Hall Holbrook, Actor Who Scored Mark Twain, Is Dead at 95

Hal Holbrook, who had a substantial acting career in television and film, but who received his widespread acclaim for his one-man show worldwide fame, including Mark Twain in the vineyard, died on January 23 Gaya. He had a home in Beverly Hills, California. He was 95.

His death was confirmed by his assistant Joyce Cohen on Monday night.

Mr. Holbrook had a long and fruitful run as an actor. He was the shadowy patriot Deep Throat in “All the President’s Men” (1976); A brilliant grandfather role in “Into the Wild” (2007), for which he received an Oscar nomination; And influential Republican Preston Blair Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (2012).

He himself played the 16th president on television in the mini-series Karl Sandberg’s “Lincoln” in 1974. The performance earned him an Emmy Award, one of five he won for his performances in television films and mini-series; Others included “The Bold Ones: The Senator” (1970), his protagonist John F. Kennedy, and “Pueblo” (1973), in which he played the commander of a naval intelligence boat seized by North Korea in 1968.

Mr. Holbrook was a regular on the 1980s television series “Designing Women”. He played the role of Willie Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” Shakespeare’s Hotspur And king leer, And Stage manager In Thornton Wilder’s “Our City”.

But above all it was Mark TwainStanding alone onstage in a white linen suit is the ubiquitous, aggressive and human description of human comedy.

Mr. Holbrook never claimed to be a twin scholar; In fact, he said, he had only read Twain’s work as a youth. He said the idea of ​​staging Twain’s work came from his mentor Edward A. Wright at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. And Mr. Wright was the first to admit that the idea actually originated with Twain – or rather Samuel Clemens, who adopted Mark Twain as a stage name and who had read his work for years .

Mr. Holbrook was finishing his senior year as a play in 1947, when Mr. Wright talked him into adding Twain in a production that Mr. Holbrook and his wife Ruby were planning called “Great Personality” , In which they will portray, among others, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Mr. Holbrook was suspected at first. “Ed, I think Mark Twain’s talk is very intoxicating,” he said, recalling Mr. Wright after the first rehearsal. “I don’t think it’s ridiculous.”

But Mr. Wright dominated it to keep up with it, and in 1948 the character appeared when Holbrook hit the road with a “Great Personality” tour production.

He first tried a Twain sketch in front of a psychiatric patient at the veteran hospital in Chillicote, Ohio – a situation Mr. Holbrook explained only vaguely in his 2011 memoir, “Harold: The Boy Who Bought Mark Twain”. In the sketch, Mr. Holbrook’s canteen Twain was interviewed by Ruby Holbrook:

“how old are you?”

“Nineteen in June.”

“Who are the most remarkable men you met?”

“George Washington.”

“How could you meet George Washington if you were only nineteen years old?”

“If you know more about me than me, what do you ask me?”

The patients looked straight ahead – “no one was looking at us,” Mr. Holbrook has written – and written in laughing lines, proving that “the people of the ward were saints than they looked” and that The material had legs.

Twain Peace became his most popular sketch over the next four years, as the pair performed for the nation’s schoolchildren, women’s clubs, college students and Rotterians.

Mr. Holbrook began developing his one-man show in 1952, the year Ms. Holbrook gave birth to her first child, Victoria. He soon saw the part, with Twain’s unruly face, a walrus mustache and a wig to match with a white linen suit, the way Twain wore himself on stage. From his grandfather, Mr. Holbrook received an old pen, which he cut from three cigars he had lost during the performance (though he was not sure Twain had ever smoked on stage). He looked for those who saw and heard Twain, who died in 1910, and listened to his memories.

His role was more or less completed by 1954, the year he started a one-man show called “Mark Twain Tonight”! Lock Haven State Teachers College in Pennsylvania.

Two years later he took his Twain on television, performing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” And “The Tonight Show.” Meanwhile he did a steady job in 1954 on the TV soap opera “The Brighter Day”, on which he played the role of a drunken drunkard. The stent lasted until 1959, when, he no longer cared about the exhaustion of the roles, he chanted “Mark Twain Knight!” Opened in At Off Broadway 41st Street Theater.

By then the metamorphosis was complete. With his trembling moves, Missouri draws, sly glimpses and perfect timing, Hal Holbrook became Mark Twain for all intents and purposes.

Arthur Gelb wrote in the New York Times, “After watching and listening to him for five minutes,” it is impossible to doubt that he is Mark Twain, or that Twain must be one of the most enchanting men ever known. Lecture tour

But for Mr. Holbrook, Mark Twain’s impression he was a mask every night; Behind this, he wrote in his memoir, was a loneliness that plagued his early life, the beginning when his parents abandoned him as a young child. As an adult he caught his marriage, his father and even his stage life in an existential deadlock, “working together with survival and suicide.” His escape, he said, was punishing the amount of work, not to mention the company of friends like Tom Sawyer and Hook Finn.

In his memoir, Mr. Holbrook described an emotional low point in the early 1950s. He sat in a hotel room at the end of a long day, still reluctant about doing an All-Mark Twain show and feeling lost when he first reunited “Tom Sawyer” after high school. commenced.

He wrote, “You heard voices coming out of the page.” “It was a surprise, and after a while I found myself feeling happy and he was surprised as well. The bitterness came again and instead a boy came into the crowd, his friends and his family came in, and it was very It wasn’t long before I no longer felt alone. Mark Twain made me happy. “

Harold Rowe Holbrook Jr. was born on February 17, 1925 in Cleveland. He was 2 years old when his parents left him. His mother, the former Ellen Davenport, ran away to appear in the chorus of “Earl Carroll’s Vanities” Review. Harold Sr. went to California after leaving young Hal under the care of grandparents in South Weymouth, Mass.

The young Mr. Holbrook spent his high school years at Culver Military Academy in Indiana and then enrolled at Dennison in Dramatic Arts, but his education as an Army engineer was interrupted during World War II. He was stationed for a while in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he joined an amateur theater group and met Ruby Allen Johnson, who became his first wife. The couple returned to Denison after the war, and Mr. Holbrook soon became Mr. Wright’s award student.

After becoming an established attraction in the United States, Mr. Holbrook called “Mark Twain Tonight!” took. Performances for Europe, in Britain, Germany and elsewhere. German audiences roared when they offered Twain’s view of the Wagnerian opera: “I went to Bayreuth and took Parsifal”. I’ll never forget it. The first act took two hours and despite singing, I used to enjoy it a lot. “

Mr. Holbrook toured the country with the show several times a year, with more than 2,000 performances. He compiled an estimated 15 hours of Twain’s writing, which drowned him whenever he needed to refresh his routine. He wrote in 1966 “Mark Twain Tonight!” Won the Tony Award for its first Broadway run.

Mr. Holbrook was 29 when he started playing Twain in the 70s; As she grew older, she found that she needed less and less makeup to look older. He did his acting well on his 70th birthday. Returning to Broadway in 2005, When he was 80 years old.

He abruptly ended the role in 2017, after playing the role of Twain for more than six decades. “I know it has to end, this long effort to do a good job,” He wrote in a letter Oklahoma Theater where he was scheduled to perform. “I have served my business, as a dedicated actor, have given it to all of me, heart and soul.”

Mr. Holbrook wrote the short-lived “Do You Know the Milky Way?” In 1961. He returned to the musical “La Mancha’s Man” in Arthur Miller’s “After Fall” and other plays.

His television appearances included “That Summer Summer” (1972), A great movie In which he starred as a divorced man, who must eventually admit to his son that he has a gay lover (Martin Sheen). In the early 1990s he played a recurring role on the sitcom “Evening Shed”.

Many of Mr. Holbrook’s film roles were minor, though there were exceptions. One mysterious informant was Deep Throat as “All the President’s Men”, written in 1976 about Bob Woodward and Karl Bernstein’s book Watergate Cover-Up. Another was “The Firm” (1993), based on John Grisham’s corporate whodunit, in which Mr. Holbrook played the stop-on-nothing head of a Memphis law firm.

His Oscar-nominated performance in “Into the Wild”, directed by Sean Penn, was as a retired military man with a desert encounter with a young man in search of self-knowledge that would eventually lead him to the wickedness of Alaska . His last screen roles were in 2017 when, at the age of 92, he guest starred in episodes of the television series “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Hawaii Five-0”.

Mr. Holbrook’s first marriage took place in 1965 as a divorce. In addition to his daughter Victoria, he had a son, David. Her second marriage to actress Carol Eve Rossen ended in 1979 as a divorce. They had a daughter, Eve. In 1984 she married actress Dixie Carter, Who died in 2010.

She is survived by her children as well as two step daughters, Jinnah Carter and Mary Dixie Carter; Two grandchildren; And two step grandchildren.

In adopting Mark Twain’s writing for the stage, Mr. Holbrook stated that he has the best possible guide: Twain himself.

“He had a real understanding of the difference between delivering the word on the page and on a platform,” he said Told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2011. “You have to leave out many adjectives. An artist is an adjective.”

Richard Severo, Paul Vitello and William Macdonald contributed reporting.

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