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Lincoln Quiz

What happened when filmmaker Ken Burns covered the Lincoln assassination?

Tim Clark, in his October 1990 Yankee Magazine article about Ken Burns, related this story which happened when the film crew depicted the death of President Lincoln. He noted that Burns' film, The Civil War, not only took longer to make than the war itself, but it also extracted an emotional price beyond anything he could have imagined:

"Near the end of a 20-day marathon of sound mixing in a $500-per-hour studio, Ken and some of his crew were putting together the climactic assassination scene. Flicking switches and turning dials, they blended together the sounds. Actors spoke lines from Our American Cousin, the comedy playing that night at Ford's Theatre. The audience laughed. Victorian music played in the background. There was coughing, the sound of chairs scraping, and the footsteps of John Wilkes Booth climbing the stairs to the presidential box. He was waiting for a particular joke, a particularly loud laugh. The actor spoke. The mirth crescendoed. Booth raised the pistol.

'We were watching the screen as the camera pans over to the presidential box, all listening and involved,' Ken said. 'We knew what was coming up, what was about to happen. The actor said the line, the laugh started, and the editor and my assistant and I simultaneously said, 'Stop!' We actually yelled it -- 'No!' The mixer hit the stop button, and for a second there was total silence in the studio. We sat there, tears streaming down, realizing that for a while, we could sit there and hold this moment; we could keep it from happening. And then we went back to work, and we killed Lincoln, and we went on.'"

Other Quizzes:

  • What event happened on May 26, 1854, which re-awakened Lincoln's interest in politics?
  • By what route was Lincoln's body returned to his hometown?
  • Which speech did Lincoln say would "wear as well as--perhaps better than--any thing I have produced"?
  • Which Lincoln relative died on January 17, 1851?
  • How did Lincoln spend Christmas week as President and President-elect?
  • Which impact did Lincoln's election have on his professional life?
  • Which friend of Lincoln was killed on October 21, 1861?
  • Which two things would Lincoln not want you to know?
  • How did Lincoln bring fame to Beardstown, Illinois?
  • How did Lincoln spend the Fourth of July?
  • What was Lincoln's postal job like?
  • What happened the morning of February 11, 1861?
  • What happened behind the scenes with Lincoln's First Inaugural Address?

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