troops.

Lincoln's cabinet wants Lincoln to move onto Richmond, Virginia, but Lincoln won't be rushed.  Gen. Scotts tells Lincoln that he is sure they are winning.  He is handed a telegraph that the Union is winning what became the Battle of Bull Run.   A little later bad news comes.  Lincoln has to sit down.  The Union men are running away, demoralized.  Take action to protect the capital.  So now the president knows that this is going to be a harder struggle than what was thought. 

Mrs. Lincoln is upset that they are going to have to move again after she had to work so hard on the first move.  Mr. Lincoln, however, tells her that he's not moving and he's taking over the conduct of the war himself. He goes to visit the generals in their encampment. As he approaches his destination he hears a young soldier being condemned to death for cowardice on the battlefield.  Lincoln enters the tent and wants to hear about his particular story.  The young man said when they finally got to their goal of the stone wall, he saw his childhood friend who had been killed awhile ago by their soldiers.  He says then he went really crazy.  He threw his rifle away. 

Lincoln sits down and says he's tired.  Lincoln decides to pardon the young man because at least he didn't run away.  He tells the fellow:  "Go back and do your duty." 

The senators complain to Lincoln that people are tied of watching this slaughter.  They are tired of the war.  Just then little Tad Lincoln comes in seeing a song about his father that he heard.  He jumps on his father's lap and complains about his mother making him go to bed.  Lincoln says he has to go to bed, so Tad leaves.  Lincoln says he's tired of all this fighting too, but the union must persevere.  Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in the Southern states. He says: "Well, gentlemen, it is done."

Lincoln learns that there are 600,000 Copperheads against him and the war. Mary comes to Abe to tell him to come to bed, but Abe says he can't sleep.  He just keeps pacing the floor.  Mary puts his slippers on his feet.  All of a sudden, the president says he now knows what man will win the war:  Grant. 

Lincoln talks to Grant and tells him that they have had a lieutenant general since George Washington, but his is bestowing this great honor on Grant.  Grant wants no interference with his battle decisions and Lincoln agree to the meddle in the business of the general.  His orders to Grant are:  "Win the war!"   Mary comes in and wants to speak to her husband about firing some of their servants.  She then complains about the smoke from Grant's cigar, but at least the smoke gets rid of Mary so the two men can continue talking.  He tells Grant that he has given him a lesson and he may take up smoking himself. 

Bad news comes that a division under Gen. Sheridan has be routed.  Sheridan has his breakfast and hears what he thinks is cannon fire.  He goes outside to ask a local if he hears cannon fire.  The man puts his ear to the ground  and comes up saying it's cannon fire alright over by the supplies coming over by the swamp.  They may have caught the union forces by surprise.  Sheridan immediately goes into action.  The president gets a second gloomy telegram saying that Sheridan has been decisively defeated.



The rest of the DVD is not viewable.  I have to buy another copy so I can finish this film.    So I did buy another copy and it was bad in the same place as the first one. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



Historical Background:


See Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).

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