Sunday, 21 August 2011
Hal Holbrook, a real celebrity
One of the worst aspects of this age of celebrity is that the real celebrities seldom get written about any more, not least if they are also over 60 and male, let alone feature on the front covers of celebrity magazines side by side with the upcoming talent, to give upcoming talent something to aspire to!
Hal Holbrook has been a huge favourite of mine since early childhood for his sheer character, dignity and presence. Casting agents obviously noticed it too as his long film career has seen him cast as everything from Abraham Lincoln to fictitious presidents, military leaders, priests and judges, many paragons of everything good embodying the Stars and Stripes, some not so! (sic the corrupt Lieutenant Briggs in Magnum Force). He has also done his fair share of Shakespeare and other theatre.
Meanwhile he has simultaneously spent more than 60 years touring his very own award-winning one man show, 'Mark Twain Tonight!' as a remarkably convincing Mark Twain, though he has ruefully commented that he has needed less and less make-up as he has gotten older! This show is all the more remarkable as Mr Holbrook has painstakingly memorised pretty well every word Mark Twain ever wrote and introduces random selections in every show so that no two shows are ever the same (unless of course he cheated by reincarnating from the real Mark Twain; and watching Mr Holbrooks' performance, you can entirely believe this might be the case!) The show remains a hot ticket to this day, even though several young pretenders have tried to steal Mr Hobrook's thunder with their own versions.
Above is an extract from his famous 1966 recording watched by over 30 million people. I have the full video and it is among my most treasured possessions.
Not a bad litany of achievement for the son of a railroad hobo and I am delighted to note that Mr Holbrook has finally got round to penning his autobiography which will be out next month. I am sure it will be infinitely more fascinating than Jordan's!
A thoughtful interview with him here of the depth and seriousness we sadly now lack on British television.