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Abraham Lincoln is born in a log cabin in 1809, becomes an at best
mildly successful businessman once grown up, and while he's peace-loving
in general, he can stand his man should need arise. Lincoln has higher
aspirations though, and he studies to be a lawyer, en route falling in
love with his tutor Ann (Una Merkel), who died though before they could
ever get married.
Eventually, Lincoln meets Mary Todd (Kay Hammond), a
woman he should soon marry, and who becomes the driving force behind his
political aspirations. Lincoln runs for senate eventually in Illinois, but
due to his insistance on ending slavery and preserving the union of the
United States, he loses out against Senator Douglas (E. Alyn Warren), once
one of Mary's suitors. But because of his speeches for preserving the
Union, he is soon sent into election for presidency on the Republican
ticket - and wins. But his election led to the secession of the South and
the Civil War - which the Union seemed to lose for quite a while, until
Lincoln appoints war hero General Grant (E. Alyn Warren again for some
reason) Commander General, and thanks to his unorthodox tactics and the
heroism of General Sheridan (Frank Campeau).
The war is won eventually,
and Lincoln also wins his reelection, basically due to his leniency
towards the former enemy, and probably also the fact that his actions did
not crush the nation after all. But there are some who can't get over the
fact that Lincoln has done what he has done, first and foremost John
Wilkes Booth (Ian Keith), a mildly talented actor, who uses his contacts
to the theatre Lincoln spends a fateful evening in 1865 in to get close
enough to the president to shoot him dead ...
A film that is
well enough made thanks to elegant camerawork (however limited due to
1930's technology), carefully laid out shots, and a pretty good cast
(first and foremost the dependable Walter Huston in the title role) ...
and at the same time, it's a very dull film, because basically on a
narrative level it absolutely lacks build-up, fails to explain political
backgrounds of pretty much everything (e.g. no more than two fleeting
remarks about slavery, no explanation whatsoever would be so bad about
secession, ...), the Civil War utterly lacks excitement, and the peace
comes about after the victory of the North with no explanation at all. And
on top of that, the characters, though greatly portrayed, uniformly lack
depth: Lincoln the man remains a mystery to the audience throughout, while
his wife seems to adopt and drop character traits rather at will, and no
other characters are given enough screentime to be anything but
I have to admit, quite a disappointment, actually.