Young Mr. Lincoln

Young Mr. Lincoln is a 1939 American biographical drama film about the early life of President Abraham Lincoln, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda. Ford and producer Darryl F. Zanuck fought for control of the film, to the point where Ford destroyed unwanted takes for fear the studio would use them in the film. Screenwriter Lamar Trotti was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing/Original Story.


In 1832, a family traveling through New Salem, Illinois in its wagon need groceries from Lincoln's (Henry Fonda) store, and the only thing of value that they have to trade is a barrel of old books including a law book, Blackstone's Commentaries. After thoroughly reading the book, Lincoln opts for the law after receiving encouragement from his early, ill-fated love, Ann Rutledge (Pauline Moore), who soon dies. Too poor to own even a horse, he arrives in Springfield, Illinois, on a mule and soon establishes a law practice in 1837 with his friend John Stuart (Edwin Maxwell). After a raucous, day-long Independence Day celebration, a man, Skrub White, is killed after he pulled a gun in a fight. The accused are two brothers, Matt and Adam Clay (Richard Cromwell and Eddie Quillan). Lincoln prevents the lynching of the accused at the jail by shaming the angry, drunken mob. He also convinces it that he really needs the clients for his first real case.