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Cook Library Cinema Club: Abraham Lincoln’s Legacy

Lincoln TitleThis month marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  The life story of this remarkable man has been well-documented over the years, and a variety of new biographies and history books have hit the library’s shelves in the past year to commemorate both the anniversary of his death and the end of the Civil War.  Those of us who live in Illinois can boast that the state is home to the magnificent Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is located in Springfield.  With much to offer adults and children, both the Library and Museum are truly worth a visit.

The details of Lincoln’s incredibly humble beginnings in Kentucky and Indiana, his determination to educate himself as a lawyer, his initial interest in politics, his election as the 16th President of the United States, his extraordinary leadership during the Civil War, and his tragic death have provided great material for films and documentaries over the years.  Crafted by a variety of distinguished actors and directors, these films help promote and preserve the legacy of the man whom many regard as our greatest President.  Highlighted below are some of the best known of these projects:

Lincoln Post

Young Mr. Lincoln  (1939):  Henry Fonda stars in this classic film that chronicles ten years of Abraham Lincoln’s early professional life, as he moves from Kentucky to Springfield, Illinois to start his law practice.  Directed by the legendary John Ford, the film is among those included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in recognition of its cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois  (1940):  Raymond Massey earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Lincoln during his years in Illinois, as he hones his skills as a lawyer, first becomes interested in the world of politics, and ultimately runs for President.  This film is available through our LINKin library partners, and is definitely worth a view.

The Civil War  (1990):  This landmark PBS series by Ken Burns traces the course of the Civil War from the abolitionist movement through each of the major battles, to the death of President Lincoln and the beginning of reconstruction.  Approximately 11 hours of viewing and not to be missed.

The Conspirator  (2010):  Robert Redford directed this effective drama that focuses on the little-told story of Mary Surratt, the only woman among the group of eight individuals charged with conspiring to kill President Abraham Lincoln, the Vice President and the Secretary of State.  The film stars Robin Wright (House of Cards) as the accused Surratt, and James McAvoy as the reluctant young attorney assigned to defend her.

Lincoln  (2012):  Daniel Day-Lewis earned an Oscar for his bravura performance as Abraham Lincoln.  As the Civil War rages on, Lincoln does battle with members of Congress and his own Cabinet over his determination to emancipate the slaves.  Nominated for a total of 12 Oscars, the film is blessed with an all-star cast, with Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones lending especially strong support in their roles as Mary Todd Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens, respectively.

American Experience: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln  (2013):  Outstanding two-hour documentary from the respected PBS series that focuses on the life, death, and legacy of the 16th President.

Becky King

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