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Restored Abraham Lincoln Film to Premiere at Keene State

KEENE, N.H., 4/12/10 - When a contractor demolishing a Nelson, N.H., barn came across a 35mm Monarch projector and seven reels of film, he contacted the Keene State College Film Society. They determined that his find included what appears to be the only surviving copy of When Lincoln Paid, a film starring and directed by movie pioneer Francis Ford, the older brother of famed director John Ford. On Tuesday, April 20, at 4 p.m. this film, lost for 97 years and now restored, will premiere in the Mabel Brown Room in KSC’s Young Student Center. The screening is free and open to the public.

This brittle 30-minute two-reeler is of such historical significance that it easily won support from Tag Gallagher (author of John Ford), the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., and the National Film Preservation Foundation, who joined the KSC Film Archives, Special Collections/Mason Library; the KSC Film Studies Department; and the KSC Film Society to restore the film. It is important for its historical theme, its place in film history, and for what it has to show about the techniques that influenced John Ford.

Both Ford brothers were fascinated with Abraham Lincoln and made him the subject of many of their films. “There is nothing I like better than to play Lincoln. I have a big library devoted to this great man, and I have studied every phase of his remarkable character, and when I am acting the part, I can feel the man as I judge him,” Francis Ford is quoted as saying in a December 2009 Senses of Cinema article by Ford scholar Tag Gallagher.

“Between 1912 and 1915 he played Abraham Lincoln in at least seven pictures. Alas, all of these pictures are lost. For nearly a century no one has been able to see Francis Ford as Lincoln,” Gallagher explained when told of the restoration. “So now … to be told that I may get to see Francis Ford as Lincoln is thrilling news indeed.”

More information and clips from the film can be seen here.

**Please note: Because the tomorrow’s historic showing of When Lincoln Paid has sparked far more interest than we originally anticipated, we’ve moved the 4 p.m. showing on Tuesday (April 20) to the Mabel Brown Room in the L.P. Young Student Center to accommodate more people. We’ll show a DVD of the film there, with piano accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, who plays piano behind silent films around New England.

Immediately after this showing, for the hard-core aficionados, we’ll show the 35mm preservation print of the film in the Putnam Theater in the Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond.**

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Keene, New Hampshire 03435