Abraham Lincoln continues to attract moviemakers’ interest. Oh, we may never see the end of Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited Lincoln movie, which has experienced all sorts of changes, but three Lincoln-related movies are on the move, including Conspirator, the story of Mary Surratt (see this preview and website); the “almost entirely true story” of Lincoln and self-appointed bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon, called Saving Lincoln; and, of course, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
[Note: in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been contacted by people from each of these three movies, each of which is quite different.]
In each case, the people engaged in doing these movies want to be as historically accurate as possible, although those definitions may differ (as in the case of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). In the case of Conspirator, there’s an effort by the people behind the film at The American Film Company to make movies that are both dramatic and accurate. Sometimes this is a challenge, sometimes too much of one. After all, one of my favorite movies is Patton, and George C. Scott’s Patton has replaced the real Patton in the minds of many people, shaped in part by the influence of technical adviser Omar Bradley (ever wonder why Karl Malden’s Bradley comes off looking so good in the movie?). I’ll be interested to see if someone wants me to take my talents to Hollywood (or wherever the set may be).
In the meantime, you might want to do some poking around to learn more about these movies and what’s behind them. I think historians avoid these opportunities at their peril, given the importance of portrayals of history on the silver screen (and television … and now the internet) to shaping popular impressions of the past.