November 10, 2012

Daniel Day-Lewis voices Lincoln with "a high-pitched, wavering tone that has been likened to both a 14-year-old boy and Mr Burns."

People are complaining... but they're complaining about historical accuracy!
Harold Holzer, a Lincoln scholar, told CBS News: “Lincoln died long before audio recording was possible so we have no hints about what he really sounded like, except the reminiscences of his contemporaries. The most frequent things we read are that he had a nasal, high voice that somehow miraculously floated over large crowds.”
Day-Lewis said "said the voice materialised 'in my mind’s ear'" and "If I hear a voice, I tend to believe that I hear it for good reason.”

Here's a new trailer, including some of Day-Lewis's vocalizations. I don't have a problem with the presumably historically grounded high-pitched voice. But what's the point of going realistic about the sound of Lincoln's voice when everything else about the movie seems all theatrical and pretentious, including the lines Day-Lewis must speak with that voice? "I am the President of the United States clothed with enormous power!"

73 comments:

chickelit said...

So why did Spielberg delay the films release until after the election? I want to see the serious analysis of why Obama = Lincoln and why women and gays = slaves.

bandmeeting said...

I think the worst movie I've ever made a (failed) attempt to watch is "The Ballad of Jack and Rose".

Gawd was it ever awful.

Thanks Daniel (and your wife too)

Mitchell the Bat said...

Pepp'ridge Faaahm Remembahs!

Mary Beth said...

It may be historically accurate but people want him to sound like Henry Fonda.

Patrick said...

Years ago, I read the David Herbert Donald biography of Lincoln, and recalled being surprised by his description of Lincoln's voice. Hen I first saw the trailer for this movie, I anticipated that they would play Lincoln with a large booming voice, contrary to what history tells us, and was quite surprised when I heard DDL speak as Lincoln. To my untrained ear, and without any real skills as an actor or movie critic, my first impression was wow!.

Seeing the trailer again has done nothing to diminish that thought. Lincoln is one of those figures for whom the reality will always be better than what the imagination can conjure.

Although I admit, I've never seen Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer.

Marshal said...

But what's the point of going realistic about the sound of Lincoln's voice when everything else about the movie seems all theatrical and pretentious

Marketing. The "historically accurate" association attaches to the film generally.

bandmeeting said...
I think the worst movie I've ever made a (failed) attempt to watch is "The Ballad of Jack and Rose".


The worst movie ever made was Hudson Hawk. Not just unwatchable, but so awful it ruins all film viewing for years afterward.

Palladian said...

I watched the trailer, which reminded me why I hate these sorts of movies. The contrived, stagey, faux-historicism- the unrelenting, bloated, melodramatic music that alternately burbles, whines and shrieks at you, like some unwelcome companion who constantly tells you how you should be feeling- the hammy, make-up and costume laden impersonations by a bunch of actors convinced that they're Doing Something Important- the overwrought, cliche-ridden attempts to create "artistic compositions" with the photography- the forced, air-headed contortions that try desperately to create a narrative that the squashy-brained, television-addled audience can easily digest, a needlessly baroque, overelaborated, over-baked zwieback-biscuit of a movie.

It's very difficult to do anything fresh, intelligent and artistic with a historical costume drama, and Hollywood and Spielberg are certainly not the entities to pull it off.

In fact, one of the only well-done films of the sort is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece "Barry Lyndon".

madAsHell said...

I dunno. Look at the size of his head, and nostrils.

Do you really think he floated a high pitched whine over the crowd?

No....me neither.

Patrick said...

Even worthless, unworthy you ought to be treated equal before the law!

Anyone know if Thaddeus Stevens really said that? The scene was in Congress, so if he did, it's probably in the Reports. Never heard that quote.

Bert said...

Picture General George S Patton. You're thinking of George Scott's portrayal of the man in the classic, eponymous, 1970 movie, right? His depiction of Patton in that movie was so memorable and powerful that most people probably picture the real Patton as being exactly like that.

Which is why it was surprising that, according to a documentary I saw a couple of years ago, the real Patton, like Lincoln, actually had a very distinctive high pitched voice-in fact he was supposedly fairly self conscious of it. I know it sounds weird but I was actually kind of disappointed the here this-I preferred the gruff voice I'd remembered from the movie

Chef Mojo said...

Despite the movie itself, Day-Lewis is spot on historically, and I appreciate that.

EDH said...

I was thinking a sedate "Grumpy Old Man".

"In my day..."

edutcher said...

The flick has gotten mixed reviews, some call it a crashing bore.

Mary Beth said...

It may be historically accurate but people want him to sound like Henry Fonda.

Or Raymond Massey.

Saint Croix said...

Amistad sucked.

Color Purple sucked.

Munich sucked.

It's possible that Spielberg's politics suck and that suckiness pervades his political movies.

On the other hand, Schindler's List is awesome. I think because he wanted to get the facts right and he was determined not to be glib.

mojavehicular said...

All in all, I'd rather watch this. Over and over and over again.

Palladian, I salute thee.

Noz pkr said...

Mary Beth said "It may be historically accurate but people want him to sound like Henry Fonda".

Or Barack Obama.

.

Saint Croix said...

It's very difficult to do anything fresh, intelligent and artistic with a historical costume drama

The Passion of Joan of Arc is amazing! They used actual transcripts from her trial to keep it historically accurate, and then used all the crazy camera techniques that Dreyer could imagine to involve us in the story. Just a fantastic movie.

And highly, highly, highly provocative for religious people. Anybody who appreciates religion--or thinks about it--should watch The Passion of Joan of Arc. Unlike anything you have ever seen.

Noz pkr said...

Or Truman Capote.

Paddy O said...

bandmeeting said...
I think the worst movie I've ever made a (failed) attempt to watch is "The Ballad of Jack and Rose".

The worst movie ever made was Hudson Hawk.


No, no, you're both wrong. The clear winner for the worst movie ever made is The Pallbearer starring David Schwimmer.

Paddy O said...

It actually took away part of your soul.

The Farmer said...

If the trailer is any indication this movie looks terrible. I don't know what's worse, Sally Field as Lincoln's wife or that wig somebody perched on the head of Tommy Lee Jones.

Amexpat said...

DDL has been very good in some films, but this looks like a Turkey.

I hope we are spared the ridiculous Obama as Lincoln hype that surfaced around the launch of the overrated Team of Rivals book which this film is supposedly based on.

YoungHegelian said...

Can we someone please tell me why Tony Kushner was chosen to write the screenplay?

I think Kushner may have something to do with the theatrical and pretentious issues.

Lem said...

Doris KG vouched for the voice on Charlie Rose the other night... I was half listening... not sure if the movie was based on her book.

caplight45 said...

If people used the same language in speaking that they did in writing their letters during that era then the language in the film may not be that over-blown.

Palladian: I thought your description of historical pics was fairly applied to Barry Lyndon. That's three hours of my life I'll never get back but Kubrick found a way to actually use real candlelight to light interior night scenes. YMMV.

In re PaddyO: I know people who know PaddyO. He did lose part of his soul. It's never coming back. That is why he hangs out at Althouse. The rest of us can take that any way we want.

lge said...

The only account of Lincoln's voice I ever read was in Sandburg's biography. Some listener to one of Lincoln's early speeches described him as a "reedy tenor." Kinda like Harry Truman's voice, maybe?

ricpic said...

I hear that Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens steals the film. If that were so he'd have to be hammier than Daniel Day Lewis. Is that possible?

Lem said...

The worst movie ever made was Hudson Hawk. Not just unwatchable, but so awful it ruins all film viewing for years afterward.

It was even worst for me... I paid to be tortured and my date... she picked it.

KenK said...

I saw the trailers, which are supposed to feature the "best parts", and which appear to be largely Mr. Lewis' Lincoln going into hissy fits to cow bearded smoking men in dimly lit rooms. Hoo hah! I guess there are some scripts that even DDL can't save.

rcommal said...

Looking forward to seeing it.

Darrell said...

Marfan's Syndrome affects the palate yielding a very high-- even wispy voice. Lincoln was described as a tenor--sometimes shrill. But there must have been shiloh (et.al.) equivalents back then, too.

Lem said...

I thought The Age of Innocence (1993) was a good period piece... I haven’t seen it since it first featured... so maybe a second look might not do it... for me.

Darrell said...

The thing about all those great moments in history is that they weren't moments in history when they occurred. Someone made that judgement later. People were only doing what needed to be done. I suspect that if we saw the real moments on video, nothing would be as we were told. Sometimes it's just "Go do it because I said so" without any speeches or grand words.

chrisnavin.com said...

I really hope there's a diverse cast, and it's not just full of old repressive white men engaged in patriarchal heteronormative thinking, lawmaking, warring, and politicking.

Clearly the ground must be laid for the progress we're experiencing today at full speed.

Lincoln is a signpost, people.

Saint Croix said...

You worst movie people have obviously never seen Irreversible. I wrote the movie ranking book, damn it.

The next-to-last worst movie ever made is any random episode of the Teletubbies.

chrisnavin.com said...

I prefer animatronic Abe LIncoln:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhQtUdeS5ds

Why can't kids just have to memorize the Gettysburg address, or write a summary of it in history class. That got me much closer to what I thought he was thinking and what was going on at the time after a trip out to Gettysburg.

EMD said...

The worst movie ever made was Hudson Hawk. Not just unwatchable, but so awful it ruins all film viewing for years afterward.

You're not watching it properly. It's a cornball of a thing .. and it's gloriously corny on purpose.

rcommal said...

Just curious, Palladian, but were you trying to be funny or ironic? Because the turgid, overheated prose you chose for your first paragraph struck me as hilarious, given your ostensible complaint. A form meets function thing, in parody.

Fun!

chrisnavin.com said...

Darrell, history is happening right now, my friend. Me and you are making it by commenting on this here blog.

Darrell said...

Precisely.
You wouldn't pay to see this, right?

Indigo Red said...

I learned in 8th grade (1968) that Lincoln's voice was on the high side, but not squeaky. From historical records, it can be surmised Lincoln was tenor.

Day-Lewis said in an interview that he was surprised to learn Lincoln had a sense of humor. Good lord! Lincoln's joking was one of the things his opponents hated about him and it was writer about far and wide.

Here's a Kentucky voice. The white male, retired farmer, was born in 1933 near enough in time to hear voices from the Lincoln era.


Though Lincoln lived in Illinois for much of his life, his early speech patterns would have been heavily influence by his parents. My parents and family are from Michigan. I've lived in California most of my life and I speak a cross of MI/CA.

bagoh20 said...

You know, I treasure my lack of sophistication. It widens my options for enjoyment in life, but even to me, man who likes a lot of things probably below the rest of you, this movie looks over the top and preachy.

I didn't find the voice unattractive, but if you close your eyes, it does sound a bit like Mr Burns, but Mr. Burns is one of my role models.

Marshal said...

EMD said...
it's gloriously corny on purpose.


Of course I know I was masturbating with a cheese grater. That was the point! I'm perfectly fine Nurse Ratched.

Daddio said...

Walter Brennan from the Real McCoys

Paddy O said...

caplight, the post in which we learn that the Althouse blog is actually purgatory... we're destined to comment until we are purified from our sins.

Some of us have been commenting for a very long time.

William said...

If the technology were available and a Speilberg was around back then, the movie would have pointed out that Lincoln was a hack politician whose only distinction was his ability to pocket big fees from the railroad magnates. The man was a goddammed Republican. That's all you need to know.... The real hero would have been John Wilkes Booth whose background in the entertainment industry gave him sufficient acuity to see through Lincoln's cornball exterior and understand the tyrant beneath. Make Lincoln like the Andy Griffith character in A Face in the Crowd. Make John Wilkes Booth like the Robert Redford character in Three Days of the Condor. Combine the two and you get Day of the Jackal with a happy ending.

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger edutcher said...

The flick has gotten mixed reviews, some call it a crashing bore.

Mary Beth said...

It may be historically accurate but people want him to sound like Henry Fonda.

Or Raymond Massey.

11/10/12 10:26 AM
___________________________________


Damn! You beat me to it.

LarsPorsena said...

William said...

If the technology were available and a Speilberg was around back then, the movie would have pointed out that Lincoln was a hack politician whose only distinction was his ability to pocket big fees from the railroad magnates. The man was a goddammed Republican. That's all you need to know.... The real hero would have been John Wilkes Booth whose background in the entertainment industry gave him sufficient acuity to see through Lincoln's cornball exterior and understand the tyrant beneath. Make Lincoln like the Andy Griffith character in A Face in the Crowd. Make John Wilkes Booth like the Robert Redford character in Three Days of the Condor. Combine the two and you get Day of the Jackal with a happy ending.

11/10/12 1:18 PM
__________________________________

Post of the Month. Legitimate contender for Post of the Year.

Marshal said...

Lem said...

It was even worst for me... I paid to be tortured and my date... she picked it.


Sometimes a shared trauma can bring people close. Are you still together?

whoresoftheinternet said...

But what's the point of going realistic about the sound of Lincoln's voice when everything else about the movie seems all theatrical and pretentious, including the lines Day-Lewis must speak with that voice?
---Oh, Easy Annie A., are you really that dumb? This is Hollywood's M.O.: so long as you make the minor details historically accurate (sounds of voices, dirt, grime, props, etc.), you can have the characters act completely 21st-century p.c. leftist and make your story an unbelievable allegory for fag rights/darkie rights/broad rights/etc.

Seriously, pay attention. It's how we all got on the road to Detroit, abortion-lover.


Baron Zemo said...

The worst movie ever made was "My Dinner with Andre."

Even "Two Girls One Cup" is preferable.

Baron Zemo said...

Great comic book writers should stick to what they know.

Jack Kirby never tried to draw the "Mona Lisa."

Stan Lee didn't think he was writing "War and Peace."

Spielberg needs to stick to comic books.

Ann Althouse said...

I formed the opinion decades ago that the worst movie ever made was "The Magus." I have never seen anything else that shakes this believe.

To be really, really bad, there must be grandiosity. If something was meant as entertainment or if there was some modesty to it, it can't be that bad. Now, "Lincoln" is trying very hard, so it had some potential to be truly bad.

But please click on my "Magus" link and see if you can watch a minute of that trailer (or the whole thing) without thinking OMG, Althouse is right!

Sam said...

I too have no problem with the voice used. In fact it is precisely what I expected Lincoln to have sounded like; having read accounts of his speeches and the like. He sounds exactly what I expect a person raised on the Illinois frontier to sound like.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean...

shakes this belief

Ann Althouse said...

Wikipedia:

"The film was a critical disaster. Fowles was extremely disappointed with it, and laid most of the blame on director Guy Green,[2] despite having written the screenplay himself. Michael Caine himself has said that it was one of the worst films he had been involved in along with The Swarm and Ashanti, because no one knew what it was all about. Woody Allen has made the comment that if he could live his life over again, he would do everything the same except for seeing The Magus."

David said...

"Lincoln’s voice was, when he first began speaking, shrill, squeaking, piping, unpleasant; his general look, his form, his pose, the color of his flesh, wrinkled and dry, his sensitiveness, and his momentary diffidence, everything seemed to be against him, but he soon recovered."
–William H. Herndon

In other words, Lincoln worked successfully to modify the sound of his voice from the squeak.

LoafingOaf said...

Movies that try to hard to be Oscar bait are best avoided.

chickelit said...

Baron Zemo said...
The worst movie ever made was "My Dinner with Andre."

I don't know what the worst movie ever made was but the worst movie I ever saw was "Milk."

Chip S. said...

I started watching Milk on dvd and stopped after about 15 min. Generally, I can't chime in on worst movie evah for that reason. It's easy to abort on dvd or streaming video. And even at a theater, if a movie really sucks you can just walk out and then go to a different screen at the multiplex.

So my "worst movies" list would be biased heavily toward the ones that are the kind that are sort of fascinatingly bad, that you keep watching.

wildswan said...

The way I understood it Lincoln used a high pitched voice when he spoke at rallies because there were no microphones back then. This quote is from the biography of Lincoln by Ward Lamon, Lincoln's close friend and bodyguard. Lamon is quoting a man named Wilson:
" 'The Saturday evening preceding the election (in 1836) the candidates were addressing the people in the Court House at Springfield. Dr. Early, one of the candidates on the Democratic side, made some charge that N. W. Edwards, one of the candidates on the Whig side, deemed untrue. Edwards climbed on a table, so as to be seen by Early, and by everyone in the house, and at the top of his voice told Early that the charge was false. The excitement that followed was intense,—so much so, that fighting men thought that a duel must settle the difficulty. Mr. Lincoln, by the programme, followed Early. He took up the subject in dispute, and handled it fairly, and with such ability that everyone was astonished and pleased. So that difficulty ended there. Then, for the first time, developed by the excitement of the occasion, he spoke in that tenor intonation of voice that ultimately settled down into that clear, shrill monotone style of speaking that enabled his audience, however large, to hear distinctly the lowest sound of his voice.' "

This Lamon biography is really excellent. Lamon wanted to show that Lincoln was a diamond that came from a dunghill. And he shows Lincoln as a man who grew toward greatness, not as a self-righteous movie prig. Lamon's biography was extremely unpopular in the nineteenth century because it was so frank. For instance, it discusses Lincoln's ambition, his political manoeuvering (and how he almost became involved in a duel with broadswords due to a politcal satire written by Mary Todd). In this biography Lincoln's early attitudes toward slavery and race were so retrograde that he could never have been as self-righteous as the Lincoln of the movie. These attitudes evolved due to contact with Lincoln's abolitionist law partner, Herndon and I think it is more inspiring to see that a man like Lincoln evolved than to listen to a self righteous prig as in the movie. This biography written in 1872 is pretty much forgotten in favor of gauzy, prettified presentations but no one has ever challenged it on the facts and I think that it would appeal to a lot people in our day because it seems so real and yet shows forth greatness.
http://books.google.com/books/about/THE_LIFE_OF_ABRAHAM_LINCOLN.html?id=HC6dwv9aY84C

Joe said...

I just saw the worse big budget movie in my life: Skyfall.

Alex said...

Is it me, or are all new movies since 2000 shit?

Alex said...

Maybe the only good film of the last decade was "300". Nothing in there for leftists.

Marshal said...

But please click on my "Magus" link and see if you can watch a minute of that trailer (or the whole thing) without thinking OMG, Althouse is right!

My thoughts were: This seems like standard art school tripe, streaming together metaphors that lack any meaning and only serve to show they understand what a metphor is. Oh my god, that's a literal dickface! Why is it a woman?

Have to see the whole thing to draw a conclusion, but it seems a worthy contender for the title.

sonicfrog said...

"The worst movie ever made was ...

Oh here we go!

I would like to say "Highlander 2 - The Quickening". That was pretty damned awful. But, for me, the worst movie ever made would be a tie between Madonna's God awful "Body Of Evidence", and "Jaws 4 The Revenge"... This Time, It's Personal!

"Rat Race" was very unfunny for a film that was supposed to be a comedy, but Steve Martin's horrid "Pink Panther" things were especially bad!

sonicfrog said...

Indiana Jones 4 was pretty good... Up to the point where the movie started!

Marshal said...

Sonicfrog said...
"The worst movie ever made was ...

Oh here we go!

I would like to say "Highlander 2 - The Quickening".


I keep an informal list of sequels that are so bad they ruin the movies that come before them.

1. Highlander II
2. Beastmaster II
3. The Phantom Menace
4. Predator II

I feel like I'm forgetting one.

EMD said...

A lot of bad movies are so bad they become good.

It's hard to find a really bad movie that resist this transformation.

Some bad movies off the top of my head:

Maximum Overdrive
Birdemic: Shock and Terror
Glitter
Leonard, Part 6
Laserblast
Battlefield Earth

Here's some that took themselves too seriously and ended up terrible:

Mommie Dearest
Crash
The Fountain
Alice in Wonderland
Planet of the Apes (remake)
Reds


chickelit said...

Hollywood movies are the only thing I went Galt on.

A while ago, actually,

Sam L. said...

Have you ever seen "Manos, The Hands Of Fate"?

دردشة ومنتديات عراقنا said...

اجمل دردشة عراقية رومنسية ترفيهية يظم كافة العراقيين والعرب والاجانب
شات عراقنا
دردشة عراقنا
جات عراقنا
شلة عراقنا
عراقنا
شات العراق
دردشة عراقية
شات كيكه
دردشة عبدالله
جات
دردشة
منتدى دردشة عراقنا
منتدى عراقنا
google

damikesc said...

Day-Lewis said in an interview that he was surprised to learn Lincoln had a sense of humor.

This is mind-boggling because Lincoln's sense of humor is well-known. One of the funniest guys to serve.