Last Witness to Lincoln’s Death

Garry Moore & Sam Seymour

DATELINE: I’ve Got a Secret Episode of 2-8-1956

Of all the game show trivia of the 1950s, once in a while something bizarre and monumental occurs. A guest onI’ve Got A Secret, named Samuel J. Seymour, came to show at age 95.

A panel of celebrities would question the guest about some silly secret normally. They could ask questions as long as the guest answered, “Yes,” and a negative response let the next person ask their queries.

For a measly few dollars, this old man who fell on the way to show still insisted on appearing despite the bandage over his eye. The doctor recommended he cancel, but he bravely went on the show.

His horrifying secret?   He saw John Wilkes Booth shoot President Lincoln when he was five years old. He had been brought to Ford’s Theatre that night by his nurse as a birthday gift. He said he was scared to come to Washington as a boy, and at first he did not realize that the President had been shot.

He recalled the gunshot, but he was most upset as a child by the sight of a man tumbling out of the president’s box. Only a few moments later did people realize what horror had occurred. Abraham Lincoln slumped over in his chair.

The elderly gentleman was the last living witness to have seen the crime of United States history’s most gripping event. At the time it happened, he did not fully understand and thought a man had fallen out of the box onto the stage. He knew the man was injured in the fall.

In his old age he admitted that he still suffered from post-traumatic stress. He would dream of the shot fired fifty times in a night. Even in his nineties, he admitted that when he nodded off, he sometimes was awakened by the horror of hearing a shot and seeing the President slumped over.

Mr. Seymour appeared on television in February of 1956. On April 12 of that year, a mere eight weeks later, he would pass himself, taking his singular memory with him. He died on April 12, almost on the anniversary of Lincoln’s death and his walk into history annals.

His story appeared in American Weekly Magazine that year.

The eight-minute sequence is available on YouTube for those curious about how close to history we are in 2020.

 

 

 

 

  Last Mohican of 1936

DATELINE: Shut In Special 

Hawkeye & Faithful Companions!

Sometimes you need to go back to an early version of a classic to see it done properly with all due reverence. So it is with the James Fennimore Cooper story of survival in wilderness.

Randolph Scott is the stalwart Hawkeye, and he is the epitome of an American frontiersman who has taken up with a few natives outside the parameters of primitive New York society. Tune in to Prime to watch Last of the Mohicans.

If you are an English major purist, the movie plays weird games with the novel: reversing the names of the Munro sisters: one blonde and angelic, the other darker and more passionate. In an effort to make the interracial angle heightened (savages attracted to the epitome of pale white women), Alice is now Cora. The blonde is now Cora, not Alice, and clearly the two competing native Americans are interested.

The bad Indian is Magua, a Huron pretending to be a Mohawk of peaceful nature. He is a warlike spy in the midst of the stupid British. It is interesting that the British military heroes are not exactly favored by Hawkeye, the early Americans, or the hostile natives. Of course, that was Cooper’s view too.

Magua is played by a white man from King Kong. Yes, Bruce Cabot strips down and shaves his head in a performance to play a blue-eyed Magua. He is sinister, and he is a great foil to Randolph Scott.

A couple of unknown actors play the noble friends of Hawkwye, the young and handsome Uncas, a man of honor and his father Chingachgook who will end up with the title role.

It’s hard to realize the film is almost 90 years old now and has with it a sense of black and white historical flavor. It is entertaining in its chase scenes and amusing in its racial miscastings. That aside, you still have a well-intended classic of a high order.

When you are shut in and in social distance mode, these old chestnuts are worth savoring.

 

 

 

 

Booth and Oswald: a study in similarities

Their educations were the epitome of their eras. John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald went to every educational institution of his age–and still found failure at every turn. This classic book presents a perspective on the assassins that is unusual and fascinating.

Image

from cover of Booth & Oswald

Available on Amazon.com in both softcover and ebook.