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"Lincoln" legal mistake
03-01-2013, 10:01 PM
Post: #24
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake
In response to David Lockmiller:

My first question is how you can possibly condemn the accuracy of a movie you have not seen. It's your prerogative to not see the movie if you don't want to, but to judge it without having seen it makes no sense at all.

Toward the end of your post, you state that you haven't read any criticisms of the movie by Lincoln scholars. I'm not sure if that's because you haven't looked for any, but there has definitely been criticism by scholars. Harold Holzer, James McPherson, Eric Foner and Kate Masur come to mind. By the same token, approximately two dozen Lincoln scholars were consultants on the movie, including those who later made some public criticisms.

But before you assume that your point has been proved, you should know a few things:

**Harold Holzer wrote a piece for The Daily Beast about a number of very tiny facts that the movie got "wrong," such as Lincoln having a portrait of William Henry Harrison in his White House office, Alexander Gardner permitting young Tad Lincoln to borrow invaluable photographic plates, Lincoln not being placed diagonally across his death bed (accurate) but at rest in a sort of fetal position (inaccurate), etc.
**Eric Foner and Kate Masur's criticisms had to do with a movie that was not made. They were concerned that the movie didn't show the role of abolitionists and slaves in bringing about the end of slavery. The reason that these criticisms were not relevant (to me and many others) is that Steven Spielberg did not set out to make a movie about efforts "on the ground" to eradicate slavery, but about Abraham Lincoln, the man and the president, seen through the lens of his work to get the 13th Amendment passed.
**James McPherson said that he was a bit taken aback by the scene in which Lincoln slaps his son Robert in the face during an argument, and was, like you, perturbed at the swearing. However, he did not condemn the film and agreed that it was generally excellent.
**Thomas DiLorenzo, who has made a career out of maligning Lincoln's record as president by arguing that he was an out-of-control tyrant, had the nastiest take on the movie, although I'm not sure he saw it. My guess is that he didn't.

You're right that Connecticut Congressman Courtney, who pretty much owes his seat to Ben Affleck, attacked the movie on the eve of Oscar ballots going out for its depiction of two Connecticut Congressmen voting against the 13th Amendment instead of showing the entire CT delegation as being united in favor of the amendment.

The inaccurate but small details in the Lincoln film that Harold Holzer, Congressman Courtney and you have identified are perfect exemplars of a concept known as "dramatic license." Incidentally, Harold Holzer acknowledged in his article that the inaccuracies likely were included in the movie for the purpose of dramatic license. None of the things pointed to as errors are important to the central idea of the film, which was Lincoln's struggle to obtain the necessary votes to get the 13th Amendment passed and to provide a glimpse, during this struggle, of Lincoln as a president and as a man with some familial challenges who was still a loving father and husband. The reason that some facts are massaged or some fictional points are introduced in a play or a movie is to assist in the story-telling.

You mention being disturbed to learn that Lincoln and Mary had a very heated argument in the film in which the President used the epithet, "goddamned." I think the general feeling, which I share, is that the argument between them was meant to illustrate the difficulties of their marriage. There is no question that they had many, many arguments during their 20-plus years together. There is also no question that Mary was mentally unstable. There is no question, either, that Mary got herself into many ethically compromising situations while serving as First Lady and that this distressed the President greatly. I believe that the scene you complain of was meant to illustrate these troubles without having to go through the entire history of their marriage.

Lincoln's declaration in the movie, the one in which he says that, as president, he's "clothed in immense power," probably was not uttered by the President in those exact words, chiefly because Lincoln just didn't talk that way. But I have read where at least one Lincoln scholar stated that Lincoln probably said something to that effect, but he wouldn't have expressed it so stodgily. By the way, the "immense power" quote is in Sandberg's writings and I believe Sandberg got it from one of the many individuals who wrote memoirs about Lincoln after the war. It was typical of Lincoln's friends and associates to add a bit of starch to statements they attributed to him in their reminiscences, because they seemed to believe that they were making him sound more like an educated gentleman and less like a backwoodsman.

But you seem especially concerned about the use of the epithet "goddamned" because of what you believe this seems to say about Lincoln's character. First: In the year 2013, there are relatively few people who are not exposed to swearing or who do not swear themselves on a daily basis. It is not a shocking thing in today's America. Second: While Lincoln may not have said "goddamned," he is on record as saying "damned" on more than one occasion, under totally understandable circumstances. Anyway, I don't see how his saying "goddamned" in the movie once or twice should place his character in a poor light to most Americans today.

I thought that the movie was brilliant in almost every way, and very accurate in story and spirit. Tony Kushner, the screenwriter (who happens to be a winner of the Pulitzer Prize), did indeed read broadly and deeply in the Lincoln canon, as did actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Also, both men came away from the project feeling great love for Abraham Lincoln, and the deepest admiration for his character and accomplishments.

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Messages In This Thread
"Lincoln" legal mistake - Lindsey - 02-05-2013, 10:52 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-06-2013, 06:17 AM
RE: "Lincoln" movie criticisms - Gene C - 03-01-2013, 09:40 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 02-06-2013, 09:51 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-06-2013, 10:33 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-06-2013, 10:43 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-06-2013, 05:19 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Rob Wick - 02-06-2013, 07:51 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-07-2013, 03:26 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-10-2013, 03:08 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Jim Garrett - 02-14-2013, 07:06 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - ELCore - 02-18-2013, 08:23 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-19-2013, 06:12 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 02-19-2013, 09:12 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Liz Rosenthal - 03-01-2013 10:01 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 03-02-2013, 06:10 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 03-02-2013, 10:41 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-02-2013, 06:25 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 03-02-2013, 08:28 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-03-2013, 08:21 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Gene C - 03-03-2013, 10:20 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-03-2013, 10:42 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Jim Page - 03-03-2013, 12:08 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Gene C - 03-07-2013, 06:06 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 02:43 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Anita - 01-20-2014, 03:30 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 04:06 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 01-20-2014, 03:36 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 05:14 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 01-20-2014, 07:36 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-21-2014, 08:46 AM

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