The Heartbreaking Death Of Hal Holbrook

Hal Holbrook

Holbrook's mentor at the college, Edward Wright, suggested he add Mark Twain to the roster, and the character was first tried out in front of an audience of psychiatric patients at an OH veterans hospital.

Holbrook won Emmys in 1971 for "The Senator"; in 1973 for "Pueblo" (winning twice that year, for best lead actor in a drama and actor of the year in a special); in 1974 for the miniseries "Sandberg's Lincoln"; and in 1989 for outstanding performance in worldwide programming for the Alaska episode of "Portrait of America".

Tributes began soon after word came of Holbrook's death. But arguably his greatest role was that of Mark Twain, a role that he would perform on the stage for decades after debuting the act on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 propelled him to national stardom. Holbrook's dedication to transforming into Twain won him acclaim and admirers, and eventually he developed the one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!

Holbrook and his first wife, Ruby Johnson, later created a two-person show, playing characters from Shakespeare to Twain. He returned to Broadway with the show in 1977 and again in 2005, appearing in more than 2,200 shows in venues across the country as the American author. "That's all I've ever wanted to be, playing different roles". He never ceases to amaze me.

He said he had performed the show every year since and in every state, as well as around the world.

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He was married three times. "Hal made [Twain] lovable [through] some unusual connection he had made with Twain's character". He was Burt Reynolds' crotchety father-in-law in the 1990s TV series "Evening Shade". Further Emmys would be won for his role as Lincoln in an NBC miniseries in 1974, with Holbrook going on to play the 16th president two more times in the 1985 ABC Civil War miniseries North and South and its sequel.

Other notable stage credits included "After the Fall", "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" and "I Never Sang for My Father".

In his later years, the actor was nominated for an Oscar for his 2008 work Into the Wild, becoming the oldest actor at 82 to be nominated for best supporting actor. He had two children, Victoria and David, with his first wife; and a daughter, Eve, with his second wife, Rossen. She died in 2010. He was stepfather to Mary Dixie Carter and Ginna Carter.

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