Silent film master D.W. Griffith’s first talkie works as a companion piece to his classic BIRTH OF A NATION, providing a detailed biographical sketch of the 16th president. We see his birth in a log cabin, the tragic death of his first love, Ann Rutledge (Una Merkel), his debates with Douglas, his accepting of the presidency, the terrible toll of the Civil War, and finally the tragic assassination at Ford’s Theater. Griffith shows his usual meticulous attention to period detail, and the framing of the various vignettes has the feel of historical photographs come to life. Walter Huston is excellent in the title role, with a portrayal that subtly evolves from laconic, wizened rascal to noble elder statesman. This is a fascinating, worthy film, and an interesting historical document in and of itself.
Lem goes to Chicago to sell the wheat his family has grown on their farm in Minnesota. There he meets the waitress Kate. They fall in love and get married before going back to the farm. Kate is accepted by Lem’s mother and kid sister but is rejected by his father, who believes she married for the money. (And the fact that Lem didn’t get a fair price for the wheat is her fault too). The reapers arrive and quickly they make things even more complicated by making their move on Kate. Lem misunderstands the situation and believes Kate is actually interested. In despair Kate leaves the farm and Lem goes looking for her.
A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I. Together with several other young German soldiers, he experiences the horrors of war, such evil of which he had not conceived of when signing up to fight. They eventually become sad, tormented, and confused of their purpose.
Jerry and Ted are young, in love, and part of the New York ‘in-crowd’. Jerry’s decision to marry Ted crushes a yearning Paul. Distraught Paul gets drunk and wrecks his car, disfiguring young Dorothy’s face in the process. Out of pity, Paul marries Dorothy. Years later, the apparent perfect marriage of Ted and Jerry falls apart from infidelity on both sides. Inwardly unhappy, popular Jerry lives a party life while Ted sinks into a life of alcoholism. Jerry then runs into Paul, who still loves her. After spending time together with Jerry, Paul plans to divorce Dorothy. When Jerry sees Dorothy again, she has second thoughts about where her life is heading.