Billy Campbell plays the 16th president in the production which is based on the novel by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard; it premieres at 8 p.m. EST Sunday on National Geographic Channel.
NGC calls this its "first original scripted drama," although it is in fact something of a hybrid, almost like a documentary with extended re-enactments. Tom Hanks appears as an authoritative host, describing and explaining events while addressing the audience directly or in voice-overs.
The Hanks segments then serve as a bridge between the dramatized portions, which include not only Campbell's Lincoln but scheming by John Wilkes Booth (played by Jesse Johnson) and other conspirators.
The script - covering events before the assassination and its aftermath - is by Erik Jendresen, an Emmy winner as writer and producer on the Hanks-backed "Band of Brothers," and the production does try to hew to the historical record, to offer bits that audiences may not know and, on occasion, to note gaps in history.
Little Known Facts About Lincoln
Lincoln was the first president born outside of the original 13 colonies. Although Illinois is known as the "Land of Lincoln," the president was actually born in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1809. He was the middle of three children, one of whom died at birth. President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, ironically, was also born in Kentucky.
Lincoln's business failures are legendary. U.S. News & World Report lists at least 11 major life failures for the president before he was elected to the highest office in the land in 1860. However, Lincoln's failures weren't totaled before his nationwide election. At one point during the 1830s, a young Abe ran a tavern in New Salem, Ill., before the temperance movement slowed down his business. For a time, Lincoln was a successful business owner despite assertions to the contrary.
The contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night he was assassinated weren't revealed until decades after his death. There were nine items total that were kept in the Lincoln family until they were donated to the Library of Congress in 1937. A watch fob, button, ivory pocketknife, handkerchief, wallet, Confederate $5 bill, glass lens cleaner, glasses case, and eyeglasses were on the president's person the night he was shot. The Confederate money is thought to have been a souvenir Lincoln got in Virginia a month before his assassination.
Lincoln is the only president to ever apply for and earn a patent. Patent number 6,469 -- issued May 22, 1849 -- is for a device used for buoying vessels over shoals. Smithsonian Magazine reveals wooden slats and cloth waterproof fabric combined to make an inflatable structure designed to lift riverboats stuck on sandbars.
Robert Todd Lincoln was witness to assassinations
The president's oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, had planned to attend "Our American Cousin" with his parents at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, but he was too tired after a long carriage ride earlier in the day. Upon hearing of his father's fate, he rushed to his bedside until the president died. Tragically, the only surviving son of Lincoln was in close proximity to two subsequent presidents when they were shot. Robert Lincoln was James Garfield's Secretary of War and was walking with the president when Charles Guiteau shot Garfield at the 6th Street train station July 2, 1881.
Thirty years later, the son of the 16th president was pulling into a train station in Buffalo, N.Y., to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Moments before the surviving Lincoln got off his train car, Leon F. Czolgosz had shot William McKinley. Robert Lincoln visited the mortally wounded president before he died six days after being shot.
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