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Royal Dano and Abraham Lincoln

Royal Dano as Lincoln

 

 

Last night I was watching an old Rifleman episode and it was an odd one.  One of Lucas McCain’s neighbors turns out to be Abraham Lincoln!  Well, not the real Abraham Lincoln, but rather a man who incurred psychic trauma during his Civil War service and now he believes he is Abraham Lincoln.  However, the man, portrayed by the late actor Royal Dano, looks and acts just like Abraham Lincoln.  This show was broadcast in 1961 when the Civil War centennial was big news, and this was a clever way of getting Lincoln on the Rifleman show, a series set in the 1880’s, without having to invoke time travel!  The episode was moving and as I listened I thought the actor portraying Lincoln sounded familiar.  Then it struck me: the Disney Animatronics Lincoln!

Dano provided the voice of Lincoln.in the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show which Disney premiered at the World’s Fair in 1964. Disney chose Dano because he believed his voice was most like what Disney imagined Lincoln sounded like.  In this Disney was probably incorrect.  Most contemporaries described Lincoln as having a high pitched voice.  However, Disney was a showman and not an historian, and I think Disney hit upon a voice that did fit the popular imagination of what Lincoln sounded like, said imagination having been formed by deep voiced portrayals of Lincoln on film by actors such as Walter Huston, Henry Fonda and Raymond Massey.  The Animatronics Lincoln now has a new voice actor as Lincoln, but to generations that came of age in the final decades of the last century and visited Disney World, Dano’s voice will be that of Lincoln’s.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

5 Comments

  1. The 1950-60s cultural preference to baritones did a great disservice to America (as did the 60’s preference for JFK hair styles). Anyone who has listened to recordings of Teddy Roosevelt’s voice knows that voice has little to do with manliness.

  2. on the other hand TomD, if you heard John Charles Thomas, Lawrence Tibbett or Leonard Warren or G.B Shea Speak or sing you would glimpse the love affair with the Baritone voice. Which i might suggest started much earlier, with the talkies and the Fox studios and 20th century merger @ 1931.
    Royal Dano was an effective actor.

    none of these men affected a disservice to the culture of their nation. quite the contrary i think…….. then there is a joke of a baritone singing ol man river at the end of the film salute to the genius of Jerome Kern @1946 – ‘Till the clouds roll by’ – a.k.a. Sinatra. that should start a clash of opinion. I should not write the names of these baritones together in the same post- one of these is not like the others…. like the scribes, i should get up, change my clothing, do a cleansing bath, put on new duds and then begin writing again – o well.

    the kennedy line i won’t touch – how dare one criticize ” Camelot” or any part thereof ;

  3. Royal Dan also played a maimed and wounded Confederate soldier in another Rifleman Episode, too. Somehow this Confederate AND Phil Sheridan end up at the Lucas place where high jinks then occur including an assassination attempt on Sheridan by Dano’s character! Of course, after much blustering and name calling bluebelly, reb and secesh scum, Sheridan arranges for surgery to fix the maimed Confederate’s arm.

    McCain notes in at least two episodes that I remember that he served in either a Wisconsin or Michigan regiment.

    Anyway…

  4. I think McCain said in one episode that during the War he was a Lieutenant in the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. I have also seen the 11th Indiana cited as his regiment. Of course, during the War a man might serve with several regiments.

  5. Thanks. I knew the face but never the actor’s name. Royal Dano was a talented character actor and to me the best of the Lincolns.

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