Young Mr. Lincoln Screen 8 articles

Young Mr. Lincoln

1939

Young Mr. Lincoln Poster
  • Young Mr. Lincoln’s legal wrangling is, especially from today’s perspective, more than a little cornball and, from a procedural standpoint, twice as implausible. Yet Ford justifies this material by so endearingly lionizing his protagonist. Repeatedly framing Fonda as a towering figure of casual confidence and righteousness—his body seems to loom over everyone else—the film visually accentuates the future president’s unimpeachable virtue.

  • If Ford’s Lincoln exhibits at once a radiant sincerity and the devious subtlety of a trickster, he is to that extent the director’s mirror image... The myth of the Great Man is subverted by presenting a hero who has not yet become himself, who is all the more admirable for still being in a state of pure potentiality. The film radiates a youthful joy, while at the same time insistently implying that the hero’s destiny will necessarily mean the loss of all joy.

  • The openness and vulnerability of this Carrie Sue [in the scene where she curtsies to Lincoln] bursts the screen. A single shot plays like a ballet and in eight seconds I find myself physically immersed in the manners and formalities of a culture. This is what’s special about John Ford and at the heart of this movie: how people are connected.

  • Although Lamar Trotti’s screenplay occasionally telegraphs its subject’s solemn and dark future rather too overtly, Ford’s direction remains sure from lyrical start to foreboding end. Particularly striking is how seamlessly he puts each stage of Lincoln’s youthful journey into bold visual terms, from his gauzily lighted pastoral years strolling along a riverbank to the proto-noir terrors of his small-town battle against a violent mob, a nightmarish foreshadowing of fights to come.

  • Ford is walking a thin line between heavy-handed mythologizing and punctuating a sense of historical foreshadowing and inevitability. Of course, he succeeds and creates a tension that falls between a near-parody of the Lincoln myth and a grandeur that hints at the larger historical events to come that dwarf even Lincoln. Ford had reached a union of style and vision which itself foreshadowed things to come.

  • An ingeniously tight-focused yet historically resonant view of the future President’s rise to prominence... Perhaps no filmmaker bore the burden of historical consciousness as deeply, as seriously, and as humanly as Ford did; his “friendship” with Lincoln had a firm artistic basis.

  • Ford isolates Lincoln in the frame, emphasizing both his awkward shuffle toward crowd-pleaser and his eventual separation from others through the power of status and myth. It is an impossible film to pin down, cutting so harshly from the idyllic blossoming of romance on a riverbank to the young lad visiting the young girl's grave that winter, the river now cruel and biting.

  • Lamar Trotti's screenplay is full of witty, resonant bits of Americana, which Ford lends an earthy and corporeal tactility as well as an unpretentious sense of exaltation. One never feels Ford striving for iconography, as his deep and coherent compositions appear to be carved in wood. Poetry is clarity, and few filmmakers have ever known that as fully as Ford did. In Young Mr. Lincoln, Ford considered a legend and saw in him everything America is and could be.

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