Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nerd moment for the week


Wouldn't you know it? I fell asleep right at the good part.

OK, here's my nerd moment for the week. Last night, I rearranged my entire evening so I could catch one of my favorite movies on TCM.

"Abe Lincoln in Illinois," from 1940, stars Raymond Massey as the Great Railsplitter, following our greatest president's journey from New Salem, Ill., through his fateful train ride to Washington in 1861 to become president of the United States. It's corny, melodramatic, plays fast and loose with history, but is a lot of fun.

And the funny part is I keep missing it every time it airs. The last time TCM showed the film (it's not available on DVD), I set the TiVo, all excited that I'd finally be able to watch this classic from start to finish. Yeah, it didn't record.

So guess what happened last night? I got all the way through the movie and fell asleep right at the part where Lincoln gives his famous "house divided" speech. I woke back up on the night of the 1860 election, when Lincoln waits calmly at the telegraph office for the results.

I did manage to catch his dramatic speech at the train station that closes the film, but I guess I'm just not supposed to EVER see this damn thing in its entirety. One thing I was glad to see is that the film faithfully replicates certain aspects of Lincoln's life, including his broken-promise engagement to Mary Todd (he later changes his mind and, for some reason, she does too) and his early struggles with money and difficulty finding a direction in life. Massey is a dead-ringer for Ol' Abe.

On a serious note, I did think a lot about Lincoln -- and our current election -- after the movie ended. And it really makes you marvel at this most remarkable American story.

Lincoln had been a one-term U.S. Representative and a state Rep. in the Illinois legislature for a few years prior to winning the Republican nomination for president. And that was about it.

He'd lost a Senate seat against the Little Giant, Stephen Douglas, in 1858. Honest Abe could tell a funny story, but he wasn't much to look at. He had a high-pitched voice. He couldn't have been elected dogcatcher if he'd came of age in the TV era.

But if ever a human being was born to play a certain role in history, surely it was this gentle soul from Springfield by away of Kentucky. His tale is indeed one for the ages.

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