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Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)

Raymond Massey, Ruth Gordon Gene Lockhart , John Cromwell  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Abe Lincoln in Illinois + Young Mr. Lincoln: The (The Criterion Collection) + Sandburg's Lincoln
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Product Details

  • Actors: Raymond Massey, Ruth Gordon Gene Lockhart
  • Directors: John Cromwell
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • DVD Release Date: June 22, 2009
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0027IPV3Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,100 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

Among the most masterful matchups of actor and role in screen history is this stirring film of Robert E. Sherwood's beloved play taking a thoroughly human look at the early years of our 16th President, with all his frailties and strength of character. Best Actor Oscar? nominee* Raymond Massey (who originated the role on stage) wonderfully plays the future Great Emancipator in a chronicle of his backwoods childhood through his first romance with Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard) to his phenomenal rise to President Elect, besting the great orator Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart). Ruth Gordon also does memorable work as driven, ambitious Mary Todd Lincoln, whose vision of Abe's leadership destiny will not be denied by anyone - including her often reticent husband. There's also no denying the enduring emotional power of this simple, magnificent movie.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be overlooked April 20, 2001
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
This film is the perfect film recreation of Abraham Lincoln. Raymond Massey is brilliantly cast as young Mr. Lincoln. Whenever I think of Lincoln films, I think of Raymond Massey as the one and only Lincoln. The overall casting is superb and the story is exceptional and is well presented. There are a number of memorable points in the film. Lincoln's first introduction to politics is amusing. I tend to think that Ruth Gordon's portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln is right on. Lincoln rarely stands up to her in her critiscm of thier lifestyle, his clothes, etc., but when he does, it is extremely powerful.
Massey doesn't do this on his own. The ensemble cast is exceptional, from the teacher who helps him improve his education, to the local judge, to his law partner and Stephen A. Douglas. All these people help make this film the exceptional story that it is.
If there is one film about Lincoln to recommend, this would be my first pick.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Mr. Lincoln February 17, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
With all due respect to Henry Fonda, Walter Huston, and a myriad of other cinematic Lincolns, Raymond Massey is the Abe to end all Abes. His moving and mesmerizing performance gives us the real Mr. Lincoln in all his complexity. Alongside the warmth, compassion and humor for which we love and revere Mr. Lincoln, we see in Massey the dark side as well: the doubts, fears, indecision and deep melancholia with which Abraham Lincoln struggled his whole life. Ruth Gordon is superb as Lincoln's ambitious and rather overbearing wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. No hagiography, this movie lets us see the Lincolns as human beings with real "issues", rather than as mere heroes of history. Besides all this, we have Massey's physical resemblance to Lincoln, which is at times astonishing.
What's most amazing is that the spirit of the most quintessentially American of our American heroes should be so wonderfully captured and portrayed by ... a Canadian!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Done Exquisitely January 17, 2000
By Alex
Format:VHS Tape
Poetic, stagy adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winning play with Raymond Massey breaking all ground for anyone who has ever portrayed Honest Abe. There's fine support also from Ruth Gordon as Mary Todd, his wife, and Gene Lockhart as Stephen Douglas. You know how it ends, but still a must.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raymond Massey "IS" Abraham Lincoln! March 23, 2005
Format:VHS Tape
My wife and I agree that this movie is the best portrayal of one of America's finest presidents. I have collected and read many books on Mr. Lincoln and this production really does capture the spirit of what I believe the man "Lincoln" was like. I would highly recommend this to the one interested in living history.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable! February 28, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
This film, I believe released in 1940 is a very accurate portrayal of Abraham Lincoln's life from young man to right after his election to the Presidency. It appears that great research went into portraying the true psychology of the main characters as well as giving the audience a view of that time period. Two great stars appear in this movie along with a great supporting cast. Ruth Gordon plays Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd. She is superb in this role. Raymond Massey is unparalleled acting as Abe. He even looks very much like Lincoln and with mannerisms I had previously read about. He is probably the best actor to ever play the part. Also the costume design looks very authentic along with the other details of that time period. See for yourself! I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and also the music in it. You won't be disappointed!!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a masterful portrait of our 16th president January 13, 2005
Format:VHS Tape
Beautifully written, directed and acted, this film is a treasure as a piece of Americana, and though it may be an interpretation of history in parts, has enough truth in it to be relevant, and shows such things as the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Robert E. Sherwood wrote the screenplay based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play, and Raymond Massey, Howard Da Silva (Jack Armstrong), and Herbert Rudley (Seth Gale) re-create their stage roles.

The direction by John Cromwell is superb, and James Wong Howe's cinematography (which was nominated for an Oscar but lost to "Rebecca") makes one forget that we are looking at a sixty-five year old film. Massey was also nominated, but lost to James Stewart in "The Philadelphia Story"...1940 was certainly a good year for films.

Raymond Massey (who was 34 at the time this film was made) has somehow been made to resemble Lincoln from youth to maturity, and the depth he brings to the part is very moving; I love the way his eyes slowly fill up with tears in his final speech as he leaves Illinois for the White House.

Though the film presents a harsh portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln (brilliantly played by Ruth Gordon) who acknowledges she is seen as "bitter and nagging", there is no doubt that Mary was a huge part of Lincoln becoming who he was meant to be, and like every "woman behind the man" must have been a tough character in a petite form, the flint to start Lincoln's flame.

Not to be missed by history buffs, and for Massey's marvelous performance, which he felt was his finest. Total running time is 110 minutes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Can Still Hear Massey's Voice March 11, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
It's probably been fifteen years since I saw this film, and despite the time that has passed, I still hear Raymond Massey's voice whenever I think of Lincoln or read his words such as the Gettysburg Address. That's how definitive and on-the-mark his performance is. I've seen a number of other actors play the great man, but Massey captured him better than any one else. Apart from the title performance, I have to say that the movie involved me much more than I was expecting. It gave me a good feel for his life and character, and it's one of the better biographies I have seen. Watch this film.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good product.
Published 1 month ago by James Ross Wade
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Massey is ' mazing.
Published 2 months ago by Timothy Meinzen
4.0 out of 5 stars Ok move.
I got this for a friend. I like action movies my self. This was a little old for me. But this is what she wanted.
Published 5 months ago by Johnny Hastings
5.0 out of 5 stars Massey's Lincoln should have won him the Oscar
I'm always fascinated by the final scene at the back of the railcar before leaving Springfield for Washington. What a fine piece of acting by Raymond Massey. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Richard8655
4.0 out of 5 stars Fond childhood memories
I grew up at a time when there were separate federal holidays for the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and it seemed as if every year on Lincoln's birthday this... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Carolyn M. Weddell
5.0 out of 5 stars A great piece of entertainment and history
Reviewed by Amanda Volovik "Chava": This rating is because it shows pieces of Lincoln that we haven't heard about in history, or I would assume.
Published 6 months ago by Amanda Jane Volovik
5.0 out of 5 stars Abe Lincoln in Illinois
This movie is a classic. No one else has ever done Abe Lincoln as well as Raymond Massey has done in this film. Read more
Published 7 months ago by frese
4.0 out of 5 stars Abe Lincoln in Illinois
Good old movie. Raymond Massey makes a good Lincoln...not as good as Daniel Day Lewis, but good nonetheless. We enjoyed it.
Published 8 months ago by Marcia
5.0 out of 5 stars A. Lincoln in Illinois
This was a wonderful film. I like Raymond Massey and all the other actors.
It arrived promptly and in good condition.
Published 8 months ago by Diane Mautner
2.0 out of 5 stars Not quite...
I am a big Lincoln fan. I have seen this role handled wonderfully by Hank Fonda, Hal Holbrook, Sam Waterson,and most recently the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis. Read more
Published 9 months ago by LeaJacqueline23
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