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RIP Hal Holbrook, Actor Who Played Mark Twain

Hal Holbrook was a beloved, powerful presence on stage and on screen. He had several major roles and continued to act up to a few years before his death.

The range that Hal displayed was impressive and allowed him to play several different roles. One of the most well-known was his touring production of “Mark Twain Tonight!”

Hal Holbrook earned a Grammy nomination and 5 Emmys throughout his lifetime. He also developed a devoted fanbase. They were so dedicated that they almost refused to believe reports of his death until they were officially confirmed.

Like and subscribe for more trustworthy, up-to-date celebrity news. Keep watching as we honor Hal Holbrook’s life and the influential roles he brought to life.

Hal Holbrook’s Childhood

Hal Holbrook’s full name is Harold Rowe Holbrook Jr. He was born on February 17th, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew to be a successful actor, but his childhood was less than idyllic.

When Hal was 2 years old, his mother Aileen abandoned him to join the chorus of Earl Carrol’s Vanities. After his father Harold Sr. left for California, he was sent to live with his grandparents in South Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Hal’s interest in acting was evident from an early age, but he also followed other pursuits. He attended the Culver Military Academy in Indiana throughout his high school years. He also enrolled at Denison University and majored in the dramatic arts but had to leave school to serve as an army engineer during WWII.

While stationed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Hal Holbrook joined an amateur theater group. This was where he began to hone his acting skills and met his first wife Ruby Elain Johnston. They moved back to Denison together after the war ended.

Hal Holbrook’s Family and Love Life

Hal Holbrook had a daughter named Victoria and a son named David with his first wife Ruby. They were divorced in 1965.

Hal had another daughter named Eve with his second wife Carol Eve Rossen. They were divorced in 1983.

In 1984, Hal Holbrook got married again to Dixie Carter. She died in 2010.

Hal eventually gained the family he lacked as a child. He is survived by his children Victoria, David, and Eve. He also has two stepdaughters named Ginna and Mary Dixie Carter, two grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren.

Hal Holbrook’s Screen and Television Roles

Hal Holbrook became a recurring presence on television and movie screens. He showed an impressive range that allowed him to perform almost any role.

One of Hal Holbrook’s earliest screen roles came in 1970. He played a protagonist resembling John F. Kennedy in “The Senator.”

In 1972, Hal played alongside Martin Sheen in the film “That Certain Summer.” He took on the role of a divorced man who admits to his son that he has a gay lover.

In 1973, Hal Holbrook earned a role in “Pueblo.”

In 1974, he played President Abraham Lincoln in the miniseries “Lincoln.”

In 1976, Hal played an anonymous informant known as Deep Throat in “All the President’s Men.” It was one of his first major screen roles, as most of his previous screen credits had been for smaller parts.

As Hal’s popularity grew, he began to earn recurring roles in television shows. These included series such as “Designing Women” in the 1980s and “Evening Shade” in the 1990s.

In 1993, Hal played the head of a Memphis law firm in “The Firm.” The film was based on a corporate whodunit novel by John Grisham.

In 2007, he earned a film role in “Into the Wild.” This Alaskan adventure story directed by Sean Penn gained him even more notoriety.

In 2012, Hal returned to the story of Abraham Lincoln by taking on a different role. He played Republican Preston Blair in the film “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg.

In 2017, Hal was beginning to age and slow down his performance schedule. He performed in his final television roles during this year. They included guest star spots on episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Hawaii 5-0.”

Hal Holbrook’s career was long, wide-ranging, and successful. He was nominated for and won several awards throughout his life. They include an Oscar nomination for “Into the Wild” and 5 Emmys for his work on projects such as “Lincoln,” “The Bold Ones,” “The Senator,” and “Pueblo.

Hal’s Stage Presence

Hal Holbrook had a long and successful career in television and film, but he was also an impressive stage actor.

His first stage role was in 1961’s Do You Know the Milky Way?” It was a little-known and unsuccessful stage production but brought Hal Holbrook into the world of theater.

He also played in Man of La Mancha and After the Fall, took on the roles of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, Shakespear’s Hotspur and King Lear, and the Stage Manager in “Our Town” by Thorton Wilder.

Hal Holbrook embodied Mark Twain in a worldwide one-man show. This became his most successful and well-known role.

Like and subscribe for more. Keep watching to find out how Hal Holbrook became Mark Twain and how it kept him going through mental struggles.

How Hal Holbrook Became Mark Twain

Edward A. Wright, Hal’s mentor at Denison University, came up with the idea of a staged reading of Mark Twain’s work. Hal was his favorite student, so he approached him with the idea.

In 1947, Hal Holbrook was already working on a production known as Great Personalities with his wife Ruby. It included portrayals of Robert and Elizabeth Barret Browning, John Alden, Priscilla Mullins, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and more.

Edward A Wright asked him to add Mark Twain to the production. Hal wasn’t originally thrilled with the idea and didn’t think the jokes were funny. Despite his original reservations, he brought the character to life.

The first performance of “Great Expectations” was in 1948. They performed their Mark Twain sketch to an audience of psychiatric patients at a veteran’s hospital in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was a hit and became the most popular part of the show as they continued to tour for the next four years.

Hal Holbrook began to create the idea for a one-man show in 1952 when his first child Victoria was born. He spoke to people who knew Mark Twain personally to add to the authenticity of the performance.

In 1954, Hal finalized his one-man show titled “Mark Twain Tonight!” The first performance was at the Lock Haven State Teachers College in Pennsylvania.

The show eventually moved to television in 1956, with Hal appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show.”

Despite this success, he needed a steady job. This came in 1954 in the form of his recurring role as a recovering alcoholic in the soap opera “The Brighter Day.”

Hal found himself unfulfilled by this soap opera run and wanted to return to projects he felt passionate about. In 1959, he brought “Mark Twain Tonight” to the Off-Broadway 41st Street Theater.

Hal took the show on tour through Europe after it became a hit in the United States. He performed in the United Kingdom, Germany, and several other countries.

By 2017, Hal Holbrook had been playing Mark Twain for over 6 decades. He decided to retire the role, writing to the Oklahoma theater he was slated to perform at to tell them “I have served my trade, gave it my all, heart and soul, as a dedicated actor can.”

How Mark Twain Cheered Him Up

Despite his success, Hal Holbrook had a difficult life and continued to struggle mentally. Fortunately, the very author he portrayed so well helped him get through it.

Hal wrote a set of memoirs entitled “Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain.” They tell the story of his life in his own words. They reveal that he had been lonely since being abandoned as a child and felt “survival and suicide impulses working in tandem” as an adult. He needed an escape, and Mark Twain provided it for him.

Hal’s spirits were at an all-time low in the 1950s. He was sitting in a hotel room while pondering whether he should do a full show about Mark Twain. He picked up a nearby copy of Tom Sawyer and began to read it.

He reveled in the way the voices came off the page, enjoying the story of the young boy and feeling his bitterness recede. In his own words, “Mark Twain had cheered me up.”

Details of His Death

Hal Holbrook died almost 4 years after his final television roles. He had always been devoted to his craft and the type of actor who would work up until his last breath.

On February 1st, 2021, Hal Holbrook’s death was confirmed by his assistant Joyce Cohen.

He died in his Beverly Hills, California home at the age of 95. Reports don’t indicate what Hal died of or if his family was present at the time.

The “Hoax”

The news of Hal Holbrook’s death spread via a R.I.P Hal Holbrook Facebook page that got nearly one million likes. It included an about page that stated:

“At about 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday (February 02, 2021), our beloved actor Hal Holbrook passed away. Hal Holbrook was born on February 17, 1925, in Cleveland. He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page.”

Hundreds of fans responded with messages of condolence. They also spread messages on Twitter.

While there were plenty of genuine responses, some fans were skeptical due to a recent spike in fake celebrity death reports. These fears were compounded by the fact that the story didn’t appear on any major news networks. Fans felt that such a major actor’s death was important enough to warrant coverage.

Celebrity Post wanted to gauge the public’s opinions about the reports of Hal’s death. They issued a poll in which 92% of respondents said that the so-called rumors were “not funny anymore.” Even after the truth came out, this powerful response still shows how many devoted fans Hal Holbrook had.

While he may be most known for portraying Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook was a talented actor with a wide range. He added his powerful presence to televisions, movie screens, and theater stages.

Do you prefer Hal Holbrook’s performances on the screen or the stage? Let us know in the comments, and like and subscribe for more up-to-date celebrity news.

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