restricted access “There is a tragedy going on here which I will tell you later”: D.W. Griffith and Abraham Lincoln

Director D.W. Griffith’s first talking film, Abraham Lincoln (1930), was hailed by critics as his comeback picture, apparently reviving his status after a series of critical and financial failures during the late 1920s. But audiences stayed away, leading directly to Griffith’s final break with United Artists, the company he had co-founded a decade earlier. This essay documents the film’s crucial production and reception history by drawing on extensive period news accounts, interviews with surviving participants, and corporate and personal files contained in the D.W. Griffith Collection at the Museum of Modern Art. It discusses the various versions of the film which have circulated over the years, and supports Griffith’s claim that the script he prepared with Stephen Vincent Benet suffered from the interference of producer Joseph Considine.