Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) Review

Verdict: Classic

Great acting, cinematography and script.


This film tells the story of how Abraham Lincoln (Henry Fonda) got into the world of law, before he became president. He takes on a case when brothers Matt (Richard Cromwell) and Adam Clay (Eddie Quillan) are accused of murder. Directed by Henry Ford.

A pretty simple story and though the movie is 100 minutes long, time passed really quickly. Surprising that a trailer can’t be found but the whole movie is available to watch on youtube.

Henry Fonda does a great portrayal of Lincoln, and his demeanour on screen is so natural. His delivery is also very at ease which makes it all the more funny when he cracks jokes so matter of factly. Abigail Clay (Alice Brady) mother of the two boys on the stand, has many close ups and her expressions make the audience sympathetic to her position.

However I did not much like how Fonda would carry the conversation by himself. There is this one scene with him and the Clay women, and he does 99% of the talking. How is that even a conversation? It was like he was having a soliloquy.

This film doesn’t emphasize the political part of Abraham’s life, but instead the early parts – hence the Young in Young Mr. Lincoln. However, everyone watching already knows of how his future will turn out, so the film plays with this, casting a rather biased light on the character. He is shown as a rational person, with no desire except to save nature and the people around it.

This is a fictionalized account of his early life, so I don’t particularly have any preference for this, but it is a well made film. Especially since it was made in 1939, though it doesn’t feel that old.

To sum-up:
PROS: Acting, cinematography, script
CONS: One-way coversation, biased undercurrent

I give this a 8/10.

Have you seen Young Mr. Lincoln? Rate it out of 5 stars above or leave a comment below!


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