“Lincoln Watch”: The Wig of Tommy Lee Jones

762 posts into this blog’s history, and this is the first time I’ve ever written about somebody’s hair…

Many people have been a bit perplexed at the hair Tommy Lee Jones is sporting for his role as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln, citing it as an ugly and obvious wig, and with the comments I have been reading about it, you would think that it is so bad it would detract away from his performance, which of course, we have yet to see in great detail due to him only having a few snippets of screen-time in the trailers. Anyway, yes, the cat is out of the bag: the Jones wig is simply awful. In fact, even on set, according to a source, it was jokingly referred to as “the ShamWow”. Now, before I start to sound like just another person going off on a tirade about an insignificant detail in the long run of things, why don’t we do a little research into the real Thaddeus Stevens, as maybe, just maybe, this heavily researched, $50 million epic directed by one of cinema’s greatest, might actually have a reason for giving Jones such a terrible mop. Well, it just so happens that the real Stevens wore a wig because he suffered Alopecia, a condition that caused him to go bald at a young age (gee, and all this time I thought he just had an aversion to combs). The wig he wore was noted to be “ill-fitting” and is actually the catalyst for what I think is one of the funniest smaller moments in history.

Back in the 1800’s, if a woman admired a man, especially a famous one, she might ask him for a lock of hair, so that she could keep it to remember him. As it turns out, Stevens was the recipient of such a request, apparently by a woman who did not realize it was a wig. When she asked him for a lock of his hair, Stevens is reported to have taken off his wig, handed it to her, and said, “Here, madam, you may have it all.” The Thaddeus Stevens Society has this cartoon depiction of the event for us to view:

If you take a look at a picture of Stevens, he appears to be completely bereft of personality, even more serious looking than Abraham Lincoln. But alas, like the president, he too had a sense of humor and appears to be the victim of what I call the “Dusty Old Photograph Syndrome”. The same website linked above offers a collection of humorous stories and observations regarding the Republican leader, including this delicious little quote regarding John Brown’s hanging before the war: “John Brown deserves to be hung for being a hopeless fool. He attempted to capture Virginia with seventeen men where he ought to know that it would require at least twenty-five.” There is no telling if either his humor, or Lincoln’s, will be in the final print of the film, but it sure would be a nice addition (as would a scene of Stevens putting on his wig, perhaps at his house, before leaving for work, just to let the audience know its supposed to be a wig). Who knows, if these two never got into politics, perhaps they could have toured the country as the Lincoln & Stevens Comedy Troupe.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. The place I work at hosted a lecture by Doris Kearns Goodwin last month. When asked a question about the film, she said that she insisted that the film include Lincoln’s humor. So, his humor will definitely be in it. Not sure about Stevens’ humor, however.

    1. That’s great then, thanks!

  2. Gettysbuff says:

    Great read, Greg.

    When i first saw the trailers i personally thought the bad hair was probably just a representation of the actual bad hair that Stevens may have had. I didn’t think it was a bad makeup job (like the horrific obviously fake facial hair in “Gettysburg”), as this IS a Spielberg movie, and i never considered the possibility that the real Stevens wore a wig! Very interesting. Although i’m sure there are/there are going to be a lot of annoying people on the internet wrongly criticizing this like they wrongly criticized the sound of DDL’s voice. These people need to read more…or at least read this blog!

  3. Ross Hetrick says:

    Thank you so much for including this material about Stevens and his wig. Ross Hetrick, president, Thaddeus Stevens Society.

  4. steve vitoff says:

    i think stevens became bald as a youth because of a disease. i also read that he had his wig designed to be worn in any direction so he could put it on or off quickly, not torubled by apperances. i am a member of the TS Society along w ross hetrick above and let me tell you we are all hoping this movie helps to revive interest in this remarkable american and unrivalled icon of racial equality, at least among caucasians!

    1. I thank both you and Ross for commenting. I never knew anything about TS before my coverage of this film started. I must say that I am captivated by his life, and will have to incorporate him into my lessons when I teach.

    1. Wow, thanks for telling me!

    2. Ross, do you know if that made it to print in one of their newspapers or if its just online?

      1. Ross Hetrick says:

        It was in the newspaper itself, along with the online edition.

  5. Amy Shaurae' Williams says:

    Ever since I saw the Lincoln movie, I have been a tad bit obsessed with TD and the Radicals of the 1800’s. Believe it or not, I want to be a future politician and my style, beliefs, and ideals are freakishly similar to Stevens’; which turned me on to him in the first place as I was watching. He is my new idol, and I want to be just like him, as well as Lydia Smith. Someday, I plan to visit the Thaddeus Stevens museum. I am sure someday when all of you see me in politics, you will know who made this comment. By the way, there are a few differences between Stevens and I. I am actually a black female. How ironic, isn’t it.

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