I felt like a kid, tonight. In fact, it felt like I had the excitement of all my birthdays and Christmases all combined.
Quintin and I met Brian Pollock at The Greene to watch the movie I’ve waited several years to see.
The theatre, at 6:30pm, was packed for the 7:00pm showing, and we sat down in the lower tier, or as Brian aptly stated, “laying down in front of the TV on the floor.” I was thrilled to see the theater packed. At first, when I saw the immense lines of young teen girls, I was hopeful that LINCOLN-fever had reached their generation; however, I soon learned they were there to see the new TWILIGHT movie.
My bottom line reaction: BRAVO!
I am sure the historians will find fault with this movie. Naturally, there were items I knew, or believed to be historically inaccurate, but this is not a documentary. LINCOLN is a fictional account based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, TEAM OF RIVALS. Tony Award winning playwright, Tony Kushner, delivered a tight, believable, and emotional script that highlighted some of our country’s greatest individuals set against the backdrop of the Civil War.
Before the movie even hit theaters, folks were complaining about Sally Field being too old, photos of the White House set not being accurate, or a myriad of other picky items. Folks were concerned the script would not be accurate. Again, it was a fictional account, based on actual events. If we were to examine THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE KING AND I, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, GYPSY, and others, we would be appalled at the truth versus the fictional accounts portrayed on stage. LINCOLN is no different.
Following a robust applause, the credits scrolled upward. It was an impressive line-up of names! I asked Brian if there any actors left in Hollywood to film other movies while this was being filmed. Incredible performances from some incredible actors.
Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, as President Lincoln & Mary Todd Lincoln, were everything I hoped they would be. I was not let down. Hal Holbrook was brilliant, and I did love the fact that a former Lincoln-actor, LINCOLN (television 1974-1975), was included in this list of stars. There was not one performance that disappointed me.
For me, the most delightful performance was delivered by Tommy Lee Jones, portraying Pennsylvania congressman, Thaddeus Stevens. Outstanding! I smell a supporting actor Oscar nomination!
Many have commented on Daniel Day Lewis’ voice in the movie. I think everyone believes Abraham Lincoln had a booming baritone voice like James Earl Jones; however, Lincoln’s voice was described as “high pitched, thin and reedy.” It served him well during speeches before thousands of spectators in an era without electronic sound amplification. I believe Daniel Day Lewis captured Lincoln’s voice.
In the early stages, several colleagues were fearful of Sally Fields being 20 years older than Daniel Day Lewis, and not matching the 9 year age difference between Lincoln and Mary Todd. I oft reminded the critics that Mrs. Lincoln, at age 44, looked much older, and with the blessings of Max Factor, Sally Field would be right in the ball park.
And, she was!
Sally Field has succeeded a long line of well-known actresses who have portrayed the first lady:
- Jane Curtin
- Donna Murphy
- Sada Thompson (opposite Hal Holbrook)
- Glenn Close
- Ellen Burstyn
- Mary Tyler Moore
- Julie Harris (in the Broadway play, THE LAST OF MRS. LINCOLN, penned by fellow Ball State University graduate, James Prideaux)
- Lillian Gish
- Geraldine Fitzgerald
- Ruth Gordon
- and dozens more…
When Gore Vidal’s LINCOLN premiered on television, I was horrified by Mary Tyler Moore’s abrasive portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln. With the combined script, direction and acting, I felt Tyler-Moore’s particular portrayal was just awful. Sally Field, for me, personally, was Mary Todd Lincoln. Ms. Field was terribly believable, capturing Mrs. Lincoln’s fire, intelligence, grace, doubts, feelings and frustrations of being left out of her husband’s White House work, charm, political savvy, tender and protective maternal nature, and a Mary that was very capable of holding her own in a world ruled by men!
Were there items I feel should have been included to better round out the character of Mrs. Lincoln?
Of course. But this movie was not about Mary Todd Lincoln. It focused on President Lincoln and those who fought to pass the Thirteenth Amendment. The writing and directing of this particular character was far better than previous attempts, and Ms. Field’s professional, and personal choices pleased me very much.
There were a few scenes that were historically adjusted, but those moments seemed to strengthen Mary Lincoln’s heartbreak and devastation at the loss of her son, Willie, who died within their first year of residency in the White House, as well as the fire and capacity that Mrs. Lincoln exhibited, much to Abraham’s success.
So… go see LINCOLN.
If you are a historian, take off your historian cap, as I did, and simply rejoice in the truly great work, and the fact that the Lincolns are currently a fairly hot commodity in motion pictures!