GETTYSBURG, Pa., November 23, 2012 – Suddenly, Abraham Lincoln – and film director Steven Spielberg – are everywhere. It’s been just two weeks since Spielberg’s “Lincoln” movie hit big screens across the country. But Oscar chatter is all over the blogosphere, and box office revenues are rising. However, movie houses aren’t the only places where Hollywood’s iconic film master is channeling Abe.
Spielberg appeared last Wednesday for the film’s debut at the AFI Film Festival at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, and then a week later at a Thursday night White House screening of the film for the Obamas in DC. Speculation was rife that Spielberg must have slept and dreamed about the 16th president in the Lincoln Bedroom.
On Monday, November 19, the director gave the keynote at the Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery at the event commemorating the 149th anniversary of Lincoln’s immortal Address. It was there he told his audience that he had joined others on the event stage like historians and authors Doris Kearns Goodwin and Harold Holzer as “a newly minted Lincoln obsessive.”
Spielberg also reminisced about his well known penchant for cinematic dreaming and imagining - activities which carried him through ten years of research, design and production of the film.
Other Lincoln admirers joined Spielberg at the Monday event - like Lincoln’s stand-in - actor Jim Getty - and other Civil War re-enactors representing various historical figures including Frederick Douglas and Ulysses S. Grant, along with members of the Gettysburg High School Ceremonial Brass Band. Also on hand: 16 new U.S. citizens from 11 countries that were sworn in during the event.
Event buzz wasn’t just about Lincoln, the new movie and its director, however. Next year is a really big anniversary for Gettysburg, as it marks 150 years since both the three-day July, 1863 battle and the Gettysburg Address which was delivered in November of that year. Shirts and even smart phone covers emblazoned with the anniversary icon were sprinkled throughout the Monday’s event audience.
The Summer, 2013 event will include re-enactments, living history encampments, an official Gettysburg National Military Park ceremony, a march across Pickett’s Charge, and opening of the new Seminary Ridge Museum during a ten-day “Reflections of History.”
For information and for planning your visit, make your first visit to the Gettysburg Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Nearby Lancaster County also has connections to Lincoln and the new movie via one of its favorite sons, U.S. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.
Played in the film by actor Tommy Lee Jones, Stevens was an ardent abolitionist who lived and worked for much of his life in Lancaster. He had a crucial role in the movie’s history of Lincoln’s campaign to outlaw slavery in the U.S. Senator Stevens’ life trail in Lancaster includes his home and law office site, as a water cistern that scientists believe was part of the Underground Railroad, and his gravesite in the Shreiner-Concord Cemetery, the only non-segregated burial ground there at the time of his death.
Visitors can also learn about Stevens’ battles with another famous Lancasterian – U.S. President James Buchanan (who preceded Lincoln in the White House) at Buchanan’s nearby Wheatland Mansion.
Confederate uniforms were notably absent from this week’s Gettysburg Address commemoration. And that’s something of an irony when you learn that Spielberg’s film was entirely shot in Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia. But a new map chronicles the connections south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Spielberg’s filmmaking hosts have mapped a self-guided movie trail to the film’s various key sites. Stops include the Virginia State Capitol, historic downtown Petersburg and the Empire Theater. “Lincoln was here” graphics mark each site.
Along the way, there are also restaurants and businesses frequented by the stars and crew during the filmmaking. Be sure not to miss the Spiel Burger, and All-American hamburger with a distinctive chili topping that was created at the Dixie Restaurant in Petersburg during the filming.
Now that Spielberg’s cinematic dream of Lincoln is appearing “everywhere,” Americans of all ages can join him in connecting with the obsessions, the film sites, and heritage that are now taking their place as another important part of the American Civil War record.
Be sure to read Ruth Hill’s faith travel columns in the
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