They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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Additional Thoughts on Lincoln

About That Thirteenth Amendment

So Spielberg's movie Lincoln shows the House voting for the 13th Amendment on 31 January 1865. Remarkably, Illinois was the first state to ratify on February 1st. Rhode Island on the 2nd. Michigan, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia on the 3rd. Virginia (!) was the twelfth state on the 9th. Though it took until December 6th, when Georgia became the 27th of 36 states to complete ratification, I had no idea that half the total states (18 of 36) ratified within the first month. (The 35-star flag above was in use at the end of the Civil War, until 4 July 1865 when the 36th star was added for Nevada's entry in 31 October 1864.)

I really think there should've been some comment about this in the film.

The Death of Lincoln

Ken Burns tells the story of editing The Civil War. They had the script for Our American Cousin, actors reading the parts, a recording of a gunshot. They were editing and came up to the moment... and had to stop for a few minutes. Lincoln still lived, his second term still lay before him. Eventually they continued, because they had to. They knew they couldn't quit for the day and come back to it -- that would've been more painful. But for a brief moment of quiet, they reflected on what might have been, while holding off the awful truth.


In Lincoln, we see Lincoln going out for the evening. The film is nearly two hours long, it's April 1865, we know what's coming. Except...

We are about to be punched in the gut. The scene on the stage involves a sword fight. In Our American Cousin? Huh? We cut to the balcony and see not Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, but their young son with a handler. Oh no. When a manager bursts onto the stage to announce that the President has been shot over at Ford's Theater, we are properly horrified. It is as in Apollo 13 when we watched Jim Lovell's older son in class at military school when the reentry blackout exceeded four minutes.

Manipulative? Sure. But it is a way to take the known and make it unknown again.

And I was impressed.

Dr. Phil
Tags: civil war, history, movies, reviews

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