At Keith Memorial
Abe Lincoln's gaunt figure has stepped out of the homey precincts of the stage and exposed itself to the glamor of inquisitive Klieg lights. But it has forfeited none of its earthy humanity; its shady sides have not been glossed over by a halo of legend and heroism. A classic of the modern American stage, Robert Sherwood's "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" has now become a classic of American moviedom.
Raymond Massey's Lincoln--are the two still separable?--strikes us again as an almost uncanny reincarnation of the dead. At least in our imagination, earnest, gauche Abe Lincoln must have talked with the same mild firmness in his voice as earnest, gauche Mr. Massey. But although "Abe Lincoln in Illinois," the movie, is as much Mr. Massey's vehicle as the play, the supporting characters do their full share to make it a success. Ruth Gordon's Ann Rutledge inspires the audience no less than Honest Abe, and Mary Howard's Mrs. Lincoln manages to be appallingly unattractive and ambitious.
All in all, this film version of a Pulitzer prize play is an authentic, moving account of how a sluggish rail-splitter turned President. Hollywood has withstood the temptation to be spectacularly patriotic; and the result is one of those rare historical pictures which are devoid of all furor and fuss.