"This documentary on the life of Abraham Lincoln is an excellent exploration of the character and inner life of our 16th president. At the same time it provides the viewer with much valuable information about the character of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, their marriage, the tragic deaths of two of their children, and how Lincoln continued to love his wife until his death, even though she was in many ways a liability for him. While the Lincolns as individuals are the focus of the series, the viewer is not shortchanged in regard to the presidency or the Civil War. Lincoln's growth during his four years in office is examined critically and fairly by various historians. The story of the Lincolns was originally shown on PBS's program "American Experience," and follows the format that has made that series so respected by viewers. Photographs, drawings, paintings, maps, and other artifacts contemporary to the times alternate with new film footage that enhances the story line. Well known performers do the voiceovers -- in this case David Morse is Lincoln, and Holly Hunter is the voice of Mary Todd Lincoln. There are no stagey recreations of events with unknown performers taking the parts of historical characters, which one often sees in series made for The History Channel or Arts and Entertainment Network. The three volume set runs about six hours and contains bonus materials that appear on each individual disc. The quality of the picture and sound is outstanding. The music is excellent and of the time period, and is never distacting. While people of all ages and backgrounds in American history could enjoy this series, I especially recommend it to families with high school or college age students, along with Ken Burns "The Civil War" and the PBS video biography of General Grant. This would also make an excellent gift for Father's Day or for a Civil War buff's birthday."
Fine treatment of a somewhat neglected aspect of Lincoln
chefdevergue | Spokane, WA United States | 06/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has often been observed that Abraham Lincoln has been enshrined to the point of deification. During the recent Ronald Reagan obsequies, rituals laden with religious references, we the television viewers were treated again & again to images of the Lincoln Memorial, as though Lincoln himself were some sort of national demigod to whom proper deference must be rendered from time to time. All this has served to strip away much of Lincoln's humanity, to the point that we find it hard to believe that he was, just as most of us are, an ordinary spouse & parent, trying to balance the demands of home with the demands of work.This documentary helps to remind us of that side of Lincoln, as we see the young ambitious lawyer/politician & his equally ambitious wife struggle to make a life together. It is a story, above everything else, of great personal loss (for both Abraham & Mary Lincoln), and at times it makes this documentary painful to watch. As one watches Abraham Lincoln cope the overwhelming stress of a wartime presidency, having already lost two children, one yearns for the time when Abraham & Mary Lincoln can finally, even for a little while, relax in retirement and enjoy each other's company once again, without the demands of the office to distract them. Despite knowing it never did happen, I found myself feeling this way. Of course, the story takes the viewer through to a marriage ended by murder & a subsequent emotional collapse. It is exhausting to watch.The documentary provides a great amount of detail. Some have complained that one sees the same images of the Lincolns over and over again, although I would think that after "The Civil War," people would be used to seeing an unending series of still photos on the television screen. It comes with the territory, and unless you want actors dramatizing the life of the Lincolns, you really have little choice in presentation. My only objection with the documentary is that it is a little too sympathetic at times. For example, the fact that the Lincolns were not particularly good parents is overlooked. Even in the best of times, Robert Lincoln's relationship with his parents was ambivalent, and was sometimes downright chilly. Tad Lincoln, on the other hand, was so spoiled and overindulged that by the time he was around 12, he was a virtual illiterate because his parents didn't have the heart to make him attend to his studies. One gets no sense of this in the documentary.Everyone loves a happy ending, but unfortunately there really isn't one to be found here. However, the saddest tales generally are the ones that leave the most lasting impact. One cannot watch this story without being deeply moved."
An epic story of love, ambition, politicals, war and tragedy
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 02/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"During the pivotal Presidential election of 1860, three of the four major candidates running for the White House had once courted Mary Todd. The story of how this young woman spurned Stephen Douglass and John Breckenridge in favor of Abraham Lincoln has always been a fascinating tale. The fact that this same woman ended up committed for insanity after her fragile emotions failed to survive the deaths of her husband and three of her four sons. The title of David Grubin's film, as well as the first episode, traces the parallel courses of the future couple. Both lost their mothers when young and had completely opposite reactions to their stepmothers. More importantly, when they found each other they were able to recognition they shared the same ambition and this most improbably couple made their way to the White House at the most pivotal moment in the nation's history.Of course it is history that overwhelms the story Grubin sets off to tell. For the last two thirds of "A House Divided," basically from the start of the Civil War until the assassination of Lincoln, Mary becomes a minor character. However, given the essentially balanced nature of the first couple of episodes, this shift becomes somewhat disconcerting. Eventually I adjusted to this shift, having recognized that the Civil War certainly put Lincoln's marriage on the back burner, but I think Grubin could have cut two hours from this series, whittling down the recapitulation of basic Civil War history to keep the focus on the increasingly unhappy couple. After all, that is the hook that is used to reel us into watching this documentary, which originally aired on PBS's "American Experience." Each of the three-videotapes in this series contains two episodes. Comparisons with Ken Burns's landmark "Civil War" series are inevitable not only because of the subject matter but because David McCullough again does the narration as the unofficial voice of the Civil War. There are certainly some stylistic differences, which result in some melodramatic moments in this series, which begins with a storm night and children whispering about the crazy lady living in the room over the parlor of that Springfield house. Civil War battles are a conglomerate of black & white period photos and firework explosions. You will recognize Holly Hunter as the voice of Mary Lincoln right away, but might be surprised to learn that David Morse is doing Abraham Lincoln (I know I was). Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think Grubin could have edited a two hour version of this focusing on Mary Tood Lincoln that would have been absolutely first rate. However, let me be clear that as it now stands "Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided" is definitely worth viewing."
A Perfect Supplement To "The Civil War"
Eric Pregosin | New Carrollton, Maryland United States | 02/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Now that Ken Burns' epic "The Civil War" has hit DVD, this 3 disc baby of David Grubin's will keep you entertained just as much. David McCullough's narration in this film is as pleasant as it was in the former, and David Morse reads Lincoln as well as Sam Waterston. Holly Hunter reading Mary also does well. Plus like The Civil War, there is a who's who of interviewees who relate some very good historical facts. This is the first film that I ever watched on American Experience. A welcome edition to my library let alone the collection of PBS documentaries now available on DVD."
jak-uv-ol-traids | Carmichael, California United States | 01/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for a theatrical viewpoint or version to the story of Abraham & Mary Lincoln's life, do not look here. I enjoyed this series because it goes very well into depth about Abraham and Mary's life as well as the Civil War and what part they played during it all. It may not cover all things about Abe or Mary but it reveals many facts, letters and feelings that the general public does not know about the Lincolns and I believe the purpose of this video is to reveal the information for the purpose to educate and this DVD succeeds in doing that. The images may be comprised of mainly period photos, letters and reinactments but the information given on the Lincoln's personal thoughts, decisions and circumstances is so interesting that it definitely makes up for any lack of visual stimulation."