I like to see movies where a character in history is brought to life. One of my favorites recently is Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.
One favorite character was Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones because I had studied his speaking when I was in graduate school. Although he certainly had an important role in passing the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, my main memory of his speeches was the one he gave in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which saved free public schools in Pennsylvania.
I had always pictured him delivering a speech and admired his ability to move an audience. History demonstrates that his influence was enormous. Well, Tommy Lee Jones stamped in my mind the answers to any questions I had.
I don’t know if he accurately portrayed Stevens’ delivery and style, but now I have a specific mental image of what Thad Stevens looked like when he spoke and how he worked with an audience. Jones made him come to life by taking on his personality and speaking skills.
Seeing history come to life on the screen is a powerful way to remember an important historical figure that you studied in school.