Sunday, February 3, 2013


Friday we went to see Lincoln. It was not bad. Yet, good as Daniel Day Lewis is, I was almost always conscious of what a fine job he was doing, not of Lincoln. I am not sure why this was so, but guess
  • Too much looking past the camera. Photographs of Lincoln show a very direct look, the eyes of an intelligent and powerful man.
  • A voice that likewise fails to convey the will and intelligence.
The domestic and homely touches are fine, but not ultimately relevant. There have been many American politicians who have been good storytellers. There have been quite a few who had unhappy wives or who lost children. But they are mostly forgotten, while Lincoln is anything but.

Nor did I believe in Grant, particularly. The actor looked physically soft, as Grant definitely did not. Photographs of Grant taken during the Civil War show a very dangerous man. Tommy Lee Jones's Thaddeus Stevens I thought might have done very well for Thomas Cromwell. Really, the only actor I much believed in was Jackie Hale Early as Alexander Stephens.

The underlying problem may be that we all know too much about Lincoln to accept a movie's version. We know the stories, we know the speeches. We can finish many sentences in the Second Inaugural.. We know that when the physician pronounces Lincoln dead, Stanton will say "Now he belongs to the ages." 

I will say that I owe the movie the urge to take out a volume of Lincoln's writings, and read some. For less than $50 dollars--about the price of four tickets to the movie--one can get the Library of America's two volumes of Lincoln's speeches and writings, 1832-1858 and1859-1865,

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