The personal assistant to Hal Holbrook revealed that the veteran actor died on January 23rd at his home in Beverly Hills at 95. No cause of death was given.
In a career that spanned over six decades, Holbrook played many roles on the stage and in movies and TV, from “The Sopranos” and “Evening Shade” to the Dirty Harry movie “Magnum Force” and Deep Throat in “All The President’s Men.” In 2007, he became the oldest Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee ever at 81 for “Into The Wild.” As recently as 2017, at age 92, he appeared in “Hawaii 5-0” and “Gray’s Anatomy.”
But by far his most famous role was Mark Twain. Inspired by his college research project, Holbrook started playing the great American humorist onstage in 1957 and became synonymous with Twain for the next 60 years. He developed it into the one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight” that won him a Best Actor Tony in 1966. In 1967, it became a CBS TV special that won him an Emmy. He also recorded two live record albums of Twain material and performed the show all over the world before finally retiring in 2017, long after he no longer needed old age makeup.
Holbrook had memorized so many of Twain’s works that nobody ever knew which ones he was going to perform until he walked out on stage and started talking, so that every show was different. It was another way in which it was just like seeing Twain himself. My wife Laura and I are big Twain fans, and we each saw Hal Holbrook perform different shows before we were married. It remains a cherished memory for both of us.
Holbrook was buried in McLemoresville, Tennessee, alongside his late wife, “Designing Women” star Dixie Carter, who died of cancer in 2010. Despite playing a liberal on the show, she once jokingly referred to herself as “the only Republican in show business.” Rest in peace to them both.