A bodyguard doesn’t have the luxury of making a single slip in the process of protecting the President, since a would-be assassin needs but one opportunity to succeed in his deadly mission. Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco) learned that lesson the hard way when John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head on April 14, 1865.
Ironically, that was the very same day on which Honest Abe created the U.S. Secret Service. For, up until then, Lincoln’s security detail essentially consisted of just one person, the self-appointed Lamon.
In fact, the former law partner was the only pal Lincoln had brought with him from Illinois to Washington, D.C. As a banjo-playing, joke-telling confidant, he not only served as a sounding board but periodically provided the President with some well-needed comic and musical relief from the strains of the taxing job.
After all, The Railsplitter had been in the White House but a month when the Civil War erupted. Thus, he was burdened his entire tenure in office by the stresses associated with the conflict. And while he was trying to preserve the Union, he narrowly survived numerous attempts on his life (including a bullet passing through his stovepipe hat), the first of which was thwarted before his inauguration early in 1861.
Written and directed by Salvador Litvak, Saving Lincoln is an intimate buddy biopic chronicling the pair’s enduring friendship. The film unfolds from the perspective of narrator Lamon, who ominously concedes that, “I never could be at ease when absent from Lincoln’s side.”
Among the many plots the ever-vigilant escort managed to foil was a Rebel kidnapping scheme to hold the President ransom for 200,000 Confederate POWs. Sadly, Lamon was conspicuously absent the fateful night of the cowardly ambush in the box at Ford theater during the Third Act of the performance of a farce called “Our American Cousin.”
Having previously dispatched his trusted bodyguard to Richmond, Virginia, Lincoln ill-advisedly ignored the warning, “Do not go out, particularly to the theater.” A grieving Lamon later waxed philosophical about the tragedy, concluding, “I did not save Mr. Lincoln, because he did not wish to be saved. He completed his work and earned his rest.”
A fresh take on The Great Emancipator from the point-of-view of a constant companion who had been at the President’s side at Gettysburg and for many historical moments but not on the day he died.