As the title implies, this deals with the Great Emanicipator’s early days in New Salem, Ill, emphasizing the Civil War president’s then penchant for inherent honesty, fearlessness, shrewdness, plus such homely qualities as being a champ rail-splitter mixed with an avid hunger for book larnin’.
As motion picture entertainment, however, Young Mr. Lincoln is something else again. Fundamentally it resolves itself down to a courtroom drama. He’s called upon to extricate Richard Cromwell and Eddie Quillan, as Matt and Adam Clay, following a murder rap.
Henry Fonda is capital in the highlight scenes where he languorously addresses the small group in front of the little Berry-Lincoln general store in New Salem, Ill.
With judicious eye to authenticity and dignity the major shortcoming of this Lincoln film is at the altar of faithfulness, hampered by the rather lethargic production and direction.
1939: Nomination: Best Original Story