Saving Lincoln Premiers Tonight

This past Tuesday at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a select audience saw Saving Lincoln, a new movie about the sixteenth president. I’ll have more to say about the movie soon, but I particularly liked this tongue-in-cheek review of a movie that was in turn moving and funny.


15 thoughts on “Saving Lincoln Premiers Tonight

  1. Alan February 15, 2013 / 3:15 pm

    I’m going tomorrow afternoon at the Filmbar – first Phoenix premiere.

  2. Jeffry Burden February 15, 2013 / 7:53 pm

    Um…I saw the premier of “Killing Lincoln” Tuesday in Richmond. Does that count?

  3. Michael Confoy February 15, 2013 / 11:21 pm

    The NY Times dumped on it in the Friday paper.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 16, 2013 / 11:35 am

      It is clear to me that reactions to this movie run to the extremes. What interests me is that the people in Springfield, who are very protective of Mr. Lincoln, were astonishingly attentive in watching the movie and gave Sal Litvak a standing ovation at the end. They laughed at certain parts (parts that were intentionally funny) and were acutely silent at others (such as the death of Willie Lincoln). I thought some parts were corny, and there were some eye-rolling moments of historical inaccuracy. But I also see this as a low-budget independent film where there was a lot of resourcefulness to overcome budgetary limitations, and there were a number of people who came up afterwards and said it was more accurate than Lincoln.

      I see the reactions as telling me at least as much about reviewers as about the film. I think I could compose a harsh review should I choose to do so, or a glowing review … which, by the way, is also true when it comes to books. And for those who recall that there was a lighter side to Lincoln that helped him battle with sadness and melancholy, the Lincoln I saw in the movie reminded me of that man.

      • Alan February 16, 2013 / 7:48 pm

        I saw it this afternoon, and in a word, OUTSTANDING.

        I was carefully looking for miscues, misstatements, playing loose with the facts, but Sal Litvak, he did such an outstanding job, and the cast? So first-rate. Tom Amandes reminded me so much of that other fine actor who not only played “Lincoln” – but through the tutelage of his friend Hal Holzer became a great admirer if not an expert himself – Sam Waterston. When I closed my eyes at times, I could hear Waterston’s voice – his great rendition of the “Gettysburg Address” through the voice of Amandes. And Lea Coco, Penelope Ann Miller, and ex-Grassroots guitarist turned Office manager Creed Bratton as Sumner – how great and how cool, but more importantly, how true.

        I will be honest by saying I haven’t seen the “Lincoln” movie, but from what I saw today this one is far superior in describing Lincoln through the lens of his bodyguard and confidant, and the events – including the fine usage of actual Civil War photograph in re-creating scenes – to the Daniel Day Lewis film.

      • Alan February 16, 2013 / 7:50 pm

        p.s. what inaccuracies did you see, Brooks?

        (I’m sure that there were some, but not as many as in “Lincoln” and most certainly I believe Litvak did his utmost to stay true to the Lincoln-Lamon story. He covered the deaths of Ellsworth and of Ned Baker at Ball’s Bluff extremely well – and I didn’t even expect them to be covered.

        • Brooks D. Simpson February 16, 2013 / 8:40 pm

          Sal Litvak and I discussed some of these inaccuracies when he sent me a preview copy late last year. Let me remind you on an easy one: you can’t see Alexandria [very well–ed.] from the White House; ever count the uniform buttons on Ellsworth’s uniform? 7000 down at Cold Harbor in eight minutes? The United States appointed ministers, not ambassadors, during Lincoln’s time.

          Now, I see no reason to take an independent movie down for these reasons,and in many cases I don’t see that these errors change the narrative arch of the story. But let’s not try to pretend they aren’t there.

          • Alan February 16, 2013 / 9:34 pm


            I agree with you with all of your comments except Alexandria for two reasons. Before I cite the reasons, let me say this. If you are saying from the White House to Alexandria, you may be correct, and in regards to that if you are talking about seeing the Marshall House from the White House I’d be 100 percent in agreement on the Alexandria comment as you can’t – and you can’t see the White House from the hotel/restaurant that now stands where the Marshall house was…BUT.

            One, Confederate flags were clearly visible to the White House from across the Potomac (Alexandria) after Virginia seceded, and Two, I could definitely see the White House, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials from my hotel room in Old Town Alexandria when I stayed there last year, and the year before.

            So, maybe the White House didn’t have that kind of view, but I sure did.
            Otherwise I’d pretty much concur, and definitely that for four, five miscues and not quite being accurate, you can’t scorn this very fine film…”Lincoln” itself had many more as you already suggested.

          • Brooks D. Simpson February 16, 2013 / 9:44 pm

            Are you really going to suggest that Lincoln watched Ellsworth from afar? And heard the hotelkeeper kill him (a shot that was fired within the building)?

            My understanding is that it is claimed that Lincoln could indeed see the “skyline” of Alexandria from (presumably the roof of) the White House with a spyglass, but I’d welcome an account of his watching the action.

            I could cite other errors (example: Lincoln walked through Baltimore’s train stations; he did not ride through them [it was in the change of trains that the assassination attempt would take place]), but I don’t care much for nit-picking, especially in these circumstances. I’d also say that the actors playing Chase, Sumner, and Douglas did not resemble their real-life counterparts, and I was fascinated with Seward’s goatee. But these I can brush aside, too: again, budget’s key here. Besides, in some cases Sal’s information came from books … only the books offer information that had been challenged and in some cases discredited. He hasn’t been touchy like Tony Kushner, and he lacked the resources to hire historical advisers who would advise him and then praise the result.

          • Alan February 16, 2013 / 10:48 pm

            Never said in my comments that he “could” watch the action unfold. In fact I even mentioned that the Marshall House (or the hotel-restaurant which is now on the site of where the old Marshall house was) was a distance even from the Potomac.

            BUT…Lincoln could see the Confederate flags, and there are numerous reports of Union officers seeing those flags in the weeks before Union troops marched on Alexandra and on Arlington. Seeing them actually been taken down is another story, and I never wrote that in my comments.

            And yes, Sal could have easily picked another actor to play Douglas, no doubt about that (in fact, I winced when I saw “Douglas”) – and Bruce Davison, a fine veteran SHOULD have shaved off that goatee (shame on Bruce D.) – that was embarassing enough. But I would say that for every mistake (nitpicking or otherwise, including the use of dramatic dialogue in BOTH movies – and a disclaimer – still haven’t seen “Lincoln”) made, “Saving Lincoln” not only stayed much more true to the history – but on that basis alone was a better movie.

            And…Brooks, weren’t you either an adviser or a reference source too for “Saving Lincoln”? I thought I saw your name in the credits…

          • Brooks D. Simpson February 16, 2013 / 11:11 pm

            Sal and Nina Litvak asked me a few questions, but I never saw a script … so the first time I saw the movie was as an early version, with much of the editing already done. That said, I like the movie, and I liked its innovative approaches to various issues.

  4. Bummer February 16, 2013 / 11:46 am

    Litvak portrays Lincoln from Lamon’s view, the best, the better, the sad and the light-hearted. Lamon’s Lincoln has never been really told on the silver screen or green. It’s his perception, with a Hollywood and Imagineering bent, great concept.

  5. Salvador Alex Litvak February 19, 2013 / 6:32 pm

    I am so honored that you gentlemen have take the time to inspect Saving Lincoln closely. Your opinions, and your support, are so much more dear to me than the idiocies of some so called arbiters of taste – men who discredit a film that is engendering profound experiences among our audiences. In short, our viewers laugh, cry, and report that they they sink into this film in a manner that is entirely new for delivering a historical drama within the actual locations where the events took place. I wish I could have been 100% accurate. I am happy to hear where I have diverged, and will answer if asked whether it was accidental or by necessity. As Brooks points out, however, it’s the big issues that count, and I take enormous pleasure in your reactions to the film. Thank you!

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