Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Best Actor 1940: Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln in Illinois

Raymond Massey received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Abraham Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

Abe Lincoln is a standard 40's biography film about Lincoln's early life to his success as a passionate politician.

Raymond Massey's portrayal of Lincoln is certainly aided by Massey's physique. He is quite believable as Lincoln, since he does resemble him quite well, which certainly does add to his portrayal. I will say though that this believability is not throughout his performance because at the beginning of the film he must portray the pretty young Lincoln. His early scene in the home is a bit silly, and Lincoln performance can't really be entirely realistic.

After this initial scene though Massey is able to come back well enough still, even though he does use a very particular voice as Lincoln. It is a bit unusual most certainly, but Lincoln was an unusual man, so I did feel it worked in that aspect. Although again as the younger exuberant Lincoln the over 40 Massey is not entirely believable but he still is fine and better than his first scene.

This is a 40's biography film so one thing that must be remembered is that there really is not too much negative material to found about Lincoln in the film. He is portrayed almost as an entirely great guy especially in the early scene of the film where he tries to find his place in the world. Lincoln is portrayed as properly nice by Massey and charming in a down home sort of way without laying on the niceness of Lincoln too much.

As the film goes on the believability of Massey certianly does grow. Massey is particularly good at showing the passion and strength behind Lincoln as he fights for the causes he believes in. He is particularly good in certian moments such as the debate scene with Stephen Douglas for Senator. Massey as Lincoln puts the right strong by respectful passion into his speech, which has the proper, power and strength.

Surprisingly enough there is just a little bit of a darker side shown involving Lincoln in the film which is his romantic life. He first has his loving but tragic relationship with Ann Rutledge , where Massey is properly charming, as well as properly saddened when tragedy hits. Lincoln though marries the cold Mary Todd. Massey shows actually shows a colder side of Lincoln in regards to this relationship that does work quite well without overriding the more heroic aspects of the character.

Overall I found this to be a fairly good performance as Abraham Lincoln. Not always completely believable in every aspect of Lincoln, but manages to be very strong in others. I will say it is a mixed performance that is I think more good, despite some lacking qualities. Massey does manage to still make an interesting portrait of Lincoln, that I would have actually liked to seen his Lincoln's journey during the civil war to his eventual death.


Anonymous said...

Haven't seen this, unfortunately.

dshultz said...

Yeah, I did not think he would rank too highly.