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February 12, 2013

Lincoln film should not be nit-picked, author says

ANDERSON, Ind. —  

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 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.

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.”

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 discrepencies  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.”

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