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A Failure at Fifty (1940)

Approved | | Short | 1 July 1940 (USA)
The story of Abraham Lincoln's 30-year struggle of persistence-through-failure is told to an unemployed 50 year old man.


Will Jason


Howard Dimsdale (screenplay), Arno B. Reincke (story "He Could Take It")


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Complete credited cast:
Edmund Glover ... Abe Lincoln
Mary Anderson ... Ann Rutledge (as Bebe Anderson)
Truman Bradley ... Lincoln's Friend
Carey Wilson ... Narrator (voice)


An unemployed man, apparently a failure at age fifty, peers into a lake, considering his fate. A mysterious stranger comes up and tells him a story of a 'John Jones', and his dark 30 years of hard struggle through life to age 50. This man too was an apparent 'failure at fifty'. He was so depressed at one dark stage of his life, that this man said in his own words: "At this period of my life, I never dared to carry a pocket knife." His own friends feared for his very sanity. But then within two years he was elected President. This man was Abraham Lincoln. Suddenly the mysterious stranger is gone, but the unemployed man realizes Lincoln's philosophy: "God must have loved the common people, because he made so many of them." Written by jrodor@pacbell.net

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Release Date:

1 July 1940 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


Black and White (Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


[first lines]
Narrator: Night shift - men wanted, and they're taking 'em on at the rate of one every minute. It can't be long now, there's work ahead! Work, and pay, and food, and a bed...
[focusing in on one low-spirited man]
Narrator: but not for all. No more jobs open now, and the eternal fog of hopelessness chills your heart again. For you, my friend, are fifty years old and you're broke, friendless, jobless, down and out. You wonder if this can really be you - this worn and hungry man. Can it be the same you ...
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User Reviews

Passing Parade
29 August 2010 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

Failure at Fifty, A (1940)

*** (out of 4)

Winning entry in the Passing Parade series has a fifty-year-old man, broke and hungry, about to kill himself when a man stops him and tells him the story of another man his age who went through decades of failure. This man started off poor, lost the woman he loved, went into debt, lost several Senate seats and all of this before finally becoming President. This of course is Abe Lincoln and this MGM short is a pretty good one and especially if you're a fan of the series. Once again there's a very dark tone running throughout the film and you won't be able not to think about IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE especially since it's an angel that stops the man from killing himself and teaches him why it's important to live. Character actor Edmund Glover plays Lincoln and does a pretty good job with the role even though he doesn't have any dialogue. The story itself is a pretty predictable one but it's still entertaining enough to make this worth sitting through. As usual Carey Wilson does a fine job narrating.

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