Sarah Kerr

Sarah Kerr is a writer, and former culture editor at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Abe, Daniel ... and Henry

Before Daniel Day-Lewis played Lincoln, another actor's portrayal was legendary. On Henry Fonda's forgotten greatness.

(Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)
(Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation) Henry Fonda as Abraham Lincoln in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) W hen early trailers were posted online for Lincoln , the new biopic from Steven Spielberg, the consensus was that star Daniel Day-Lewis, known for the research he pours into perfectionist transformations, was finding his way into character through the voice. Day-Lewis as Lincoln sounded nasal, deliberate, a bit pleading, and surprisingly high-pitched. In instant homage, Jimmy Fallon took a clip from the trailer—the president, urging a group of black-clad 19th-century men sitting around a table to make a change “now, now, NOW!”—and redubbed it as Pee-wee Herman. Compare Day-Lewis’s alien timbre to the ease of Henry Fonda, finding one of his first great film roles in director John Ford’s research-free Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). Fonda played the future president during a fictionalized period in his youth, when he grew from a bumpkin into a knowing Illinois lawyer on his way to...