Is 'Lincoln' the real deal?: Interview with James McPherson

Historians in the News

Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" is a historical biopic more concerned with depicting the 16th president's log-rolling politics than his log-splitting childhood.

"Lincoln," one of many high-profile films this season based on real events, has been warmly embraced by critics and audiences. But there's another group whose opinion matters — historians.

"There have been other movies about Lincoln," said James McPherson, a Civil War historian, Lincoln biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Battle Cry of Freedom," in a recent interview after seeing the film. "They tended to reflect a romanticized Lincoln, almost a mythologized Lincoln. This comes closer to reality. This shows Lincoln's exhaustion, his gauntness — and his storytelling."...

We asked the historian to help answer some of our questions after seeing the film (Warning: If you haven't seen "Lincoln" yet, this interview contains some spoilers):

Daniel Day-Lewis' voice is quite high in the movie. Did Lincoln really sound like that?

Lincoln's voice was described as being fairly high-pitched, rather than the deep baritone used by earlier actors. I think Lincoln may have had a little bit more of an Indiana-Kentucky twang than Mr. Day-Lewis has. Lincoln rarely if ever used profanity, and some of the dialogue calls for him to do that. I thought that was a bit jarring....

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