Share

Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: Now

Abraham Lincoln Details

FULL SYNOPSIS

To date, this D.W. Griffith epic is the only talking-picture effort to encapsulate the entire life of Abraham Lincoln, from cradle to grave. The script, credited to Stephen Vincent Benet, manages to include all the familiar high points, including Lincoln's tragic romance with Ann Rutledge (Una Merkel, allegedly cast because of her resemblance to Griffith favorite Lillian Gish), his lawyer days in Illinois, his contentious marriage to Mary Todd (Kay Hammond), his heartbreaking decision to declare war upon the South, his pardoning of a condemned sentry during the Civil War, and his assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth (expansively portrayed by Ian Keith). This was D.W. Griffith's first talkie, and the master does his best with the somewhat pedantic dialogue sequences; but as always, Griffith's forte was spectacle and montage, as witness the cross-cut scenes of Yankees and Rebels marching off to war and the pulse-pounding ride of General Sheridan (Frank Campeau) through the Shenandoah Valley. Thanks to the wizardry of production designer William Cameron Menzies, many of the scenes appear far more elaborate than they really were; Menzies can also be credited with the unforgettable finale, as Honest Abe's Kentucky log cabin dissolves to the Lincoln Memorial. As Abraham Lincoln, Walter Huston is a tower of strength, making even the most florid of speeches sound human and credible; only during the protracted death scene of Ann Rutledge does Huston falter, and then the fault is as much Griffith's as his. Road-shown at nearly two hours (including a prologue showing slaves being brought to America), Abraham Lincoln was pared down to 97 minutes by United Artists, and in that length it proved a box-office success, boding well for D.W. Griffith's future in talkies (alas, it proved to be his next-to-last film; Griffith's final effort, Huston was a financial disaster). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Walter Huston
as Abraham Lincoln
Una Merkel
as Ann Rutledge
Jason Robards, Sr.
as Herndon
Ian Keith
as John Wilkes Booth
Hobart Bosworth
as Gen. Robert E. Lee
Frank Campeau
as Gen. Sheridan
Hank Bell
Robert Brower
Ralph Lewis
George MacQuarrie
Cameron Prud'Homme
as John Hay
Carl Stockdale
Lucille La Verne
as Midwife
Helen Freeman
as Nancy Hanks Lincoln
Otto Hoffman
as Offut
Edgar Dearing
as Armstrong
Russell Simpson
as Lincoln's Employer
Helen Ware
as Mrs. Edwards
E. Alyn Warren
as Stephen Douglas
Gordon Thorpe
as Tad Lincoln
James Bradbury
as Gen. Scott
Fred Warren
as Gen. U.S. Grant
Oscar Apfel
as Stanton
Henry B. Walthall
as Col. Marshall
Mary Forbes
as Woman
Francis Ford
as Sheridan's Aide
Henry Kolker
as New Englander
Robert E. Homans
as Man
Otto Hoffman
as Offut
Fred Warren
as Gen. U.S. Grant
Lucille La Verne
as Midwife
Oscar Apfel
as Stanton
Henry Kolker
as New Englander
Gordon Thorpe
as Tad Lincoln
Helen Freeman
as Nancy Hanks Lincoln
Henry B. Walthall
as Col. Marshall
Francis Ford
as Sheridan's Aide
James Bradbury
as Gen. Scott
Helen Ware
as Mrs. Edwards
Edgar Dearing
as Armstrong
Mary Forbes
as Woman
Russell Simpson
as Lincoln's Employer
Cameron Prud'Homme
as John Hay
E. Alyn Warren
as Stephen Douglas

Crew

D.W. Griffith
Director
D.W. Griffith
Producer
Bret Wood
Producer
Karl Struss
Cinematographer
Hugo Riesenfeld
Composer (Music Score)
Hal Kern
Editor
William Cameron Menzies
Production Designer
William Cameron Menzies
Art Director
William Cameron Menzies
Set Designer
Advertisement