At last night’s Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, Daniel Day-Lewis won the best actor award for the Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln”. In accepting, the actor said the following. "It occurred to me — it was an actor that murdered Abraham Lincoln, and therefore, somehow it is only so fitting that every now and then an actor tries to bring him back to life again."
The actor Day-Lewis was referring to, of course, was Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth. People not in the know often ask why Booth had been allowed in Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865 when he shot the President. It was because Booth was a very famous actor and knew the theater like the back of his hand. He had performed there. He knew his way around. The theater staff wanted to hang out with him because they knew he always had money. The man who held his horse that evening outside the theater did it because he knew Booth and he was going to be paid handsomely for his services.
The Lincoln connection to the Booth family extends even further and in a somewhat unbelievable fashion. In 1863 or 1864 (the exact date is not known) a young student of Harvard College fell off the platform while waiting for a train in Jersey City, New Jersey. Quick action by a bystander who reached down and pulled the lad to safety may have saved his life.
The story is quite bizarre in that the man who rescued the young lad was Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth and also a Shakespearean actor. And the young man who fell off the platform was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln, oldest son of the president.
Sometimes, like in this instance, truth is stranger than fiction.
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