— Just four years after celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, America’s 16th president seems to be having a new surge of popularity, especially on movie and television screens.
On the heels of the Stephen Spielberg blockbuster “Lincoln,” and at the same time Bill O’Reilly’s novel, “Killing Lincoln,” premieres on television, a new independent film called “Saving Lincoln” has opened in theaters in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other major cities across the country.
The movie has several connections to Vermilion County, starting with the main character, Ward Hill Lamon.
Abraham Lincoln asked Lamon, his friend, confidante and former law partner in Danville, to accompany him to Washington, D.C., following the 1860 presidential election. Lamon was Lincoln’s unofficial bodyguard through the Civil War, and was the U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia. Lamon even served as master of ceremonies for the dedication of the National Cemetery when Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address.
The movie was conceived and written by Nina and Salvadore Litvak. Sal was also the movie’s director. Nina has been a Lincoln buff since childhood and she had always dreamed of making a movie about her hero. She discovered Lamon in Galesburg native Carl Sandburg’s iconic biography of Lincoln and she was further inspired by “Recollections of Abraham Lincoln.”
That book was written by Ward Hill Lamon, and edited by his daughter, Dorothy Lamon Teillard, who was raised in Danville by her aunt and uncle after her mother’s death in 1859. Later in life, Dolly, as she was known, worked in Washington, D.C., for Danville’s John Charles Black, while he was commissioner of pensions.
As an historian, I was asked to become an historical consultant for the movie, along with Lincoln biographer Harold Holzer.
I worked with the actors, director and writers to give them historical information and background on the characters and events. My wife Rhea and I were asked to join the movie’s director for the first public showing of the movie to a crowd of around 300 at the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library during the annual Abraham Lincoln Association Symposium earlier this month.