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Daniel Day Louis Is Abraham Lincoln; But Is He Really Abe?

Trailer Raises Questions About Accuracy of Lincoln Personality

Daniel Day Lewis gives the most credible performance as Abraham Lincoln since Henry Fonda in the 1939 movie “Young Mr. Lincoln.” But where’s Abe, the amiable, good humored backwoods lawyer? He’s absent from a new trailer, hopefully not the movie.

Anytime a director like Steven Spielberg attempts to take on an historical figure as mythological as Lincoln, debate is sure to erupt over the portrayal.

While some critics have taken issue with Louis’s voicing of Lincoln, the real issue is Lincoln’s personality.

The new trailer portrays the president as stoic and reserved, weighed by the burdens of a ruinous civil war and the morality of slavery in a nation supposedly dedicated to equal rights under God. But Lincoln was much more than Spielberg’s reverence for him would have you believe.

He’s described by Lincoln scholar Edward J. Kempf as “long, lean, lanky, easy-going, smiling,” a man who loved to entertain and tell stories. “There was a clear charm to young Lincoln that residents would long remember,” Johnny Potter a contemporary recalled.

President Lincoln sometimes baffled members of his Cabinet, who did not share his mix of humor and melancholy, according to Kempf.

“Secretary Welles was shocked that Mr. Lincoln could laugh heartily at a rather inane jest of Artemus Ward’s, a moment before turning to consider the weighty matter of the Emancipation Proclamation,” wrote Lincoln Biographer Helen Nicolay.

Fonda’s portrayal in “The Young Mr. Lincoln,” although partially fictionalized, captured that spirit as did Raymond Massey, portraying the president, in the 1940 film “Abe Lincoln in Illinois,” for which he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.

Spielberg’s portrait of the 16th president would be woefully incomplete if that facet of Lincoln’s personality is lost in the film in an attempt to make Lincoln seem “epic.”

Check out the trailer below and other Lincoln portrayals. And click here to follow TheImproper on Twitter for more film updates. “Lincoln” is out in limited release on Nov. 9.

  • Marie

    According to Doris Kearns Goodwin in an interview on Don Imus a couple days ago, the LIncoln film, which she’s seen and she says she likes, does contain LIncoln’s famous antecdotal humor…(she says the humor is actually kind of smutty..probably according to 19th century standards). Pay attention a little closer to the trailer, there is a montage moment of lincoln and his cabinet member Gideon Welles laughing at something. I am not sure why they didn’t include the humor in the trailer, and I can’t say one way or the other if DDL delivers the comedy goods. But the movie is supposed to have humor. By the way, Abe didn’t like being called Abe, ironically. It was LIncoln (or Mr. LIncoln) that he prefered.

  • Jim Jones

    I was born and raised in Springfield, IL and have deeply admired and respected Lincoln practically since birth. Given that Daniel Day Lewis is a Brit, I’d say his voice portrayal of Lincoln is not-too-bad. I have read that Lincoln was somewhat nasal in his speaking. Many people from Springfield speak this way today. Lewis doesn’t quite manage the nasal tone, but to me still pulls off a convincing middle-American accent. I look forward to the movie’s release.

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