Abe Lincoln in Illinois
February 14th, 2016

Abe Lincoln in Illinois [1940]

Please join us Presidents’ Day Weekend for John Cromwell’s classic Abe Lincoln in Illinois [1940] on the big screen.

  • Screening Date: Sunday, February 14th, 2016 | 11:30am
  • Venue: North Park Theatre
  • Specifications: 1940 / 110 minutes / English / Black & White
  • Director(s): John Cromwell
  • Print: Supplied by Warner Bros.
  • Tickets: $7.50 general admission; $7.00 seniors

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

1428 Hertel Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216

TrailerSynopsisDirector BioLinks

Courtesy of Warner Bros.:

Among the most masterful matchups of actor and role in screen history is this stirring film of Robert E. Sherwood’s beloved play taking a thoroughly human look at the early years of our 16th President, with all his frailties and strength of character.

Best Actor Oscar nominee Raymond Massey (who originated the role on stage) wonderfully plays the future Great Emancipator in a chronicle of his backwoods childhood through his first romance with Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard) to his phenomenal rise to President Elect, besting the great orator Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart).

Ruth Gordon also does memorable work as driven, ambitious Mary Todd Lincoln, whose vision of Abe’s leadership destiny will not be denied by anyone – including her often reticent husband. There’s also no denying the enduring emotional power of this simple, magnificent movie.


  • Academy Awards – 1941 – Nominee: Best Actor in a Leading Role & Nominee: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

“In jail, everyone recognises my face.”

Courtesy of Britannica.com:

John Cromwell, original name Elwood Dager Cromwell (born December 23, 1887, Toledo, Ohio, U.S.—died September 26, 1979, Santa Barbara, California), American actor and director of stage and screen who, during a career that spanned more than 70 years, helmed a number of classic movies, including Of Human Bondage (1934), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), and Anna and the King of Siam (1946).

Cromwell’s own personal golden age began in 1937 with the classic The Prisoner of Zenda for Selznick. The swashbuckler was based on Anthony Hope’s novel, and it starred Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Cromwell then directed Algiers (1938), a remake of French director Julien Duvivier’s classic Pépé le Moko. If not quite at the level of the original, it was still a fine production, starring Charles Boyer and the Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr in her American screen debut. The tearjerker Made for Each Other starred James Stewart and Carole Lombard, while In Name Only (both 1939) was virtually a companion piece, with Lombard as a widow who falls in love with an unhappily married man (Cary Grant). Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Robert E. Sherwood. The moving drama featured an Academy Award-nominated performance by Raymond Massey as the future president; Ruth Gordon was Mary Todd Lincoln, and Cromwell played John Brown. Victory (1940), from Joseph Conrad’s novel, was somewhat less successful, although March was excellent as the island loner who is forced to fight for his life.

So Ends Our Night (1941) starred March again, this time in a fine thriller about a German trying to escape his homeland as Nazi agents pursue him, and Son of Fury (1942) was one of Tyrone Power’s best costume pictures; Gene Tierney supplied the love interest and George Sanders the villainy. Cromwell then was reunited with Selznick for his prestigious Since You Went Away (1944), a lengthy but engrossing rendering of a family’s trials and tribulations during the war years. A critical and commercial success, it received a number of Oscar nominations, including a nod for best picture. The Enchanted Cottage (1945) was much more modest, a love story with fantasy elements that starred Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young.

Cromwell served as president of the Screen Directors Guild (later Directors Guild of America) from 1944 to 1946. During the latter year he made Anna and the King of Siam, an elaborate production of the real-life story of a British governess (Dunne) who dares to challenge the ruler of Siam (Rex Harrison). Although highly praised, Cromwell’s film was almost completely overshadowed by Walter Lang’s 1956 musical remake, The King and I. Dead Reckoning (1947) was a change of pace for Cromwell. The film noir starred Humphrey Bogart as a war hero who is betrayed by a femme fatale (Lizabeth Scott).

Cromwell had gone more than 10 years without a misfire, an incredible streak that even the greatest directors would be hard pressed to match, but Night Song (1947), with Dana Andrews as a blind pianist, ended his run. He rebounded in 1950 with Caged, one of the best (and most harrowing) of the women’s prison pictures; Eleanor Parker was cast against type as the new inmate who must learn the ropes.

Returning to RKO, Cromwell made The Company She Keeps (1951), with Scott as a parole officer and Jane Greer as an ex-convict, both of whom have set their sights on a newspaper columnist (Dennis O’Keefe). Later in 1951 he directed The Racket, which was based on the play that had helped launch his Hollywood career. However, Cromwell left the production before the film wrapped, and Nicholas Ray was among several directors who oversaw some of the later scenes.

Amid the House Un-American Activities Committee’s Hollywood witchhunts, Cromwell’s career soured. Howard Hughes accused him of being a communist, and although the charge was false, Cromwell was blacklisted. Unable to work in motion pictures, he returned to the stage, where he had occasionally performed between directing assignments. In 1952 he appeared with Fonda in the Broadway production of Point of No Return, for which he won a Tony Award.

In 1958 Cromwell was removed from the blacklist, and that year he directed The Goddess, writer Paddy Chayefsky’s dissection of the Marilyn Monroe phenomenon, with Kim Stanley as a troubled actress. The Scavengers (1959) was his last Hollywood film, and in 1961 he ended his film-directing career with A Matter of Morals, a low-budget drama made in Sweden. Cromwell continued to act on the stage, however, and late in life he returned to the screen in two Robert Altman films, 3 Women (1977) and A Wedding (1978). In 1960 Cromwell was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His son James Cromwell was a noted actor.

— Michael Benson


  • A Matter of Morals (1961)
  • The Scavengers (1959)
  • The Goddess (1958)
  • The Racket (1951)
  • The Company She Keeps (1951)
  • Caged (1950)
  • Night Song (1948)
  • Dead Reckoning (1947)
  • Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
  • The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
  • Since You Went Away (1944)
  • Son of Fury (1942)
  • So Ends Our Night (1941)
  • Victory (1941)
  • Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)
  • Made for Each Other (1939)
  • In Name Only (1939)
  • The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
  • Algiers (1938)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
  • Banjo on My Knee (1936)
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936)
  • To Mary—With Love (1936)
  • Village Tale (1935)
  • Jalna (1935)
  • I Dream Too Much (1935)
  • Spitfire (1934)
  • This Man Is Mine (1934)
  • The Fountain (1934)
  • Of Human Bondage (1934)
  • Ann Vickers (1933)
  • The Silver Cord (1933)
  • Sweepings (1933)
  • Double Harness (1933)
  • The World and the Flesh (1932)
  • Rich Man’s Folly (1931)
  • The Vice Squad (1931)
  • Scandal Sheet (1931)
  • Unfaithful (1931)
  • Seven Days Leave (1930) (Co-Director)
  • Tom Sawyer (1930)
  • Street of Chance (1930)
  • The Texan (1930)
  • For the Defense (1930)
  • Close Harmony (1929)
  • The Dance of Life (1929)
  • The Mighty (1929)

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

  • 2/10/16 – Which is your favorite cinematic Lincoln? – link

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