Dirck: "Lincoln" film shouldn't be nit-picked

Tue, 2013-02-12 09:35 -- univcomm
Anderson University Professor of History Dr. Brian Dirck
February 12, 2013

When Hollywood makes a movie based on historical facts, some scholar somewhere is bound to find fault with it.

“Professional historians, academics like me who teach, we’ve got a love-hate relationship with movies,” said historian, author and professor Brian Dirck. “Mostly hate to be honest, at least my profession as a whole. It’s like a favorite spectator sport among my colleagues to find every nit-picky mistake. And that bothers me, it really does,” said Dirck, a history professor at Anderson University.

However, Dirck, who has written numerous books on President Abraham Lincoln, finds a great deal to praise in the director Steven Spielberg’s epic Lincoln. The film has been nominated for 12 Oscars including best picture. The Academy Awards are to be presented Feb. 24. [Photo: Dr. Brian Dirck speaks in Pendleton, Ind. Credit: Scott Miley/The Herald Bulletin]

Dirck uses movies to teach students in his history classes. “So my personal take on films in Hollywood is a little more positive than a lot of my colleagues.”

He spoke Saturday at the Pendleton Community Library. He will give a similar talk about Lincoln films at noon Thursday during a brown bag lunch at Nicholson Library at Anderson University. The talk is free and open to the public.

Some websites have claimed nearly 30 mistakes in the Spielberg film including the fact Lincoln’s youngest son, Tad, spoke with a lisp when the film actor has no speech impediment. Or that the film shows Mary Todd Lincoln attending a vote in Congress when women of that time were unlikely to be at such sessions.

But such discrepancies may be light when compared to the scope of the film, he added.

During his talk, he also discussed other Lincoln-based films, of which there have been nearly 50, including D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation and the 1988 TV mini-series Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, starring Sam Waterston.

But as for the Academy Award-nominated Lincoln, Dirck said, “I think it’s a fine film. I would highly recommend it. I think it generally gets things right and I’d like to see my colleagues in history someday cut people a little bit of slack.”

And perhaps even better, Dirck thought actor Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln might have received favor from the 16th president.

Dirck said, “My impression of Lincoln ... is that he was extraordinarily blunt and I think he was honest in the sense that he understood that people had warts and all that. I think Lincoln would not have had a problem even with the portrayal of his faults.

— Scott L. Miley is features editor for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.