(Providence, Rhode Island) – The election is over so it’s time for a fun column! We’ll leave the political fallout from Libya and the “fiscal cliff” (a cliché phrase for which I have already grown very tired). I saw the movie Lincoln with my son on Friday and was truly impressed. It was just a great movie! So here are some fun facts and trivia about Lincoln and some of my reflections at the end.
The Family Business – We have seen generations of families prominent in America politics. The names Kennedy, Bush, Gore, Roosevelt and Cuomo are among them. But did you know that Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert was famous and carried on the family name in his own right? Robert – who briefly served Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as an Army Captain – was present at Appomattox when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered. Later in his career Robert was Secretary of War (now known as Secretary of Defense), and he was also Ambassador to Great Britain, certainly the most prestigious and important of all ambassadorships.
Camera Shy – Even though photography was in its primitive infancy during Lincoln’s life, there are 130 known pictures of Lincoln in existence. There are also photos of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. However, there are no pictures of Abraham and Mary together!
Patent Pending – Lincoln is perhaps best known as a self-educated man, who taught himself to be a lawyer with no formal training. One little known fact is that Lincoln was also a clever engineer. In fact, he is the only President to hold a U.S. patent. He invented a device to help remove boats and ships that ran aground.
You Are From Where? – Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. President born outside of the original 13 colonies. And while he is known from hailing from Illinois, “The Land of Lincoln,” Lincoln was actually born in Kentucky, and lived for a time in Indiana, before his family finally moved to Illinois.
A Twist of Fate – Lincoln’s eldest son Robert was nearly killed on a New Jersey train platform, when he fell down between a small space between the platform and a moving train. He was quickly pulled to safety by a stranger named Edwin Booth. Yes, Edwin Booth – the famed Shakespearean actor – was the brother of Abraham Lincoln’s eventual assassin, John Wilkes Booth. I got chills when I read this. I mean, what are the odds? By the way, this happened just months before the assassination. In his later years, it has been reported that Edwin Booth was greatly comforted that he saved President Lincoln’s son, as a counterbalance to his family’s shame over John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Lincoln.
Two Thumbs Up! – And finally my review of Lincoln. I am sure some will dissect it for historic accuracy and bias, but hopefully the account is true to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s research that produced her book, which in turn inspired Steven Spielberg’s epic movie. But having spent a year working inside the halls of Congress I can tell you that “Lincoln” accurately depicts a lot of what goes on in Washington to this day. That includes: the isolation and loneliness of the presidency; the wheeling and dealing to get votes (yes, sometimes by illicit means, even by “Honest Abe”); the need to deal with competing agendas from powerful members of Congress; the art of compromise – even by compromising one’s own deeply held personal beliefs – to make political progress (best portrayed by actor Timmy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens in the film); and finally, the importance of counting votes and the power of the personal appeal when a President calls on the conscience of a member of Congress. The film captured these realities brilliantly.
Oscar Lincoln – Lincoln’s family lineage ended in 1985, when his last known direct descendant died. But I bet the Lincoln family name will live on in this year’s Academy Awards nominations. This will easily make the list for Best Picture and Best Director. My prediction is Daniel Day Lewis (as Lincoln), will be nominated for Best Actor; Sally Field (as Mary Todd Lincoln) for Best Actress; and the real tough battle will be between Tommy Lee Jones (as Thaddeus Stevens) and Hal Holbrook (as Preston Blair) for Best Supporting Actor. Holbrook – who once won an Emmy for portraying Lincoln – will certainly be a sentimental favorite for an Oscar at the age of 87.
As always, we welcome your thoughts! Give us your review of “Lincoln,” too! Click the comment button on www.MarkCurtisMedia.com. And for more Lincoln trivia, see this link: http://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln92.html.