Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

100-101 mins | Drama | 9 June 1939

Director:

John Ford

Writer:

Lamar Trotti

Cinematographers:

Arthur Miller, Bert Glennon

Editor:

Walter Thompson

Production Designers:

Richard Day, Mark-Lee Kirk

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The film begins with a written prologue, in the form of the poem "Nancy Hanks" by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet. The poem consist of a series of questions posed by Lincoln's mother about the life of her son. The working titles of this film were The Young Lincoln , A Younger Lincoln , The Life of Young Abraham Lincoln and Lawyer of the West . The Call Bureau Cast Service and MPH credit Jack Kelly with the role of "Matt Clay as a boy," whereas Var credits Billy Watson with the role. The CBCS and MPH credit Dickie Jones with the role of "Adam Clay as a boy" whereas Var credits Delmar Watson with the role. Finally, Var and CBCS credit Judith Dickens with the role of "Carrie Sue" whereas MPH credits Dorris Bowdon with the role.
       According to a Jun 1935 article in LAT , Winfield Sheehan , the Vice President and General Manager of Fox, hired writer Howard Estabrook to write a screenplay, titled The Young Lincoln , based on the life of Abraham Lincoln as a young man, to star Henry Fonda. A Jul 1935 news item in HR notes that Fox was negotiating with Walter Wanger to buy Fonda's contract. The deal fell through, but Wanger agreed to lend Fonda to Fox to make The Young Lincoln . (Modern sources claim that when Lamar Trotti offered Fonda the part of Lincoln in the 1939 film, he turned it down, saying that Lincoln was "too great a man" to play. However, ... More Less

The film begins with a written prologue, in the form of the poem "Nancy Hanks" by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet. The poem consist of a series of questions posed by Lincoln's mother about the life of her son. The working titles of this film were The Young Lincoln , A Younger Lincoln , The Life of Young Abraham Lincoln and Lawyer of the West . The Call Bureau Cast Service and MPH credit Jack Kelly with the role of "Matt Clay as a boy," whereas Var credits Billy Watson with the role. The CBCS and MPH credit Dickie Jones with the role of "Adam Clay as a boy" whereas Var credits Delmar Watson with the role. Finally, Var and CBCS credit Judith Dickens with the role of "Carrie Sue" whereas MPH credits Dorris Bowdon with the role.
       According to a Jun 1935 article in LAT , Winfield Sheehan , the Vice President and General Manager of Fox, hired writer Howard Estabrook to write a screenplay, titled The Young Lincoln , based on the life of Abraham Lincoln as a young man, to star Henry Fonda. A Jul 1935 news item in HR notes that Fox was negotiating with Walter Wanger to buy Fonda's contract. The deal fell through, but Wanger agreed to lend Fonda to Fox to make The Young Lincoln . (Modern sources claim that when Lamar Trotti offered Fonda the part of Lincoln in the 1939 film, he turned it down, saying that Lincoln was "too great a man" to play. However, according to contemporary news items, Fonda was slated for the role before Zanuck was involved in the project.) Several weeks after the first LAT article appeared, the paper featured another article on the film, stating that Estabrook researched Lincoln's life for months before writing the screenplay. Estabrook's script, The Young Lincoln , dated 22 Jul 1935, is contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. In his notes that accompany the script, Estabrook recommended Loretta Young for the role of "Ann Rutledge" and Madge Evans for "Mary Todd." A Jul 1935 article in the LAHE claims that the script was going to be published in book form as a "paragon of Americanism which would vanquish Communism and Fascism." Estabrook refuted this claim in an article in LAHE in which he denied that his screenplay was propagandist.
       According to a May 1939 news item in HR , Fox dropped the project until the success of the play Abe Lincoln in Illinois prompted writer Lamar Trotti to call Darryl F. Zanuck's attention to Estabrook's script. Zanuck approved the project, and instructed Trotti to concentrate on the early part of Lincoln's life. Trotti's first effort, Lincoln Trial Story , dated 7 Jan 1938, actually predated the Sherwood play. In his notes contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, Trotti explained that the story was based on a murder trial that he covered as a newspaperman. Trotti claims that he was inspired to use the trial when he discovered that during a farmer's trial, Lincoln had used an almanac to determine the position of the moon on the night of the crime. Trotti's first temporary script is dated 13 Jan 1939, and in a story conference on 23 Jan, Zanuck suggested that Trotti introduce "Abigail Clay" and her family at the beginning of the plot. Zanuck reasoned that this would create a sense of drama because in that scene, "Abigail" gives "Lincoln" the law book that eventually leads to him to the law and thus places him in a position to help her sons at the end of the story.
       A pre-production news item in HR notes that Irving Cummings was at one time considered to direct the film. Another pre-production item in HR notes that Tyrone Power was to star as Lincoln, but two weeks later, another item in HR adds that Fox was negotiating with Fonda to play the role of Lincoln. A studio press release in the production files at the AMPAS library adds that the film cost $1,500,000 to produce. A later item in HR notes that the river scenes were shot on location around Sacramento, CA. Another item in HR states that Robert Sherwood and the Playwrights Producing Co. filed a legal complaint asking for a restraint against Fox's use of the title Young Mr. Lincoln . Sherwood claimed that the title would confuse the public into thinking the film had been adapted from his play Abe Lincoln in Illinois . Sherwood's play served as the basis for the 1940 film Abe Lincoln in Illinois .
       The National Board of Review put the film on its "ten best" list of 1939. Lamar Trotti received an Academy Award nomination in the Writing (Original Story) category. Modern sources add Robert Parrish as sd asst . The early period of Lincoln's life was also portrayed in a 1957 television broadcast Young Man from Kentucky , an epsiode of the Twentieth Century-Fox Hour on the CBS network starring Tom Tryon, Ann Harding and Marhsall Thompson. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Jun 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
2 Jun 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 35
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 38
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 39
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 39
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 39
pp. 5-6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 39
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 39
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 39
p. 3.
Life
12 Jun 39
p. 72.
Los Angeles Herald Express
13 Jul 1935.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
6 Jul 1935.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1935.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Jun 1935.
---
Motion Picture Daily
1 Jun 39
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald
13 May 39
p. 35.
Motion Picture Herald
3 Jun 39
p. 36.
New York Times
3 Jun 39
p. 11.
Variety
7 Jun 39
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cosmopolitan Production; A Darryl F. Zanuck Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITER
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
A Younger Lincoln
Life of Abraham Lincoln
The Life of Young Abraham Lincoln
The Young Lincoln
Lawyer of the West
Release Date:
9 June 1939
Premiere Information:
Springfield, Il. opening: 30 May 1939
Production Date:
early March--mid April 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Cent{ry-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
9 June 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9148
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100-101
Length(in feet):
9,050
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5216
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In New Salem, Illinois, in 1832, young Abraham Lincoln, a candidate for the state legislature, addresses his constituents. Introducing himself as "plain Abe Lincoln," he promises that "if elected, I shall be thankful...if not...it will all be the same." After he finishes his speech, Abe trades a pioneer family named Clay some drygoods for a copy of Blackstone's Commentaries , an act that will come to fruition years later when Abe defends the sons of that family, Matt and Adam, against murder charges. Abe studies the book by the river and is inspired by its notion of law and right and wrong. He is encouraged in his studies by Ann Rutledge, who urges him to have confidence in himself and follow the path of the law. After Ann's untimely death, Abe gives up tending store and leaves for Springfield, where he establishes a law practice with his old friend John Stuart. While at the Independence Day parade, Abe meets Mary Todd, his future wife, and Stephen Douglas, his future political opponent. Later that night, he is faced with his first major case when Scrub White is stabbed during a fight with Matt and Adam Clay, and J. Palmer Cass accuses the brothers of murder. When both brothers claim guilt, and the only eyewitness, their mother Abigail, refuses to testify, the crowd of onlookers is transformed into a surly lynch mob. Abe then steps in to uphold the law by appointing himself the brothers' attorney. Inspired by Abe's courageous act, Mary Todd invites him to a party at the elegant house of her sister and her husband, Ninian ... +


In New Salem, Illinois, in 1832, young Abraham Lincoln, a candidate for the state legislature, addresses his constituents. Introducing himself as "plain Abe Lincoln," he promises that "if elected, I shall be thankful...if not...it will all be the same." After he finishes his speech, Abe trades a pioneer family named Clay some drygoods for a copy of Blackstone's Commentaries , an act that will come to fruition years later when Abe defends the sons of that family, Matt and Adam, against murder charges. Abe studies the book by the river and is inspired by its notion of law and right and wrong. He is encouraged in his studies by Ann Rutledge, who urges him to have confidence in himself and follow the path of the law. After Ann's untimely death, Abe gives up tending store and leaves for Springfield, where he establishes a law practice with his old friend John Stuart. While at the Independence Day parade, Abe meets Mary Todd, his future wife, and Stephen Douglas, his future political opponent. Later that night, he is faced with his first major case when Scrub White is stabbed during a fight with Matt and Adam Clay, and J. Palmer Cass accuses the brothers of murder. When both brothers claim guilt, and the only eyewitness, their mother Abigail, refuses to testify, the crowd of onlookers is transformed into a surly lynch mob. Abe then steps in to uphold the law by appointing himself the brothers' attorney. Inspired by Abe's courageous act, Mary Todd invites him to a party at the elegant house of her sister and her husband, Ninian Edwards. At the party, Mary shuns the attentions of Stephen Douglas to seek out Abe. Later, Abe rides to the Clay's log cabin, where he tells Mrs. Clay, her daughter-in-law Kate and Carrie Sue, Adam's fiancé, that he feels like they are his family. At the trial, Abe appeals to the jury with his homespun logic, based on the principle that law is a simple matter of right and wrong. His opponent, prosecuting attorney John Felder, calls Abigail to the stand and offers her the life of one of her sons in exchange for the name of Scrub's killer, but she refuses to answer. When Felder continues to brow beat Abigail, Abe protests his tactics and Felder invokes Abe's lack of knowledge of the law, to which Abe replies that he knows right from wrong. Felder then calls J. Palmer Cass to the stand as a surprise eye witness, and Cass testifies that he saw Matt stab Scrub by the light of the moon. That night, the judge visits Abe and advises him to consult Douglas, a more experienced attorney, for help. Even though his case looks hopeless, Abe refuses the judge's advice and the next day, he turns to the Farmer's Almanac to prove that the moon had already set when Scrub was stabbed, and therefore, Cass could not have witnessed the murder. Abe then forces Cass to confess that he murdered Scrub. After his victory, Abe is congratulated by Mary and Douglas, who now recognizes Abe as a worthy opponent. The boys are freed, and as the Clay family drives off in their wagon, Abe climbs a distant hill, beginning his ascension into history. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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