Sandburg's Lincoln DVD Set


I had never seen the mini-series Sandburg’s Lincoln. It first aired in 1974. I’m 37 years overdue on this! Just recently, it became available on DVD. I don’t even own a VHS player anymore. Anyway, I had heard over the years how good Hal Holbrook played Lincoln. Many said his is the best of all portrayals of Lincoln. When I saw the picture on the cover of the DVD set I had my doubts. The picture doesn’t do justice to Holbrook as Lincoln. Holbrook’s face looks too fat to me. However, once I started watching the movie I was blown away! If ever any actor nailed the looks of Abraham Lincoln-it has got to be Holbrook!

While watching Hal Holbrook as Lincoln it struck me in a way that I had not realized before-just how homely Abraham Lincoln really was!  I’ve talked about this before. We have gotten used to seeing images of Lincoln and don’t give his looks much thought. However, when watching Holbrook as Lincoln move about as he does in the film-it brings the looks out in a way a still picture doesn’t. The make-up people did a masterful job in creating Lincoln out of Holbrook. I couldn’t believe how large Lincoln’s ears were. Forgive me, you all know I love Lincoln-but I can see why McClellan called him a gorilla. Lincoln, himself, knew he was not a handsome man. See below for a sample:

Holbrook as Lincoln

More than that, Holbrook captures Lincoln in other ways. No wonder his performance earned him an Emmy. He is brilliant. I just watched the movie with my eyes glued to Holbrook studying his moves, mannerisms, and reactions to things. The deathbed scene of Willie Lincoln is very moving. Silently, Lincoln walks out of the room where Willie has died. Lincoln says nothing. He is barely holding back from crying out in emotional pain. A tear is noticed streaking down his cheek. Other scenes are just as powerful. There’s also Lincoln the husband. It is plain the Abraham and Mary love each other very much. Lincoln expresses guilt that he has brought pain into Mary’s life by bringing her to Washington. Their affection is often warm and wonderful to watch.

Get the movie. Tell me what you think.  Even Holbrook’s voice is more Lincoln-like. Happy watching!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, September 3rd, 2011 at 9:09 pm and is filed under Art And Entertainment, General, Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 comments so far


I’ve heard of this but didn’t know it’s available on DVD, so I’ll have to check it out! I wasn’t even around to see it in 1974. I’ve read positive reviews about the portrayal of Lincoln in this series elsewhere. I would agree that Lincoln’s face looks fat on the cover.

How long is the series? How close is it to Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln? (Carl Sandburg’s bio is the first book I actually read on Lincoln.)

Hope you had a great weekend, and that you’ve been enjoying my shirts.


September 5th, 2011 at 6:49 pm
Kevin Lindsey

I agree with you. I caught this on the Disney Channel a few years ago, and I thought he did an excellent job! I taped it (yes vhs) but it was rather poor. I didnt realize it was out on DVD until I saw your post…I;m going to get a copy!

September 6th, 2011 at 9:41 pm
B. Nash

Kevin: Hal Holbrook absolutely nails it as Lincoln. The set is about 5 hours long. The quality of the transfer to DVD was not as good as I had hoped. The movie came out in 1974-so maybe there’s not much that could be done? I noticed “pops” in the film. It’s not too distracting however-and still very much worth purchasing and viewing. Let me know what you think.

September 7th, 2011 at 5:26 am
B. Nash

Hi Chris: I had a great weekend-and hope you did also. :) The series is 5 hours long. Even with that length it couldn’t possibly cover Sandburg’s book-too much ground. What is does cover is true to Sanburg-even inclusion of Lincoln’s appearance before the comiittee investigating Mary Lincoln-which never happened. Sanburg’s book was the first I read on Lincoln also. At any rate, the DVD set is worth getting for the portrayal of Lincoln alone. I think you’ll be pleased. Bill

September 7th, 2011 at 5:30 am
Waylon J.

I first noticed Mr. Holbrook in the war movie. “Midway”. It wasn’t an interesting movie, but Mr. Holbrook’s acting was worth watching it. I am certain that this mini-series was good and I really hope to see it in my lifetime. However, I must confess that my actual reason for wanting to see this show is because I simply love the actress SADA THOMPSON. Mr. Hal and Sada were two very likeable actors that have touched my life and may their legacy live on in all our lives.

May 31st, 2012 at 12:38 am
Bob Bird

I am a history teacher and one of Lincoln’s closest living relatives: a cousin. My 4x great grandfather was Abraham Lincoln … no, not the prez, his grandfather and namesake. I had been a Lincoln fan for obvious reasons until I got hold of the politically incorrect books on him. If ever a tyrant and traitor and politician and war-monger existed, it was Old Abe. That doesn’t detract from Holbrook’s portrayal, or the symapthetic look the series makes of him. It took years for me to get hold of this series. I loved it when it was first aired. I still do, even though Lincoln needs to be portrayed as the wily hypocrite and tax-farmer-through-tariffs that he was.

September 29th, 2012 at 10:51 pm
Kelly Anderson

I totally agree that this is the best performance of Lincoln ever done. As much as I enjoyed the recent film, Holbrook is wonderful and captures all of the varied elements of the man. As a former actor, his performance never fails to move me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. As a former teacher, I have to say I showed some of this to my kids. He brings Lincoln to life. The last episode marvelously takes you into the life of the man and makes you feel his death more while never showing it. It is required viewing for anyone interested in our 16th. President.

September 25th, 2013 at 12:46 pm
Suzanne Alexaner

I can only say incredible! I have read several books written about Abraham Lincoln. I know him as someone who walked the stage of this life, but Hal Holbrook was masterful in capturing him. Lincoln was definitely a man for his time.

March 1st, 2015 at 8:45 pm

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