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This Day in History
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We’re marking our calendars for the upcoming release of “Lincoln,” the new biopic directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Here are three reasons why the History.com staff can’t wait for November 16:
1. Team of Rivals
We love the book the film is based on—the best-seller “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. (She’s the presidential biographer and author of the Pulitzer Prize- winning “No Ordinary Time,” about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.) In “Team of Rivals,” Goodwin delivers a unique assessment of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his successful run for the presidency and his attempts to forge a political coalition among his former opponents. Mindful of the need to avoid conflict while civil war loomed, Lincoln chose to include his major rivals in his administration, regardless of their divergent political views. Lincoln’s decision to appoint these men—William Seward, Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase and, later in his first term, Edwin Stanton—to his Cabinet has been hailed by historians as one of the shrewdest political moves ever made by an American president. Of course his plan was not 100 percent successful—several Cabinet members left during his first term—but Lincoln’s skill as a manager of personalities, as well as armies, is an essential part of what made him so extraordinary.
2. The Screenplay
Pulitzer- and Tony-Award winning playwright Tony Kushner wrote the screen adaptation. From what we can tell, the story told in Goodwin’s book has been streamlined in the film. Instead of the full four years of Lincoln’s presidency, the movie focuses on its final months, as Lincoln struggles to win the war, plan for a post-war peace and fights to secure passage of the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. Yes, we’re sad to see some of the backstory go, but the final months of both the Civil War and Lincoln’s own life are sure to make for an exciting ride.
3. The Cast
Of course, there’s Daniel Day-Lewis, a famously intense actor who’s had great success playing real-life figures in the past (Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in “Gangs of New York”; disabled artist Christy Brown in “My Left Foot”; accused IRA militant Gerry Conlon in “In the Name of the Father).” Then there’s Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, the powerful, and sometimes obstinate, head of the Radical Republicans in Congress, who often butted heads with Lincoln. And, of course, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Our 16th first lady was whip smart, emotionally complicated and brimming—ok, overflowing—with nervous energy, and our bet is that Field will be pretty convincing.
We’ve been waiting for this movie for years—through casting changes and production delays—so you can imagine how psyched we were a few weeks ago when the official promotional poster was released. We emailed it around the office, and gathered at each other’s desks to dissect it. The consensus? It’s awesome. The beard is almost eerily perfect and it’s such a strikingly iconic image that several people we know thought it actually was a photo of Lincoln. Needless to say, we’re eagerly awaiting our first glimpse at a full trailer, which is due to be released later this week–both online and live in Times Square, on Thursday, 9/13, at 7pm ET.
November 16 can’t come soon enough.
Here at the History.com office, we talk about a lot of things. What to eat for lunch. The best way to get from Park Slope in Brooklyn to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. The likelihood of the Jets making the playoffs. Also, what really happened to the ancient Maya, whether Burr meant to kill Hamilton and which Civil War general we’d choose to lead our army.
Yes, believe it or not, we spend a lot of time talking about history—when we’re not writing about history, doing research, tracking down archival photos or checking facts. And so, rather than simply continuing to discuss—and debate—amongst ourselves, we thought it was time to launch our new HISTORY Blog. From now on, when one of our producers emerges from their cubicle with yet another new history fact of the day, we’re not the only ones who get to hear about it. You, too, will discover Sitting Bull’s childhood name (Jumping Badger), which U.S. president was the first born in a hospital (Carter) or how many living descendants Genghis Khan might have today (16 million!).
What do we have in mind for this new forum? A closer look at amazing images and sites we love, our take on the latest history books and movies, first looks at brand-new videos on our site, what we’re looking forward to down the line and much more. We’re excited for the chance to share our love of history on a more direct and personal level, and we hope you enjoy what we have to offer.