By Edward Epstein
Feb. 14, 2022
The Lincoln Group of D.C. is going back to the movies, this time at 2 p.m. on the Presidents Day holiday for the showing of the final four surviving parts of the rarely seen silent film gem "The Lincoln Cycle."
The first four parts were shown on Lincoln's Birthday at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. The cycle, which originally consisted of 10 episodes, was made in 1917. Like so much of the world of silent movies, two parts of the Lincoln Cycle are gone.
All the surviving portions, which each stand alone as a film of about 20 to 25 minutes depicting an episode from Lincoln's life, were painstakingly restored by the Library of Congress and premiered in 2018. Those who attended the Feb. 12 screening at the AFI got to see crisp images, pretty good for a 105-year-old production.
The films, which were also shown under the title "The Son of Democracy, " are all told through flashbacks, with each starting with Lincoln in the White House heading back to episodes from the president's life, going back to his boyhood in Indiana and the tragic death of his mother, Nancy, who Lincoln loved dearly.
Lincoln is portrayed by Benjamin Chapin, who made a long career of playing Lincoln on stage before putting together the money to start filming this long series of films. Shooting was done in and around Ft. Lee, N.J., then a center of movie making. The films met with considerable success, helped along by the patriotic fervor that arose among Americans after the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917. But Chapin didn't get to enjoy his success -- he died of tuberculosis in the summer of 1918. The Lincoln Cycle only goes up to 1863. Chapin never got to produce his big finale, Lincoln's assassination in April 1865.
The Lincoln Group is co-sponsoring the showings of the Lincoln Cycle with the AFI in Silver Spring at 8633 Colesville Rd., just a few blocks east of the Metro Red Line station.
Admission is $13 for the Monday, Feb. 21 screening, which will start at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at AFI.com/Silver. There will be live organ accompaniment by Andrew Simpson.
Proof of covid vaccination or of a recent negative covid test are required for admission to the theater. Masks are required to be worn.