Friday, February 11, 2011

will the real mr. lincoln...

February is a month full of the birthdays of my favorite people. My oldest son was born February 1st, Edna St. Vincent Millay's is February 22 and one of my personal heroes, Abraham Lincoln, on the 12th. That's the president, I'm talking about, Abe, although I do like you a lot, too. Did you know we have a distant cousin of the president here in our blog community? His name also happens to be Abraham Lincoln, named after his well-known cousin. 

Remember last year when I posted about Steven Spielberg's film project, Lincoln, and Liam Neeson was to portray the famous president?  Neeson is fine, but I highly recommended Daniel Day-Lewis, who not only looks like Lincoln, but I'm convinced would actually become Lincoln for the role.  Well, it looks as if he took my advice. Daniel Day-Lewis will, indeed, play Lincoln in the upcoming film. Thanks, Mr. Spielberg, you were reading my blog, weren't you?

(click to enlarge-- this photo is amazing)
Just to refresh your memory, several other actors have played Lincoln through the years.  I would venture to say that everyone's favorite is most likely Henry Fonda in John Ford's 1939 Young Mr. Lincoln. Fonda does a wonderful job as the shy, contemplative and clever young Lincoln.

Raymond Massey played Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois, 1940. There was a great public outcry when this Canadian was chosen to play the great American president, but Massey scored high reviews on Broadway and later for the film version of Robert E. Sherwood's play. I don't know about you, but Massey has a scary quality about him. I just can't shake the image of Johnathan Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Speaking of scary qualities, although I haven't seen this one personally, John Carradine played Lincoln in the 1938 film Of Human Hearts. It's safe to say Carradine has that Lincolnesque thing going on, the deep set eyes and craggy features, but I see him more as Count Dracula. A blood sucking Lincoln just isn't right.

Spielberg's Lincoln is based on the excellent book (I've got a copy in my little manor library) Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and focuses on the political collision of Lincoln and his cabinet after the Civil War.

Filming for this project is to start this fall, with the release scheduled next year.


  1. great post....Hello Mr. Spielburg :)

  2. I am just certain that Mr Spielburg is reading your blog...and I think he made a wise choice by going along with your suggestion. Although Liam Neeson has his own good qualities:)

  3. I had to come in running when I saw my boyfriend on your blog (don't tell Ramsey)and I agree with your wholeheartedly, this is the actor to play him. Hands down.

  4. Yoli, my daughter lives in his neighborhood in Manhattan. I told her I am coming to camp out on her steps until I meet him. In person. Swoon.

  5. He must be reading you! But I agree, Daniel Day Lewis is wonderfully cast. But then again, I think he's probably the finest actor today, and from what I've seen of him and know of him, seems like a lovely man. Er, not just to look at.

    That's not to say Neeson isn't talented and seemingly lovely (and bloody handsome) too!

  6. Jennifer, I totally agree. Day-Lewis does his homework. He adopted the perfect 1910 American dialect for his role in "There Will Be Blood". He gave me chills. He is a stellar actor, not just a movie star.

  7. hi Tess! i had to comment on this post- i just finished a book called Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, one of the best stories i have ever read. I am a Lincoln fan too, as all good Hoosiers should be :) and I grew up in so. IN near his boyhood home. This book has all the history correct, the author just adds the vampires for a great story. I recommend, and it is going to be turned into a movie too! I will have to watch for the Speilburg film also -DDL is perfect to play him...

  8. Oh, wow! I LOVE Daniel Day-Lewis. He WILL be an excellent Lincoln, I'm sure. Can't wait for that! I hadn't heard about this.

  9. My son, Lincoln, was born Feb. 6th. ;)

    Great post by the way, very complete collection.

  10. thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and wish my sweet boy a Happy nice of you and HAPPY to see you, my friend

    sending love,
    kary and teddy

  11. Dear Willow, Daniel Day Lewis is certainly a personal favourite of mine and am sure will do justice to Mr Lincoln.

  12. I thought Daniel Day Lewis had given up acting and was making shoes in a cave somewhere!!!
    Glad to hear he's back in Hollywood again...I love his films.

  13. nice...i look forward to this movie...

  14. .... I'm sorry, what? I've been mesmerized by the gaze of Daniel Day Lewis, haven't heard a word you've said...

  15. Day Lewis, yes seems obvious. So glad you suggested it and they listened :)! Have been smitten ever since Last of the Mohicans, he was delicious I thought. Funny that both Neeson (Irish) and Lewis (English)aren't American either but I don't think anyone cares about that anymore. You know, Massey kind of has the creepy thing to me as well.

  16. The buzz on the Spielberg opus includes
    Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Fishburne
    in the cast. I love it when you get into
    film trivia and history. You capped the
    cinema cake with Henry Fonda and
    Raymond Massey, of course; but there
    are some odd bits of trivia left out.
    Massey played Lincoln three times,
    on FORD STAR JUBILEE (1955) with Lillian
    Gish as Mary, and one of parts of
    HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962).
    One of my favorites was Walter Huston
    in D.W.Griffith's ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1930),
    add to that some others as well:
    Richard Boone in GE TRUE THEATER (1958),
    Sam Waterston twice, first LINCOLN (1980)
    with Mary Tyler Moore as Mary, and then
    a voice over in Ken Burns' THE CIVIL WAR.
    David Morse did a voice over in
    with Holly Hunter voicing Mary,
    Hal Holbrook, NORTH & THE SOUTH (1986),
    Gregory Peck, THE BLUE & THE GRAY (1982)
    Jason Robards voice over LINCOLN (1992)
    Lance Henrickson, THE DAY LINCOLN WAS
    SHOT (1998),
    John Anderson, THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY (1977),
    Kris Kristofferson, TAD (1995),
    Joseph Henaby, THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915),
    Barry Atwater, ONE STEP BEYOND, (1960),
    Austin Green, THE STORY OF MANKIND (1957),
    (1989)--and then there was that STAR TREK, original
    series episode about the OK Corral.
    That's about all I can come up with.

  17. Glenn, I knew you could dig up a Lincoln, or two, more!

  18. I was thrilled, as were a number of my historian friends, when we heard that Day-Lewis would play Lincoln. No offense to Neeson (I seem to recall that he felt himself too old by the time Spielburg got things going, but now I know that it was the power of Tess :-), but Day-Lewis will BECOME Lincoln, no doubt. We've been debating as to whether the film will tackle Lincoln's er, sleeping arrangements, shall we say. This casting is perfect if they do. After all, who among us wouldn't share a bed with this man? ;-)

  19. Dr. L, was it Shenk's "Lincoln's Melancholy" that touched on that subject a bit? It will be interesting to see if that angle will be included in the film.

  20. Tess: could have been. Ironically, Gore Vidal did not mention it, though I think later he wished he had explored the stories. For your readers: when Lincoln moved to Springfield as a young, single man, he needed a bed, and his new friend Joshua Speed offered to share his. They shared a bedroom for several years and became lifelong friends. As a circuit-riding lawyer, Lincoln generally was forced to share a bed with one or more men, given limited availability of beds in boarding houses. As president, Lincoln was known to spend nights out at the Soldier's Home, where he apparently shared a bed with a convalescing army officer from Pennsylvania. All of this is not at all outside the norm for that time period, but it does make for heated speculation!

  21. Oh, and I love this quote from Carl Sandburg, who in 1926 referred to the relationship between Lincoln and Speed as having "a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets." (thanks, Wikipedia!)

  22. Yes, it was not unusual in the day to share a bed for economic reasons. The scene comes to mind in "Moby Dick" when Queequeg crawls in bed with Ishmael! Still, it does, like you say, make for delicious speculation.

  23. A streak of lavender. I love that. Not quite pink, but close.

  24. Oh god... now I'm going to have to watch 'Last of the Mohicans' tonight.

  25. Must pop over to Abe's blog - I haven't called on him lately.

  26. I think Spielburg should include you in the movie credits! Very interesting post. Thanks.

  27. Heehee, Margaret, I so agree. And some kind of casting fee, right?

  28. For the record...Daniel Day-Lewis could portray Homer Simpson and I'd still pass out...just sayin'!!!

    My mom's b-day, the 25th...

  29. Being over here I don't know much about Abraham Lincoln, but with Mr Dan playing him I know that's going to change.

  30. I love dear Mr. Lincoln, Steven Spielberg (hi, Steve, if you're reading this), Doris Kearns Goodwin, and LOVE Daniel Day-Lewis-who-can-do-no-wrong. Ergo, love, love, LOVE this post!

    I can't wait!

  31. DD Lewis is such a good actor that I suspect, given some makeup, he could play Marilyn Monroe. But I wouldn't want him to.

  32. Day-Lewis in drag. That's a funny thought. I didn't see him in that most recent musical. Was it any good?

  33. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of my all-time favorite actors. You are right; I can definitely see this magical reincarnation!

  34. oh i can't wait to see how spielberg weaves lincoln's story! and be still my haear ddl as abe!!!!!

    i went to a talk a while back where doris talked about her book team of rivals - fascinating, i'm happy to learn that spielberg based his story of abe's story on doris' story....which i really need to read.

    ah so many books, so little time!!

    right now i'm halfway through 'the last dickens' another one of these novels peppered with real historical characters!

    oh, btw, making a little changes at the mouse in terms of the url.... the new address is simply

    hey, rumor has it a thaw is a coming!!!

  35. Great post Tess.
    And go look at Electric Six's 'Gay Bar' on youtube for the funniest Lincoln ever, but NOT NOT NOT if you're easily shocked.

  36. I posted something about him and me on your FB connection. You certainly know how to entice viewers.

  37. I LOVE LIAM NEESON... Daniel Day Lewis is great, but Liam is my man!

    Thanks for your point of view! Very interesting and intelligent blog you have here!



  38. I'm devastated, as I was sure Ashton Kutcher would have been perfectly cast as Lincoln, this being a Rom. Com. & all.
    Millie x

  39. Daniel Day Lewis makes me swoon. Liam Neeson makes me sweat.

  40. That President Lincoln chap is all very well but I bet he couldn't take bird photographs as well as his more famous cousin.

  41. adore DD Lewis so will look FWD to the film. I adore Abe Lincoln too but oddly dont think I've see any of these films.

    My son was born feb 20th and i have scores of feb friends b-days.

  42. Daniel, what an actor! I've always been a fan. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  43. Oh that's going to be a great movie! Doris Kearns Goodwin is brilliant, and I hope they don't stray too far from her writing, and DDL is one fabulous actor.

    Of course Spielberg visits the Manor! Who doesn't?

  44. Daniel was outstanding in Gangs Of New York - one of my favourite films. You're right - he WILL become Lincoln. There's hardly a role he hasn't mastered.

  45. Sounds like a must see movie to me.
    Nice Lincoln B'logs' post, my dear :)
    Lord Thomas of Wellington!

  46. Great to know that this film will be produced. Can't help but reflect that the Brits(and Aussies, Irish, etc.) get to play the great American roles. They do Americans so well..even the new Superman is a Brit..just sayin'...but I too love DDL!

  47. Dear Tess,
    Alas, I don't know a lot about Mr. Lincoln...or American Presidents in general....but.....I do think Mr. Day-Lewis is one amazing actor - and one sexy man!

    I went to a Master Class a few weeks ago with the fantastic Counter-Tenor, David Daniels....and when I met him,
    I mistakenly called him "Daniel Day-Lewis...... (yes, I did)....oh humiliation! Can I camp out in NY with you?


    ♥ Robin ♥

  48. DDL is right up there with Clive Owen. I cannot wait to see that film!

  49. Pivotal historical figure with a pivotal kindled the anticipation for me.

  50. i am no fan of abe L as his family actually did employ slaves. what a hypacrite. he was not all he was cracked up to be. here are spme facts. go figure!
    We have just reported that the wife of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was a slave-holder. So was Abraham Lincoln’s father-in-law, and Mrs. Lincoln profited from it. Her share in her father’s estate was derived in part from the sale of his slaves.

    • No more than one out of fifteen Southern whites ever owned a slave. That means there were fewer than 350,000 slave-holders in all the South. Yet, about 600,000 soldiers served in the Confederate Armies. If, then, every slave-holder was in uniform — and, certainly, that was not so — there were still hundreds of thousands of soldiers with no personal stake in slavery. So much for the idea that it was to keep their slaves that Southerners fought!

    • The price of an able-bodied slave at the time of the war was about $1,000 — still a fair-sized sum today and a very large amount of money in the 1860s. How many slave-holders would starve, beat or otherwise abuse such valuable property? Rare was the mistreatment of any slave.

    • Most African laborers brought to America as slaves were animists. Nearly all would embrace the Christianity of their eventual owners. Is it likely they would convert to the religion of owners who brutalized them?

    • The English were responsible for most of the slave traffic into North America, but not all. This was illustrated in the recent hit movie, Amistad. What the movie did not show was that the leader of the slave uprising, Cinque, went back to Africa and himself became a big-time slave-trader. (The misrepresentation of historical reality never stops.)

  51. Boy! How to follow THAT comment (Anonymous!)...

    Anyway, I shall tune in to "More of "Manor in Hollywood" by Tess Kincaid.

    "Ribbet". Ouch, that's my

  52. I met Daniel Day-lewis during the filming of My Beautiful Launderette (a dreadful film) when I was living in Kilburn, north west London. He seemed like a charming man.

  53. Love Daniel Day Lewis. He will be an amazing LIncoln. So glad Mr. Spielberg took your advice!

  54. Anonymous, I delete most anonymous comments, but in all fairness I will leave this one, since I find it interesting. However, it is strange that you choose to hide behind "anonymous". If you feel so strongly about your views, why not stand behind them personally?

  55. I hope Daniel appreciates your efforts!

  56. Tess, I find the comments by Anonymous stale and fairly offensive, but I applaud you for leaving them up, as this invites discussion. Full disclosure: my name is J. Michael Rhyne, and I am the great-great-grandson of a Confederate veteran, on the one hand, and on the other, I hold a hard-earned Ph.D. in U.S. history, specializing in the American Civil War and the process of emancipation. I will gladly correspond with any of your readers who wishes to know the full extent of what I deem to be distortions put forth by Anonymous.

    First, one must understand that the Lincoln most of us know is, indeed, a distortion of the real man. In reality, he was not an immediate abolitionist, and he certainly was not a racial egalitarian. He was made out to be those things after his death, and thus in retrospect he appears to be a hypocrite.

    Further, Lincoln was a political animal, and he was trying to win a war, so at times he said and did things that rightly invite criticism in retrospect. Heck, it is well documented that Lincoln's War Department used slave labor in Kentucky for a couple of years after the war began. Still, whether or not he believed in black equality, benefited from slave labor, or whatever, is secondary to his significance as a politician and statesman. And in the end, Lincoln did begin to embrace black equality.

    Though not an immediate abolitionist, Lincoln absolutely believed that slavery must not be allowed to expand into the territories, and more than once he eloquently stated his belief that slavery in the U.S. eventually would have to be ended. Therefore southern slaveholders and their political allies rightly identified Lincoln as an enemy of slavery. Consequently, his election to the presidency ignited a fuse that sadly could not be put out.

    Thus a second, equally powerful reality, one at least implicitly denied by Anonymous, is that slavery was the root cause of the American Civil War. The historical record is clear on this. If you don't believe me, read for starters Charles Dew, _Apostles of Disunion_, or at least read about it here:

    Anonymous would have you believe that slavery wasn't all that bad, and not all that many southerners owned slaves, and that Grant's wife owned slaves, and that Lincoln benefited from slave labor, etc., therefore, by implication, slavery could not have been the cause of the Civil War. The vast majority of professional historians firmly believe that slavery was the primary cause of the war, and we believe this because that is what the best evidence, not our emotional connection to our heritage, whatever it may be, suggests to us.

    Additionally, the idea that slavery was not so bad has been absolutely refuted by multiple generations of historians. Practices varied wildly from place to place and over time, but the enduring reality is that American slavery was a brutal practice maintained by violent coercion. Further, the market value of slaves proved time and again to be irrelevant with regard to how individual slaves were mistreated, abused, raped, mutilated, worked to death, and more. Slavery as practiced in the United States has been well documented, with new books coming out every year that shed even more light on the subject, and believe me when I say that the record does not make for pleasant reading.

    Alas, it is true that "the misrepresentation of historical reality never stops." That is why I invite you to do your own reading, interrogate both the comments made by Anonymous and the ones made by me, and form your own opinions. That's what I encourage my students to do on a daily basis.

  57. J. Michael Rhyne...BRAVO!!!!!

  58. after all of these comments mine is going to appear rather shallow...join me in the puddle, wouldja?

    I was so happy to see DDL casted as Mr. Lincoln. I absolutely loved him in "In The Name Of The Father" and "There Will Be Blood"...

    My birthday is February 20th ;-)

  59. I never realized until you posted this that Daniel Day-Lewis does look a lot like Abe!

  60. Dr. L, thank you so much for your time and thoughtful, eloquent rebuttal.

  61. You are welcome, Tess.
    Two quick additions:
    1) Slaves adopted Christianity both for practical reasons and because they found in scripture power themes of deliverance, hope, and love, even in the face of oppression;
    2) I meant to post this url for Charles Dew's book:

  62. Thanks for the link, Dr. L. I just read the overview and Dew's book looks like a convincing, as well as interesting read on the subject of slavery being a critical factor in the outbreak of the Civil War.

    That power the slaves found in scripture produced some powerful music, as well.

  63. He does give his all to some fantastic roles - can't wait. Great post!

  64. I'm in love with your blog & it's JUST JUST amazing, all categories!!

    Love from Sweden & Agneta

  65. Wonderful post and happy birthday to your son! Thanks

  66. Did not mean to cause a stir on Lincoln, CL but while he was hailed as a hero, there still remains actual documents that say otherwise & point to him being a tyrant.
    I decided to do a little investigation on the man.
    In history class i was "always" taught this "one way" of thinking about him.
    Thankyou Tess for your consideration & open mindedness.
    This is interesting. Thanks,Jade.

  67. You are most informative my dear Tess, as always.

    Sorry I have not commented much lately, I do visit though. Sometimes it is hard to think of nice things to say when you are exhausted from a stream of repetative questions and odd humours all day. Looking after a dear one with alzheimer's can be a little soul destroying.

    You know I love your posts don't you my dear.

  68. Anonymous/Jade: you certainly are entitled to your opinion, and you are correct in that history is all too often taught as if there is only one legitimate interpretation. As for Lincoln, George M. Frederickson said of him that he was "big enough to be inconsistent," which is one way of saying that he was neither completely what those who idealize him say he was, nor was he completely what those who vilify him say he was. You did not raise a stir with me so much by your comments on Lincoln--I've heard all of this before--but by your assertions about slavery.

    More than fifty years ago, Kenneth Stampp refuted the notion that American slavery was relatively benign, and a whole host of historians since then have bolstered Stampp's basic argument. In brief, New World slavery tried to dehumanize the enslaved, and that is inherently not a benign act. It really does not matter, for example, how kindly or how mean any given slaveholder was: the institution on the whole was brutal because it was based on the principle that slaves were a commodity to be bought or sold, not fellow human beings. I recommend David Brion Davis, _Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of New World Slavery_ as a fairly brilliant one-volume overview.

  69. Some intriguing conversation going on here. I like my readers to feel comfortable enough to share their opinions. Thanks for your candidness; it makes for interesting blogging, my friends.

  70. Thank you for your patience and openness in allowing intriguing conversations to take place and play out in the comments, Tess. My favorite aspect of your post and the comments actually has been the celebration of the magnificence that is Daniel Day-Lewis, a celebration from which I did not wish to detract. Still, this is what I do, who I am, and I have been known to be a bit passionate about my life's work.

  71. Bet a penny I know how it all turns out ...

  72. This world has far too few who are passionate about what they do. It's a pleasure, Dr. L.

  73. Here! Here!
    I do agree with you C.L. on DDLewis! One truely elegant actor.
    As this is meant to be a polite, "lighter" blog & I am no great elequant writer, (so may come across wrong), I will bow out here. Thanks again Tess. Great blog. Jade.

  74. I hope the film includes Abraham Lincoln's last recorded words: "Hey, Mary, I'm tired of kicking around the house. Let's take in a show tonight ... Our American Cousin got great reviews! How about it? I can get us free tickets, I'm the fucking President!"

  75. As a "land of Lincoln" girl, I look forward to this film. I think my Dad took me to nearly every Lincoln historical site that existed as a child. I had the interesting experience of working in an art gallery that was housed in the block that held the Lincoln-Herndon law offices back in the 1970's. There was always a feeling that you could round a corner and run into Mr. Lincoln.

  76. Paula, I happen to be a "Land of Lincoln" girl, as well, having spent my grade school years in Illinois. School field trips were always to the Lincoln sites. I am now so very curious about your interesting experience. Please share!


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)