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Lincoln, the strategist, rises again

Gail Choice | 11/28/2012, 5 p.m.

"Lincoln" is an excellent film, superbly acted and thoroughly engrossing, as it depicts the last four month's of the 16th president's life. From riveting dialogue to humorous moments "Lincoln" is a must-see film this holiday season.

It seems that this president, more than most others, will forever remain a source of interest and debate.

There have been hundreds of films made on Lincoln's life, from freeing slaves, to saving the Union, to Lincoln's death. By contrast, how many films have been made on the lives of Washington or Jefferson?

Director Steven Spielberg's' "Lincoln" is an outstanding movie that delves into history like never before.

Those who are not fans of history shouldn't shy away from "Lincoln." This film goes behind the scenes and peels back the political machinations Lincoln and his cronies used to ensure the passage of the 13th Amendment, making slavery illegal always and forever in the United States. As an added bi of authenticity, much of "Lincoln" was filmed in Richmond, Va., a former capital of the Confederacy.

Timing was everything. The war was ending, the South was about to surrender, but Lincoln knew that if the Constitution wasn't amended Blacks would be forced back into slavery. The confederates, who were going to be permitted back into the Union peacefully, would reinstate slavery and all its brutality. The film depicts an incredible game of cat and mouse in an effort to guarantee the freedom for the emancipated slaves. This film was truly a war of words passionately delivered by an outstanding cast.

Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Abraham Lincoln, and he hands in an outstanding performance.

Spielberg said he was determined to sign Day-Lewis to the role after he noticed his profile and how much he looked like Lincoln from the side view. He says he took a picture of the actor without his knowledge and focused his mind on Day-Lewis in the role.

Oscar winner Sally Field had to fight for the role of Mary Todd Lincoln. Apparently, before Day-Lewis was signed to the role as Lincoln, Field felt sure the role of Lincoln's wife was hers. But after Day-Lewis was signed, Spielberg told her she could not be cast in the role because Mary Todd Lincoln was 10 years younger than Lincoln while Field is actually 10 years older than Daniel Day-Lewis, and that it was too much of an age difference.

Not accepting no as the final word, Field asked if she could read for the part. After some persuading.

Spielberg agreed and actually flew in Day-Lewis to read with her. Both met in full costume, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Another interesting character in the film was Elizabeth Keckley (1818-1907), played by Gloria Reuben. Keckley, a former slave was the dressmaker and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. I was very happy to see Keckley, who bought her own freedom as well as her son's, represented in the film, although it wasn't a major role. Keckley owned her own business before joining the Lincoln family. We'd probably know more about her if she had not betrayed the confidence of the first lady by writing a tell-all book about her four years working in the White House.

Lizzie, as she was called, seemed to be the only person who understood and tolerated Mary Todd Lincoln's unstable temperament and sharp tongue. Keckley's book, "Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln Whitehouse" about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln and the happenings in the White House during Lincoln's tenure was very controversial and the Lincolns' eldest son, Robert, had the book removed from publication.

After that it was difficult for Keckley to get work as a dressmaker. She eventually lost her business and was forced to leave Washington. Keckley later served as a sewing instructor at Wilberforce University in Ohio.

Do yourself a favor; make sure you go see "Lincoln" in theaters now.

Gail can be reached at gail@hollywoodbychoice.com