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843 Ratings

Young Mr. Lincoln

Directed by John Ford
United States, 1939
Drama, Biography


In John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, Henry Fonda gives one of the finest performances of his career, as the young president-to-be, struggling with an incendiary murder case as a novice lawyer. Compassionate and assured, this is an indelible piece of Americana.

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Young Mr. Lincoln Directed by John Ford

Awards & Festivals

Academy Awards

1940 | Nominee: Best Writing, Original Story

National Board of Review

1939 | Winner: Top Ten Films

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

1939 | 2nd place: Best Actor

Lamar Trotti’s screenplay is full of witty, resonant bits of Americana, which Ford lends an earthy and corporeal tactility as well as an unpretentious sense of exaltation. One never feels Ford striving for iconography, as his deep and coherent compositions appear to be carved in wood. Poetry is clarity, and few filmmakers have ever known that as fully as Ford did. In Young Mr. Lincoln, Ford considered a legend and saw in him everything America is and could be.
January 22, 2018
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Young Mr. Lincoln’s legal wrangling is, especially from today’s perspective, more than a little cornball and, from a procedural standpoint, twice as implausible. Yet Ford justifies this material by so endearingly lionizing his protagonist. Repeatedly framing Fonda as a towering figure of casual confidence and righteousness—his body seems to loom over everyone else—the film visually accentuates the future president’s unimpeachable virtue.
October 14, 2013
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An ingeniously tight-focused yet historically resonant view of the future President’s rise to prominence… Perhaps no filmmaker bore the burden of historical consciousness as deeply, as seriously, and as humanly as Ford did; his “friendship” with Lincoln had a firm artistic basis.
November 13, 2012
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