Abraham Lincoln

4. ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1930-USA). Directed by D.W. Griffith. With walter Huston, UNA merkel, kay hammond, henry walthall. Screenplay by Stephen VINCENT BENET. Griffith’s first sound film is a tasteful, dignified biography Of Lincoln from his birth in a log cabin to his assassination in Ford’s Theatre. Most Of the familiar events are here: Lincoln’s romance with Ann Rutledge and his agony over her untimely death; his experiences as a young lawyer; his marriage to shrewish Mary Todd; the Lincoln-Douglas debates; the Presidency, overshadowed by the tragedy Of a divided nation. Griffith wasn’t totally comfortable with sound, and some Of the film is static and talky. (A number Of important events are discussed, not shown.) But there are many scenes that show the director Of “Birth Of a Nation” at his best: the love scene between Lincoln and Ann, set against a beautiful pastoral landscape; the thrilling sequence in which Northern and Southern soldiers march Off to war; General Lee’s moving, tearful prayer as he faces certain defeat; and General Sheridan’s ride to rally his troopsÑan overpowering combination Of sound, editing and movement. Walter Huston perfectly conveys both the stature and the humility Of a man haunted by great sorrow, burdened by momentous decisions, and consumed by one overriding passion: “The Union must be preserved!” Griffith was to make only one more film, and then was deemed “old fashioned” by both Hollywood and the public. But this classic portrait Of Lincoln indicated that the cinema’s first important director could have had many years Of greatness ahead. A must for anyone interested in Griffith, and in the achievements Of the early sound era. 85 minutes. D.W. Griffith