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.
An exquisite masterpiece and one of John Ford's very best. It's not a case of sentimental mythologizing; it's a subtle character study of a man discovering his own talents and being drawn into his future. Fonda captures the complexity and contradictions of Lincoln - his simultaneous melancholy and humor, his populist idealism and savvy political maneuvering, his connection and aloofness.
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.
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.
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.