The Associated Press just blew our minds: a complete nitrate film reel dating from a century ago. Featuring a dramatized version of Abraham Lincoln. Directed by and starring the older brother of legendary director John Ford. Found intact in a New Hampshire barn. Francis Ford’s silent film When Lincoln Paid will debut at Keene State College after a yearlong restoration project by the National Film Preservation Foundation. This story comes from so far out in left field that we have to wonder if Banksy had anything to do with it. But nevermind us, watch two whole clips for yourself! Without further adieu:
Confederate soldiers ambush and pursue John Wade, one of the film’s principal characters.
Mrs. Wade pleads with Abraham Lincoln (played by Francis Ford) for the life of a young Confederate soldier.
Other tidbits: Both actor/director Francis Ford and his more famous brother John Ford (director of Stagecoach, The Searchers, and Grapes of Wrath) were fascinated by Abe Lincoln. “There is nothing I like better than to play Lincoln. I have a big library devoted to this great man, and I have studied every phase of his remarkable character, and when I am acting the part, I can feel the man as I judge him,” Francis Ford is quoted as saying in an article by Ford scholar Tag Gallagher. Between 1912 and 1915 the elder Ford (who would later star in “small, mostly comic roles” in 30 of his brother’s films) played Lincoln in at least seven pictures, all of which have been lost to time apart from the two-reel footage discovered in the barn’s attic.
To see When Lincoln Paid: The Pardon in its entirety, you’ll have to trek to Keene State College for the film premiere on Tuesday, April 20.