1856 - US presidential race -
Modern motion-picture portrayals of the candidates and times

Caution: Dramatizations of historical persons and events are often only loosely based on the truth! For an examination of this and other important issues, see Video in History Classes

Motion pictures set (at least partly) in the 1850s

A film very germane to the 1856 election is missing from the collection above: Gangs of New York (2002), which depicts violent conflict in New York City between nativists ("Know-Nothings") and Irish Catholic immigrants, who would flock to support Democrat Buchahan in the election. In a political cartoon here, these two "street" factions are shown seconding their favored candidates. With Know-Nothing Fillmore floored by Buchanan, the nativist encourages Fremont to take his place.


Motion pictures featuring James Buchanan


Motion pictures featuring John Fremont


Motion pictures featuring Millard Fillmore

Memorable dialog:

[after news of Zachery Taylor's death]
I have no language to express the emotions of my heart. The shock is so sudden and unexpected, I am overwhelmed.

I was called to the executive chair by a bereavement which shrouded the nation in mourning. However much I may be oppressed by the discharge of the duty, I dare not shrink from it.

God knows I detest slavery but it is an existing evil and we must endure it and give it such protection as is prescribed by the constitution.

In the north I was accused of being a pro-slavery man seeking to extend slavery over free territory and in the south I was accused of being an abolishionist. But I am neither.

I feel no regret that I was relieved of the thankless task of administering this government. The agitation that disturbed the peace of this country was unavoidable.