Abe Lincoln as You’ve Never Heard Him





“NOW he belongs to the ages,” Edwin Stanton, Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, said at the president’s deathbed. “And to the studios,” he could have added.

The latest in a long parade of screen Abes, coming right on the heels of Benjamin Walker’s ax-swinging, martial arts version in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” is Daniel Day-Lewis, who, though he grew up in England and Ireland and had to learn about Lincoln almost from scratch, plays the lead in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which opens Friday.

Mr. Day-Lewis, 55, has already won two best actor Oscars, and his performance here, tender and soulful, convincingly weary and stoop-shouldered, will almost certainly earn him a nomination. He’s neither as zombified as Walter Huston in D. W. Griffith’s 1930 biopic “Abraham Lincoln,” nor as brash and self-assured as Henry Fonda in John Ford’s “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939), nor as stagy and ponderous as Raymond Massey, a year later, in “Abe Lincoln in Illinois,” in which he sounds, during the Lincoln-Douglas debates, a lot like the television evangelist Harold Camping proclaiming the end of the world once more....

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