Actor Hal Holbrook, Who Played Mark Twain Longer Than Twain Himself, Dies At 95


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«I’ve always wanted to just be an actor … that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be, playing different roles,» Hal Holbrook told NPR in 2008. He is shown above in his New York apartment in February 1973.

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Holbrook performed his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight for decades. He loved it, but in 2011, he told NPR’s Neal Conan that it took him a long time to break out of that role. «I was behind this mask, this disguise. And I finally had to be brave enough to get out,» he said.

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Holbrook won an Emmy in 1971 for his performance in the TV show The Senator.

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The 80th Annual Academy Awards
Hal Holbrook: From Mark Twain ‘Into the Wild’


Movie Interviews
Hal Holbrook: A Lifetime Of Diverse Roles


Author Interviews
Hal Holbrook On The Road To Becoming ‘Mark Twain’

«Character guys sometimes — and character women as well — they linger in minds longer than some more hotshot leading people do,» says film critic Schickel. «They turn up on TCM playing the best parts in the movie. I think that’s kind of where Hal will be ranked by theatrical and film history.»

Holbrook said Twain would always be precious to him, but when he was nominated for his first Academy Award, at 82, for his role in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, he was thrilled to be acknowledged for his work outside of Twain.

He told NPR, «I’ve always wanted to just be an actor. … That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be, playing different roles.»

In the end, it’s hard to know who played the role of Mark Twain better — Samuel Clemens or Hal Holbrook.

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