Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)




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Raymond Massey plays Abe Lincoln in this moving adaptation of Robert Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Expanded a bit for cinematic purposes, the film traces Lincoln's progress from his days of scrambling for a living as a woodsman, to his courtship of the tragic Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard) and then the mercurial Mary Todd (Ruth Gordon), to the formative years of his law practice, to his debates with Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart), and finally to his election as President of the soon-to-be-divided United States in 1860. Latter-day critics have complained about Massey's stolidity in his signature role, but even the most stone-hearted viewer will be moved by such scenes as Lincoln riding through the ruins of what once was the village of Salem; Abe's heated election-eve quarrel with his spiteful wife Mary; and his climactic speech from the observation car of the train that will carry him to Washington...and immortality. Abe Lincoln at Illinois turned out to be a succes d'estime for its producer Max Gordon and its studio (RKO), taking a bath to the tune of $750,000. Its failure moved one Hollywood wise-guy to collar Gordon at a party and say, "I can't understand it, Max. Lincoln was so kind to everybody but you." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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RKO Pictures

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Raymond Massey
as Abraham Lincoln
Gene Lockhart
as Stephen Douglas
Ruth Gordon
as Mary Todd
Mary Howard
as Ann Rutledge
Dorothy Tree
as Elizabeth Edwards
Harvey Stephens
as Ninian Edwards
Minor Watson
as Joshua Speed
Alan Baxter
as Billy Herndon
Howard Da Silva
as Jack Armstrong
Maurice Murphy
as John McNeil
Clem Bevans
as Ben Mattling
Herbert Rudley
as Seth Gale
Roger Imhof
as Mr. Crimmin
Edmund Elton
as Mr. Rutledge
George Rosener
as Dr. Chandler
Trevor Bardette
as John Hanks
Elisabeth Risdon
as Sarah Lincoln
Aldrich Bowker
as Judge Bowling Green
Louis Jean Heydt
as Mentor Graham
Harlan Briggs
as Denton Offut
Andy Clyde
as Stage Driver
Leona Roberts
as Mrs. Rutledge
Florence Roberts
as Mrs. Bowling Green
Sid Saylor
as John Johnston
Fay Helm
as Mrs. Seth Gale
Elizabeth Risdon
as Sarah Lincoln
Syd Saylor
as John Johnston
Charles B. Middleton
as Tom Lincoln
Alec Craig
as Trem Cogdall
Peggy Ann Garner
as Little Girl
John Cromwell
as John Brown
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Critic Reviews for Abe Lincoln in Illinois

All Critics (5)

Fine characterization of Lincoln by Raymond Massey with strong period look and feel.

January 1, 2008

A serviceable biopic.

Full Review… | July 5, 2006
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

John Cromwell's historically inaccurate biopic, which is inferior to Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, was nonetheless nominated for two Oscars: Raymond Massey and cinematography.

Full Review… | January 27, 2006

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September 23, 2005

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May 26, 2005
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Audience Reviews for Abe Lincoln in Illinois


Enjoyed this movie today on Turner Classic Movies. As a native son of Illinois, this movie means a lot to me. Raymond Massey is very good in the title role. Many of the speeches moved me to tears, and so did the closing scene.

Bob Hiller
Bob Hiller

A moving, wonderfully acted version of the Broadway play. An overview of the Presidents life, his ill fated love for Ann Rutledge, and his marriage to Mary Todd. Raymond Massey, the lead actor playing Abraham Lincoln, was deeply moving as Lincoln and has made a good living, thanks largely to Lincoln ever since. By all accounts, very worth watching if you can find it. NOTE: The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Raymond Massey) and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (James Wong Howe). Raymond Massey - Abraham Lincoln Gene Lockhart - Stephen Douglas Ruth Gordon - Mary Todd Lincoln Mary Howard - Ann Rutledge Minor Watson - Joshua Speed Harvey Stephens - Ninian Edwards Alan Baxter - Billy Herndon Howard Da Silva - Jack Armstrong (as Howard da Silva) Dorothy Tree - Elizabeth Edwards Aldrich Bowker - Judge Bowling Green Maurice Murphy - John McNeil George Rosener - Dr. Chandler John Cromwell - John Brown (uncredited) Directed by John Cromwell Produced by Max Gordon Written by Robert E. Sherwood (play) Grover Jones (adaptation) Robert E. Sherwood (screenplay) Starring Raymond Massey (Lincoln) Gene Lockhart Music by Roy Webb Cinematography James Wong Howe Editing by George Hively Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures Release date(s) February 12, 1940 (1940-02-12) Running time 110 minutes

monsieur rick
monsieur rick

Raymond Massey's likeness to Abraham Lincoln is truly amazing. It is the role of a lifetime, and Massey is superb. The screenplay is inspired, Ruth Gordon shines. Good supporting cast, beautifully done.

James Higgins
James Higgins

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