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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate biopic
Arguably one of the most capable Hollywood actors, Henry Fonda could sometimes come across as somewhat detached from his part, even cold and emotionless. Hence Leone's brilliant casting of him as the sadistic killer in "Once Upon a Time in the West". As Lincoln, however, Fonda is utterly immersed in the role; so much so that you see Lincoln on screen, not Fonda...
Published on 28 Oct 2006 by Thomas Holt

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate biopic, 28 Oct 2006
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This review is from: Young Mr Lincoln [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
Arguably one of the most capable Hollywood actors, Henry Fonda could sometimes come across as somewhat detached from his part, even cold and emotionless. Hence Leone's brilliant casting of him as the sadistic killer in "Once Upon a Time in the West". As Lincoln, however, Fonda is utterly immersed in the role; so much so that you see Lincoln on screen, not Fonda.

When invited by John Ford to take the part, Fonda's response was "Well, to me, that was like being asked to play Jesus Christ" - he jumped at it. This huge emotional and intellectual tie with his part pays dividends with an actor of Fonda's class. He becomes Lincoln; he makes you understand all the early motivations, the struggle for an education, the intelligence, courage, wit, and humanity of this possibly greatest of all American Presidents. Fonda was helped enormously, of course, by Ford's immense talent as a director. Here, Ford was tackling some of his favourite themes: the moral integrity of America's farming class, the triumph of this homespun integrity over "city slickers", and how the courage of your convictions can carry you through adversity. This time though, Ford had a real rags-to-riches story, proof positive that his optimistic philosophy works without being in the least sentimental. As a result, this film works brilliantly, so well that you cannot imagine it being done better by a different director or a different lead.

The story covers Lincoln's passage from farmer/storekeeper to self-taught lawyer in Springfield. Aside from a series of highly entertaining cameos illustrating the development of Lincoln's political skills, the bulk of the action centres around a trial which appears to be grounded in myth. It doesn't matter, it's one of the best trial scenes on film, extremely moving and, if it isn't true, it should have been.

By any measure, this is a great film. You can admire it for Ford's artistry and intuitive understanding of his subject, probably more evident in this film than in his better known works. Or you can marvel at Henry Fonda's acting skills and his total empathy with his character. This is method acting, ten years before it was invented! Even better, just sit down and enjoy it, for the first time of many.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great period piece, 3 Dec 2009
This review is from: Young Mr Lincoln [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
John Ford is probably not the classical director most easily understood by contemporary audiences,
and this is probably not his most easily understood film... But, fellas, lo and behold the strange beauty of the images,
the richness of cultural citations and connotations: this is the american cinematic mythmaking at its best; no wonder that the critics of Cahiers du cinema, in their radical phase, chose it as
an exemplary Hollywood film.

If you like classical Hollywood, biopics Henry Fonda or Ford, you shouldn't miss this one (although it's hardly a "typical" ford film).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fonda born to the play the noble lawyer, 9 May 2012
By 
Tim Kidner "Hucklebrook Hound" (Salisbury, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Young Mr Lincoln [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
If ever there was a part made for Henry Fonda, for both his imposing physical attributes and noble statesmanlike fairness, it was of Abraham Lincoln.

However, I wouldn't, though others have, call this film a 'biopic', firstly as it clearly states that it's a dramatised story centred around Lincoln as the young lawyer and also, because it covers just that and not much more.

The legendary John Ford's signature direction moulds this story into one of Ford's lesser known greats, having the usual ingredients that make his films simply "work". As usual, it all gels - the cinematography, the characterization, the humour and the final scene of huge pride as the soaring heavenly choir strike up 'Glory, Glory, Hallejulah!' and in the midst of thunder and lighting, Lincoln's Monument fades up onto the screen. Even as a Brit, I felt pride and honour!

The case, involving a murder, sees various members of the local community being grilled in court, with Lincoln as the defendant to the accused; two brothers. As we should expect, amongst the prosecutor's more aggressive questioning and courtroom banter, Lincoln's humanitarian side comes out as he takes a more sober and possibly more successful line.

True - it's not a Western, we all know John Ford can make those and even if we're not Americans ourselves, this remains a well-crafted and eminently watchable film that touches upon the goodness in us all.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Key biopic associated with the French New Wave, 5 Aug 2005
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Young Mr Lincoln [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
John Ford is no doubt one of the greatest American filmmakers and a key director of the 20th Century - his greatest work 'The Grapes of Wrath', 'The Searchers' & 'Stagecoach' easily holding their own against greats like 'The Birth of the Nation', 'Citizen Kane' & 'Gone with the Wind.' Heck, even 'lesser' works like 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance', My Darling Clementine', & 'Rio Grande' can take most films to the cleaners. He was an undoubted great, and a cursory view of his epic filmography, or the excellent biography 'Searching for John Ford: A Life' by Joseph McBride tells you exactly why...
'Young Mr Lincoln', which has been out of print for sometime and gets a deserved transfer to DVD, now gets to find a wider audience, and is one of the films to which radical Jane Fonda refers to in her recent biography 'My Life So Far' when discussing her conflicts with her father (Henry Fonda's sometime conservative nature is juxtaposed against 'The Grapes of Wrath' & 'Young Mr Lincoln' by Ms. Fonda). 'Young Mr Lincoln', along with films like 'The Big Sleep', 'The Harder They Fall' & 'Johnny Guitar' became a reference point for the early thinking of the critics-turned-auteurs, the French New Wave. It became a case study of that cahiers-du-cinema notion that a particular director's films had an auteurist notion behind them - Ford given the same treatment Alfred Hitchcock was (Francois Truffaut changing the view of Hitch - the shift from entertainer to auteur). Even the sometime caustic critic Pauline Kael described 'Young Mr Lincoln' as "one of John Ford's greatest films." Master Soviet-filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein ('The Battleship Potemkin', 'October')said of it, "Its source is a womb of popular and national spirit. This could account for its unity, its artistry, its genuine beauty." This reminds you that pre-Cold War, pre-McCarthyism, the USA had flirted with communist-socialist ideas found in works like 'Ten Days That Shook the World', 'USA' & 'Waiting for Lefty.' It also reminds you that 'Young Mr Lincoln', like 'The Grapes of Wrath' came out of the Great Depression and the ethos of the New Deal.
'Young Mr Lincoln' is also a key biopic, being made in the late 1930s on the back of such Hollywood-biopics as 'The Story of Louis Pasteur' & 'Juarez' - the famous Warners/Dieterle cycle of biopics that refashioned the genre towards a notion of entertainment over factual/historical accuracy (Daryl Zanuck was also key in this type of thinking)Thus, the biopic as we know it was formed from films like 'Young Mr Lincoln' - beating a path towards such key examples of the genre as 'Night & Day', 'Reach for the Sky', 'Patton', 'Raging Bull', 'Reds', 'Malcolm X', & 'A Beautiful Mind.' Here, Lincoln is placed into a courtroom plot not far from 'Amistad' or 'To Kill a Mockingbird' that may or may not be true (sadly I don't know enough about Abraham Lincoln to confirm!) - clearly seeing Lincoln's early life in event form as symbolic of his later work as a great American president who ended slavery (though of course, it would be close to a century later that the Civil Rights movement would begin to move the US from a South African-style segregation).
'Young Mr Lincoln' comes across as an old-fashioned entertainment, but also sits easily alongside the somewhat subversive nature of such films as 'I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang' & 'Sullivan's Travels' (the latter also reissued on DVD recently). I'm sure the content and philosophy of this film would wind up certain right-wing folks in the US, which is perhaps why Jane Fonda referred to it so often in context to her own radical work (e.g. 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?', 'Coming Home'). A welcome issue on DVD and I think a key example of the Hollywood biopic - an important film that still deserves to be seen and has a content sadly lacking from the majority of contemporary American cinema.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply beautiful, 8 Mar 2009
This review is from: Young Mr Lincoln [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
Just a beautiful film in all respects. It is interesting both in its story and its visual devices.
We know that Abraham Lincoln was very tall (1 meter 94 centimeter). To create the impression of Lincoln's height the film uses threre ways:
1-Usually Lincoln is sitting in the front of the frame and we see his long legs.
2-Other actors are selected to be shorter.
3-The camera angle is usually low angle.

Henry Fonda is great once again.
Fail-Safe [DVD] [1963]
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars young Lincoln, 1 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Young Mr Lincoln [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
Good performance from young Mr Fonda too. If you love john ford style of westerns than this will appeal to the western fans. This film brings to you to the state of the slavery and the Civil war.... Was this film historical correct or a piece of fiction?? it certainly entertaining.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 9 Nov 2014
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This review is from: Young Mr Lincoln [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
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