In John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, Henry Fonda gives one of the finest performances of his career, as the young president-to-be, struggling with an incendiary murder case as a novice lawyer. Compassionate and assured, this is an indelible piece of Americana.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what's now showing
Ford is a director of paradox. The climactic courtroom drama is pure hokum, never mind that it's based in history—the storytelling would barely pass muster in bad TV. But Ford laces the corniest plots with rich emotions and subtexts. Lincoln being greeted by the applause of the rabble and scared shitless by their irrationality is a stunningly poetic interpretation of American history.
I love what a smarmy prick Lincoln turns into when he enters the courtroom. He's all gawky and humble when he's in town and then the minute he has a case to win he just starts going upside people's heads.
It may be historically inaccurate, but the pure poetry of John Ford's direction trumps this fact, so it doesn't matter. Young Mr. Lincoln is a beautiful film. Henry Fonda is amazing as always, but the film really is an overall display of powerhouse performances. The imagery is stunning as well. Maybe it's jingoistic, or maybe we've all grown too cynical. This film is about the things that work in the American system.
Young Mr. Lincoln is one of those movies that prove to me that my life before seeing it was almost a complete and total waste. Henry Fonda and John Ford do it yet again as I never thought I'd say that Abraham Lincoln is awesome.
Torture. Ford lays on the Lincoln Hero Worship to a really grotesque extent. Fonda's performance is so FOLKSY that it never gets around to being anything else, and he isn't helped much by that ghastly fake nose he has on.