YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939) B/W 100m dir: John Ford
w/Henry Fonda, Alice Brady, Richard Cromwell, Donald Meek, Marjorie Weaver, Arleen Whelan, Eddie Quillan, Pauline Moore, Ward Bond, Milburn Stone
Story of Abe as a young man and fledgling lawyer boasts powerful direction from Ford and wonderful performances from Fonda (as Lincoln, of course) and Brady (as the woman whose sons he defends).
From Magill Surveys: Cinema: Great Directors: "Young Mr. Lincoln won no awards for 1939, the year in which John Ford's Stagecoach walked off with many. In recent years, however, Young Mr. Lincoln has been the subject of a wealth of serious film criticism. An example of "film-as-myth" par excellence, Young Mr. Lincoln weaves Lincoln's youth, loss of Ann Rutledge, choice of law profession, and early cases into a mythic tapestry that resonates in our knowledge of the rest of the Lincoln history/legend.
"Young Mr. Lincoln begins with the legend. The film opens with the poem 'Nancy Hanks' by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet, in which questions to which we know the answers are posed by Lincoln's mother. We are thus alerted that a general awareness of the history (not simply the history itself) is going to be incorporated into the story. The film assumes and depends on audience awareness of the legend, yet at the same time, it rewrites it according to Ford's special vision of Lincoln, his role in America's history, and the forces that directed Lincoln. ...
"The constant split between Lincoln and the narrative is a self-conscious device which which insists upon the necessity of becoming aware --- of questioning both what is inscribed in the created myth and what is being repressed. Unlike Douglas Sirk, Ford is not clear in his denunciation of the ideology of the narrative (at least at this point in his career), but his insistence in visual terms that the viewer at least be aware of the process of mythmaking and the values affirmed and repressed is at least as powerful (if less easily articulated because it is visual) as those elements of the narrative which construct the myth. There is an unusual amount of freedom to perceive both functions simultaneously in Ford's films, and to experience them according to the subjectivity of the viewer."