It was a beautifully written movie. That’s what I keep saying throughout. Beautifully written and well acted. Now, it is unclear whether the words came from the author of the book Doris Kearns Godwin, Tony Kushner the guy who wrote the screen play, or Lincoln himself. I am sure over the course of his life, the book and the movie, things have been added and subtracted from the words. Like a life/literary/film version of the telephone game. But, regardless, the combination created a very well written movie and Steven Spielburg should be proud.
I am going to share with you my favorite parts of the movie, but even repeating them here won’t do them justice.
When a situation got especially serious or uncomfortable, Lincoln was known to sit down, take a deep breath and then go right into a long and most times amusing story that may or may not be related to the topic at hand. And, much to the chigrin of his staff.
Here are a couple of those great stories from the movie:
“Shortly after the peace was signed, the Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen ‘had occasion to visit England,’ where he was subject to considerable teasing banter. The British would make “fun of the Americans and General Washington in particular and one day they got a picture of General Washington” and displayed it prominently in the water closet so Mr. Allen could not miss it. When he made no mention of it, they finally asked him “Didn’t you see George Washington in there?” they said. “Oh yes,” said Allen. “Perfectly appropriate place for him” “What do you mean?” They said. “Well,” he said, “there is nothing to make an Englishman shit faster than the sight of General George Washington.”
“I heard tell once of a Jefferson City lawyer who had a parrot that’d wake him each morning crying out, “Today is the day the world shall end, as scripture has foretold.” And one day the lawyer shot him for the sake of peace and quiet, I presume, thus fulfilling, for the bird at least, its prophecy!”
“Back when I rode the legal circuit in Illinois I defended a woman from Metamora named Melissa Goings, 77 years old, they said she murdered her husband; he was 83. He was choking her; and, uh, she grabbed ahold of a stick of firewood and fractured his skull, ‘n he died. In his will he wrote “I expect she has killed me. If I get over it, I will have revenge.” No one was keen to see her convicted, he was that kind of husband. I asked the prosecuting attorney if I might have a short conference with my client. And she and I went into a room in the courthouse, but I alone emerged. The window in the room was found to be wide open. It was believed the old lady may have climbed out of it. I told the bailiff right before I left her in the room she asked me where she could get a good drink of water, and I told her Tennessee. Mrs. Goings was seen no more in Metamora. Enough justice had been done; they even forgave the bondsman her bail.”
And, I thoroughly enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens.
“Slavery is the only insult to natural law, you fatuous nincompoop!”
“What violates natural law? Slavery, and you, Pendleton, you insult God, you unnatural noise.”
“The modern travesty of Thomas Jefferson’s political organization to which you have attached yourself like a barnacle has the effrontery to call itself The Democratic Party. You are a Dem-o-crat. What’s the matter with you? Are you wicked?”
“How can I hold that all men are created equal, when here before me -(pointing to Pendleton:) stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their Maker with dim wits impermeable to reason with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood! You are more reptile than man, George, so low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you!”
“Yet even you, Pendleton, who should
have been gibbetted for treason long before today, even worthless unworthy you ought to be treated equally before the law! And so again, sir, and again and again and
again I say: I DO NOT HOLD WITH EQUALITY IN ALL THINGS. ONLY WITH EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW.”
Now keep in mind, Steven’s quotes all took place during the debates on the 13 amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives. It was so funny to hear them sling insults like this and in this setting.
But, my favorite quote was so well delivered by Daniel Day Lewis as President Lincoln. “I am the President of the United States of America . . . clothed in immense power.”
Have you seen he movie? What did you think?
Related Post: Daniel Day-Lewis Breathes Life into Lincoln
Source: Lincoln Movie Script