Today, on this 160th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, I am exercising a little editorial privilege by commending to your attention John Ford’s 1939 classic, Young Mr. Lincoln. Henry Fonda was born to play presidents, and he has never been more suited to the role than this easy-going, graceful portrayal of our 16th president during his years as a lanky, backwoods lawyer and philosopher preparing for greatness without knowing it.
If you’re in a particularly Lincoln-y mood, you may also want to check out D.W. Griffith’s nearly-forgotten 1930 classic, Abraham Lincoln. It is the earliest Lincoln biopic, shot just as silent movies were being nudged aside by talkies. It is a little antique and constructed episodically, but Walter Huston’s take on Lincoln during every mood and phase of his life is brilliant.