Tennessee Johnson

Watch Tennessee Johnson

"From poverty to a president. A great American story!"
  • Passed
  • 1942
  • 1 hr 43 min
  • 6.5  (669)

Tennessee Johnson is a 1942 historical drama movie that was directed by William Dieterle. The film features Van Heflin as the titular character, Andrew Johnson, who rose from humble beginnings to become the 17th President of the United States. The movie tells the story of Johnson's life, from his early years as a tailor in Tennessee to his eventual ascension to the White House. The film is set during a tumultuous time in American history, as the country struggles with the aftermath of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era.

The film begins by introducing us to Johnson as a young man working as a tailor in his home state of Tennessee. It quickly becomes apparent that he has a strong sense of justice and fairness, which he uses to stand up for the common people against the wealthy elites who hold power in the state. He is eventually elected to represent Tennessee in the United States Congress, where he quickly establishes himself as a passionate defender of the Union.

However, as the Civil War breaks out, Johnson finds himself at odds with many of his fellow Southerners who support secession. He refuses to abandon his loyalty to the Union, even when it means risking his own personal safety. He becomes a fierce advocate for the Union cause, using his position in Congress to push for a swift end to the conflict.

Once the war is over, Johnson is appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the Military Governor of Tennessee, where he works to rebuild and restore the state in the aftermath of the conflict. However, his role as governor brings him into conflict with the powerful Southern elites who still hold significant sway in the state, and he finds himself facing opposition at every turn.

Despite his many accomplishments, Johnson's presidency is marked by controversy and conflict. He is seen as too sympathetic to the South, and as a result, he clashes frequently with Congress and the Radical Republicans who seek to punish the former Confederate states. His efforts to grant amnesty to former Confederate soldiers and appoint Southerners to key government positions are met with resistance, and he becomes increasingly isolated and unpopular as a result.

The film does an excellent job of portraying Johnson's complex personality and motivations. On the one hand, he is fiercely committed to preserving the Union and ensuring that the South remains loyal to the United States. On the other hand, he is sympathetic to the plight of his fellow Southerners, many of whom have suffered greatly as a result of the war. This conflict is exemplified in Johnson's relationship with his wife Eliza (played by Ruth Hussey), who supports his political ambitions but is also deeply loyal to her Southern roots.

The acting in Tennessee Johnson is top-notch, with Van Heflin delivering a powerful and nuanced performance as the titular character. Lionel Barrymore is also excellent as Thaddeus Stevens, the fierce abolitionist who frequently clashes with Johnson in Congress. Ruth Hussey is a standout as Eliza, bringing complexity and depth to the character that could easily have been a one-dimensional caricature.

Overall, Tennessee Johnson is an excellent historical drama that does a great job of exploring the complex political and social issues of the time. The film is well-paced and engaging throughout, with strong performances from the entire cast. While it may not be the most well-known historical drama, it is certainly worth watching for anyone interested in American history or political dramas.

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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 43 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.5  (669)