Mr. Lincoln


Mr. Lincoln
(Omnibus, CBS TV, 1952)
   Television producer RICHARD DE ROCHEMONT contacted STANLEY KUBRICK to do second-unit work for a five-part Abraham Lincoln program scripted by James Agee for the legendary Omnibus series, considered a benchmark for quality television, and directed by Norman Lloyd. Although live broadcasting was the favored method of television production at the time, Mr. Lincoln was to be shot on film and on location. Kubrick was therefore sent to Hodgenville, Kentucky with cinematographer Marcel Rebiere to shoot Marian Seldes (Nancy Hanks) and Crahan Denton as Lincoln’s mother and father, and child actors as young Lincoln and his sister Sarah, in a reconstructed log cabin. All of Kubrick’s footage was used, but when Kubrick later joined Lloyd in New Salem, Illinois, Lloyd declined any further help from the 23-year-old Kubrick, realizing that creative differences were sure to develop. Norman Lloyd directed almost all of the series, starring Royal Dano as the mature Lincoln, Joanna Roos as Mary Lincoln, Joanne Woodward as Ann Rutledge, and James Agee as Lincoln’s friend Jack Kelso. Writer James Agee, who had “a lifelong fascination with Lincoln,” in the words of historian Frank Thompson,“wanted the programs to show ‘how a child born into the humblest depth’ would begin ‘to ripen into one of the greatest men who ever lived. ’” Deliberately paced and extremely effective in its use of silence, Mr. Lincoln was unlike most conventional Hollywood films of the period. Thompson considered the program “a remarkable, evocative song of Lincoln’s youth, not bound by history but infused with a sense of authenticity,” concluding that “there is more insight here on what kind of people the Lincolns were, and what their lives must have been like, than in any other Lincoln film ever made. ” Mr. Lincoln was broadcast from November 16, 1952, to February 5, 1953.
   References
   ■ Bergreen, Laurence, James Agee: A Life (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1984);
   ■ Kramer, Victor A. , James Agee (Boston: Twayne, 1975);
   ■ LoBrutto, Vincent, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (New York: Donald I. Fine, 1997);
   ■ Thompson, Frank, Abraham Lincoln:Twentieth-Century Popular Portrayals (Dallas,Tex. :Taylor Publishing, 1999).
   J. M. W.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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