Abraham Lincoln in pop culture: Sam Waterston, Hal Holbrook created iconic portrayals of the 16th POTUS

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Scholars have examined the life of Abraham Lincoln in great detail, but nothing stirs the imagination quite like the events surrounding the assassination of the 16th United States president. On Feb. 17, Tom Hanks and Ridley Scott will present "Killing Lincoln," a Nat Geo docudrama based on the best-selling book by news anchor Bill O'Reilly and author Martin Dugard.

Arriving on the heels of Steven Spielberg's critically acclaimed "Lincoln," the National Geographic Channel's presentation examines the actual day of the assassination. In preparation, here's a look back at how other writers and directors honored the memory of President Lincoln in popular culture.

Taking Honest Abe from the printed page to the small screen

When portraying the 16th president, few actors have done it as memorably as Hal Holbrook did in "Sandburg's Lincoln." Based on the work of author Carl Sandburg, this 1974 NBC mini-series examined Lincoln's law career, presidency, and assassination. Until Daniel Day-Lewis's more recent, understated performance, Holbrook set the bar high for his portrayal of Honest Abe.

In 1988, Sam Waterston tackled the character in "Gore Vidal's Lincoln," another mini-series based on Vidal's popular historical fiction novel. The author's take on Lincoln differed from Sandburg's, and some critics also signaled out Waterston's portrayal as one of the best. The actor portrayed President Lincoln years later in Ken Burns's acclaimed PBS documentary "The Civil War."

Abe Lincoln boldly goes where no president has gone before

In 1961, Rod Serling looked back at April 14, 1865, for CBS. In the "Twilight Zone" episode entitled "Back There," Russell Johnson of "Gilligan's Island" fame plays Pete Corrigan, a 20th-century man who travels back to that fateful day. Corrigan fails to stop assassin John Wilkes Booth, but he does change the life of a police officer for the better.

In the third season of the original series, Gene Roddenberry put Lincoln front and center in "The Savage Curtain," a notable "Star Trek" episode. Lee Bergere plays what appears to be President Abraham Lincoln on an alien planet. His appearance turns out to be part of an alien behavioral experiment, however, but it shows the enduring legacy of the 16th POTUS.

The lighter side of Lincoln

In 1989, Robert V. Barron gave a credible interpretation of Abraham Lincoln in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." Transported to 1989 San Dimas, California, President Lincoln delivers an updated version of his Gettysburg Address that ends with Bill and Ted's two creeds: "Be excellent to one another" and "Party on, dudes!"

"Kindergarten Cop," a 1991 Arnold Schwarzenegger outing, features about two dozen pint-size Lincolns. As Detective John Kimble, Schwarzenegger goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher. One of his duties is teaching his class to recite the Gettysburg Address while wearing Lincoln's trademark hat and whiskers.

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