ACTOR'S INSISTENCE ON PLAYING JOHN WILKES BOOTH IN "ROBIN" COSTUME MARS DOCUMENTARY
HOLLYWOOD - "The Man Who Shot Lincoln" airing tonight, the anniversary of assassination of America's 16th President, is a gritty and shockingly realistic portrayal of the events leading up the April 14, 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, a well-known and flamboyant actor of his day.
The documentary marks the return to prime time television of Burt Ward as Booth. Ward is best known for portraying "Robin, the Boy Wonder," opposite Adam West in the 1960's camp TV classic, Batman.
Ward insisted on playing Booth in his old "Robin" costume, and the results are mixed. At first the colorful costume proves somewhat of a distraction, but Ward's performance is so sure of itself and his screen presence so commanding that ultimately it doesn't matter.
Ward's old mannerisms are still there, and they still work like a charm, from the quick-tempered habit of punching his fist into his other hand, to even blurting out "Holy states' rights!" at one point.
Women and gay viewers will find his leap from the balcony at Fords Theater following the shooting utterly mesmerizing -- let's just say the tights have never been tighter. There is good reason he was called the "Boy Wonder."
All in all, this is the most realistic documentary of the Lincoln assassination ever done. Be forewarned: the violence of the actual shooting is palpable, vividly enhanced by the giant cartoon "POW" that bursts across the screen when Ward fires the gun.
Actor Charles Durning is a noble Lincoln, and Bette Midler provides welcome comic relief as nutty Mary Todd Lincoln. My only qualm is that the three hours running time is altogether too short. This is one not to be missed. The show airs on CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.