During her commentary Moseley summed it up nicely, saying: "Lincoln
is becoming more and more popular, and Hollywood is grasping on to
Keller noted that Lincoln is the most used historic figure in
movie history and has been used in over 200 movies. But in all that
time, no one has come close to getting everything right until today.
He recalled the first Lincoln movie, "Birth of a Nation," saying
that it was very misleading in historical fact. He also noted, in
that movie the Ku Klux Klan was made out to be the saviors of the
nation, and the true-life president, Woodrow Wilson, endorsing it as
He also commented on the "Young Mr. Lincoln" movie and the
portrayal given by Henry Fonda. Keller said Fonda looked like Fonda,
not Lincoln. Keller did believe that in simply portraying the person
Lincoln, Sam Waterson in the miniseries did do a good job.
Beaver noted the Disney film of the thinking Lincoln. He said the
research for the role of Lincoln had been done in southern Indiana,
and consequently the role included mannerisms and speech that were
not necessarily correct for Lincoln.
Beaver noted the voice was always a stumbling block for
role-players, as was the walk, but he thought Daniel Day-Lewis did get it
right on both counts. He noted, however, that most people today feel
that Lincoln probably sounded like the Raymond Massey portrayal, but
Day-Lewis was more correct.
Beaver said he, too, wondered what they would do with Mary
Lincoln -- Would they go one direction or the other? -- but he said
he felt like they did get it right. He noted a scene where Mary was
trying to talk with Lincoln after the death of their son. Lincoln
walked out on her in mid-conversation after an aide came and told
him what was going on in the battle of Chancellorsville. Beaver felt
that was probably pretty accurate to how Lincoln responded to Mary
and the war.
He also noted in the movie the scene where Lincoln paced and
said, "Oh my God, oh my God, what will the country say?" Beaver said
he felt that was accurate. The president did what he had to do, but
not without remorse over what he was doing. The battle of
Fredericksburg was a horrific battle with a massive number of
deaths. Beaver said with that battle in particular, Lincoln was
truly overwhelmed by what he was doing.
Keller agreed. Lincoln ruthlessly sent young men to die day by
day, and at night paced and worried. Keller said Lincoln also spent
his nights going through lists, trying to find someone to save.
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Keller also spoke about how the death toll would measure up with
today's population. He said the equivalent figure today would be 7
million to 8 million lives lost. Keller concluded how hard that must
have been, questioning: "How could you stomach that?"
Beaver also commented on this, saying that had today's media and
ability to convey news been in existence back then, the country
would have revolted over this.
On the subject of newspapers, the panel was asked about the
accuracy of newspaper accounts during the war. Speaking more about
actual history than the movie, Keller said that it was a difficult
thing for historians. He noted that in the days of the Civil War,
the newspapers were oftentimes biased in their reports.
He said what a historian truly hopes for is more personal
accounts of what happened, such as letters written home by soldiers,
or notes or letters written by the president or his staff. He said
these were sources of collaboration for what was published in the
papers, and historians looked for that material as a means of
determining the real facts.
Talking about the movie, Moseley commented on Lincoln's sense of
humor, calling it "interesting" She noted that sometimes the humor
was out of place, but that was the way he was.
Tim Becke in the audience commented on this, wondering if Lincoln
used the humor as a psychological release for the stress of the
situation. Beaver said he felt that was an accurate conclusion.
Keller also noted that in a meeting in September of 1862, Lincoln
commented: "If I don't laugh, I will cry."
Another subject that came up through public participation was the
role of Robert Latham in the movie. It was noted that the role
somewhat didn't seem to fit Logan County history. Keller said that
was one portion of the movie that was a little off. He explained
there were actually two Robert Lathams. Keller said Robert W. Latham
was the colonel in the movie, and Robert D. Latham is the local
Latham who helped found Lincoln College.
[By NILA SMITH]
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