"Ole Mary Todd's calling, so I guess it must be time for bed."

This was such a great device, I'm wondering if it was purely a Tarantino invention or if he grabbed the idea from a previous book or film.

What I mean specifically is the use of a fake letter from a famous personage to gain some general advantage or specific benefit, but not simply as a plot device. (i.e. the story of the letter is actually a major element of Marquis Warren's character and identity.)

An ideal answer would be the specific source Tarantino was drawing from, assuming he did indeed lift this.

  • 1
    What exactly do you mean here? Just that line or the general idea of Lincoln sending out such letters to his citizens? Can you elaborate a little more and provide a bit more context for what you're actually asking?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Dec 29, 2016 at 19:56
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    @NapoleonWilson I'd hoped the use of "device" would gave been enough, but I elaborated for clarity. (It's not about the Lincoln aspect specifically, although a precedent involving Lincoln would also be acceptable.)
    – DukeZhou
    Dec 29, 2016 at 20:14
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    The question is fairly straight forward if you take out the emotional response to Tarantino. My guess was he did not invent this, but "stole" it from some previous film or book, as he does so often ("good ones borrow, the great ones steal") so I'm looking for that specific reference he may have drawn from.
    – DukeZhou
    Dec 29, 2016 at 21:09

2 Answers 2


As Tarantino answered to a Yahoo Movies question:

"I don’t really know exactly where it came from. It just grew from the back and forth between the characters"

So it gives the impression that was his original idea.

He continues on answering about the letter:

"When this black man shows white people who respect the North a Lincoln letter, all of a sudden they look at him differently. All of a sudden they’re dealing with him in a different way. They have a different attitude to him about him: ‘Have a seat, sit down.’ It’s a whole different thing."

So the Lincoln Letter was an artifice he created and used to explain why Southern whites would even talk to a black man right after the civil war.

You can read his whole answer on the Yahoo Movies page

  • Sorry for taking so long to accept! (This one slipped under the radar.) Thanks for conducting that research.
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 30, 2017 at 19:39

The letter shows that Marquis actually knew nothing about Lincoln except that he was president. As history tells us Mary Todd had some serious mental issues and in reality, Abe was at his wits-end with dealing with her. It was not a good relationship. So, Abe probably would not have included the "Ole Mary Todd is waiting" line. Clearly this is a forgery. Also, the letter says nothing. It’s just a bunch of platitudes, which makes it particularly funny when you think about Marquis composing it and then his watching the tearful John Ruth read it. Finally, the letter is used at two of the funniest/darkest parts of the movie. The first time, where John Ruth reads it, and it ends "with a punch line". Marquis punches Daisy in the mouth. Then the final scene, with the two former, ”natural-enemies", covered in blood and gore, nuts shot off, and dying together in the bed. Patriotic music plays in the background and the camera slowly pans up behind a severed arm dangling from a hung dead woman. "That's a nice touch" is the punch line for this scene and for the dark humor running through the entire movie. Once you get the joke, "that's a nice touch" gets funnier with every viewing.

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