Hal Holbrook: 1925-2021

If you were to look at a photo of Hal Holbrook without knowing who he was, you might not immediately mark him as an actor. With his bland and elegant appearance, he gave the appearance of someone who was the head of the local Rotary club or perhaps a mid-level official. However, when he opened his mouth there was no doubt that he was born to be an actor, and he proved to be an unusual talent in an award-winning career that spanned over seven decades, playing everything, from historical figures to ordinary figures. guys to an equally compelling effect, and, in one memorable case, bringing one of the great puzzles of our time to life.

He was born Harold Rowe Holbrook Jr. in Cleveland, Ohio on February 17, 1925, one of three siblings raised by their paternal grandparents. He attended Denison University in Ohio and then served in World War II in Newfoundland, where he performed in a number of theatrical productions. While studying at Denison, he worked on an honorary project on the life of Mark Twain and this eventually led him to play Twain for the first time in 1954 at Lock Haven State Teachers College in Pennsylvania and to start developing a one-on-one show about the writer’s life as a member of the Valley Players, a society by summer actions. in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He had his first national exposure in the role when Ed Sullivan put him on his show in 1956 and started playing the showMark Twain tonightin 1959.

Over the next several years, he would perform the role around the world in venues ranging from behind the Iron Curtain to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Mark Twain tonightwent to Broadway in 1966, where he won a Tony Award for his performance. The following year, he featured the show on television and received his first Emmy nomination. Throughout his career, he continued to perform the show, including additional appearances on Broadway in 1977 and 2005, until he finally retired in 2017.

However, Holbrook’s long and varied career would show him that he was more than just a single-ride pony. On stage, he would be at the origin of the role of the major in Arthur Millerof Incident in Vichyin 1964 and served as a replacement for Richard kiley during the Broadway series premiere Man from La Mancha. On television, he appeared as a son in a production of “Glass factory” opposite Shirley Booth and he made his big screen debut in the 1966 screen version of Mary McCarthy’s “The group.“Over the next several years, he would become a familiar face on television with appearances on shows such as ‘The FBI’, ‘The Name of the Game’ and “The daring: the senator”, where he received his first Emmy, and in films like the one in 1967 “Wild in the streets“(Where he would play the first of a number of political figures),”People next door“(1970) and” The Great White Hope “.

His next big breakthrough came in 1973 when he appeared in “This certain summer” a made-for-TV movie about a teenage boy (Scott Jacoby) who comes to terms with his father (Holbrook) being gay and dating another man (Martin sheen). At the time of its release, the film was hugely controversial, but it was hailed as a sensitive portrayal of a subject that was almost verboten on television up to this point and which would earn Holbrook another Emmy nomination. The following year, he received two more Emmy awards for “Pueblo”, a film made about the capture of the USS Pueblo. The whole world received another Emmy in 1976 for playing Abraham Lincoln in “Sandburg’s Lincoln”.

On the big screen, he contributed his voice to the big screen version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull(1973) and let’s not talk about it anymore. He took the character of a man of great moral rectitude whom he had achieved throughout his career and skillfully twisted it with his appearance in “Magnum Force” (1973), the “Dirty HarryA sequel in which he played a net police lieutenant who turned out to be the leader of a group of rogue cops who executed suspected criminals. While the movie is pretty silly, it brought a fair amount of low-key threat to the game and it opened up a new avenue for him to portray an array of characters who were outwardly friendly but hid dark secrets.

In 1976, he would take on what would be, with the exception of Twain, the most iconic role of his career as the mysterious informant known only as “Deep Throat” in “All the president’s men.” Holbrook was initially one of many actors considered for the role of Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee (eventually played by Jason robards) but he would end up landing the role of Deep Throat instead and in a movie brimming with excellent casting choices, it was perhaps the most inspired of the bunch. Since the character spends all of his screen time literally hiding in the shadows and giving Woodward cryptic information (Robert redford), an actor with a distinct voice and manner of speaking was clearly needed to help give the scenes real impact. This has been accomplished in spectacular fashion – his intonation of the phrase “follow the money” continues to resonate today to such an extent that even if the identity of the true Deep Throat would eventually come out, most people continue to ring. imagine Holbrook in their minds when they think of him.

Over the years, he would continue to divide his time between film and television. On the big screen, he appeared in the epic WWII “Midway” (1976), co-starred in “Rituals,“A surprisingly efficient 1977”Issuance”Knockoff, and played the NASA official behind the massive conspiracy at the heart of the popular thriller Capricorn one (1977). He was the local priest of a town founded on a murderous secret in John carpentercult hit ofFog and appeared in one of the segments of George romeroof “Horror showAs a pecked husband who finds an unusual way to deal with his marital problems. In “The star chamber,“He played a character not unlike the one he tried in” Magnum Force “and in Oliver stoneof Wall Street (1987), he briefly emerged as one of the few moral voices of morality amidst a sea of ​​greed and greed. He returned to the dark side as one of the main partners of The company(1993) and would receive his first Oscar nomination in 2007 (making him the oldest actor nominated at that time) for his loving support. Sean PennofIn nature. “

On television, he received additional Emmy nominations for “Our city” (1978) and for the episodes of “Portrait of America” in 1988 and 1989, winning her last Emmy for the latter. He played John adams in the mini-series “George washington“(1984) Abraham Lincoln in” North & South “(1985-1986) and General George marshall in “Day One” (1989). He would also prove to be a familiar face making appearances on a number of longtime television shows, including “Designing Women” where he worked alongside the Third Wife. Dixie Carter and even directed a few episodes, “The West Wing”, “NCIS”, “The Sopranos” and “ER” He was also a co-star of the popular sitcom “Evening shadow” from 1990 to 1994.

In his later years he appeared in films such as the acclaimed independent drama This evening sun (2009), Some water for the elephants (2011) and “Promised land” (2012) and played Preston Blair in Steven spielberghistorical epic of Lincoln(2012). On television, he appeared on shows such as “” The Event “,” Sons of Anarchy “,” Bones “,” Grey’s Anatomy “and” Hawaii Five-O “. In 2011, he published his autobiography, “Harold: the boy who became Mark Twain” and, of course, he would continue to portray Mark Twain, joking that as he got older he needed less time in the makeup chair to get ready.

When he finally stopped playing the role of Twain in 2017, after more than 2,100 performances over the decades, many joked that he was playing Twain longer than Samuel Clemens himself. Although this inimitable voice is now silent, its rich work heritage remains to be appreciated for years to come.

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