History comes to life
I was happy to see the Dreamworks film “Lincoln” came to the Capitol in Montpelier.
It is certainly a worthwhile film for Vermonters to see. For one thing, not only did Daniel Day-Lewis portray a thoroughly realistic Abraham Lincoln, but it highlighted “radical abolitionist” Thaddeus Stevens (splendidly portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones) who was originally (Stevens) from Danville. Stevens was, as the script dramatized, a key player in passing Lincoln’s 13th Amendment (the abolition of slavery) against the opposition of opportunistic congressmen who feared racial equality. There is even a scene in which Lincoln tells an “Ethan Allen” joke (Allen having been the “de facto” founder of the state of Vermont).
That the producers of the film were bent on exact historical authenticity is shown by a few scenes in which they bothered to cast a bit player as Ely Stone Parker. On the staff of U.S. Grant at the time was Grant’s pre-war friend Do-ne-ho’gawa (“Open Door”), Seneca Indian chief from the Tonawanda Reservation in New York. Parker was a brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers serving as Grant’s military secretary. Parker is portrayed by Native American actor Asa Luke Twocrow. In the Battle of the Wilderness, 1864, Parker single-handedly saved both Grant and Gen. George G. Meade (and their staffs) from riding straight into a well-laid Confederate ambush. A film based on the life of the chief, by itself, would be extremely interesting.
It is seldom that Americans can engage in an act of patriotism simply by going to the movies. “Lincoln” provides just such an opportunity. Right at the beginning, when young Army recruits, two of whom had heard it from the president’s own lips in 1863, recite parts of the Gettysburg Address back to him, in person, was one of the most moving scenes in film history. And it doesn’t stop there.
E. George Larrabee
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