Hal Holbrook on Playing Lincoln

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Hal Holbrook starred in a miniseries back in 1974 where he played Lincoln.  The series was based on Carl Sandburg’s romantic, if dubious historically, take on Lincoln in his Pulitzer winning biography.  The episodes in the miniseries do not tell the entire life of Lincoln, but rather focus on vignettes from Lincoln as a young lawyer up to his years as President.  The series had its moments, Holbrook being an actor of considerable ability, but I chiefly remember it for the makeup job of Holbrook as Lincoln:

 

It simply didn’t work for me.  It struck me as fake looking, although I admit that your mileage may vary.  A decade later Holbrook would portray Lincoln in the soap operish look at the War in North and South, and I thought the makeup was much better done:

 

 

 

Playing an historical figure who has become a national icon is rough, and especially so with Lincoln who had a strikingly unique appearance and mannerisms, and who lived before the time of audio or film recording.  It is no wonder that efforts to capture the man on stage or on film so often meet with negative or mixed results.

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5 Comments

  1. Raymond Massey made a good Lincoln though I think Royal Dano came closest to resembling Lincoln as a young Lincoln and as President. On camera he appeared to be tall, thin and rangy like Abe. Appeared in many TV shows. Walt Disney picked him to voice the Abe Lincoln exhibit at Disneyland. He thought his voice closed to that of Lincoln’s. Not sure how he knew that.

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