Hal Holbrook, the five-time Emmy-winning actor who was famed for portraying Mark Twain, has died at 95. Holbrook died on January 23 at his home in Beverly Hills, his assistant told The New York Times.
Born on February 17, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, he went on to have a highly decorated screen and stage career that spanned more than six decades.
Holbrook perhaps was best known for playing Mark Twain in his one-man stage show Mark Twain Tonight!, which first played on Broadway in 1966 and earned Holbrook a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. A television showing of the stage show secured him an Emmy nomination a year later, he reprised the role on the Main Stem in 1977 and again in 2005.
Holbrook would portray Twain onstage some 20-30 times a year into his mid-80s.
“I’ve just become more and more impressed with him,” Holbrook told the Boston Globe in 1997. “The same truths that captured me when I started in 1954 are even more apparent today.”
Holbrook played former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln on television in Carl Sandburg’s 1974 mini-series Lincoln, which earned him one of five Emmy statuettes. His four other Emmy wins came for Portrait of America in 1989, a double win for Pueblo in 1974 and The Bold Ones: The Senator in 1971.
Playing Deep Throat in 1974’s All the President’s Men was a highlight of his film career, and he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Sean Penn’s 2007 feature Into the Wild. His dozens of movie roles also included Wild in the Streets (1968), The Great White Hope (1970), They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), first Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force (1973), Midway (1976), Capricorn One (1977), The Fog (1980), Wall Street (1987), Fletch Lives (1989), The Firm (1993), Men of Honor (2000), That Evening Sun (2009) and Lincoln (2012).
Lincoln director Steven Spielberg released a statement today:
“In 1970, I visited the set of the TV series The Bold Ones: The Senator to watch Hal Holbrook play Senator Hays Stowe. From that day on, it was my dream to work with this transformative actor, and it finally happened 42 years later when he portrayed Preston Blair in Lincoln. Hal was, quite simply, an American classic who brought Mark Twain and so many of our nation’s most memorable characters back to life. He was unforgettable in All the President’s Men, Into the Wild and so many, many more roles over the years. I’ll be forever grateful for the time we spent together on Lincoln, and the world has lost a class act.”
Holbrook worked on many TV shows later in life, recurring as Gemma’s father in Sons of Anarchy, as well as featuring in high-profile series including Bones. He co-starred with Martin Sheen in the groundbreaking 1972 TV movie That Certain Summer, in which the two portrayed a gay couple. In the 1990s, Holbrook recurred on the sitcom Evening Shade.
Holbrook was a regular on the 1980s sitcom Designing Women. which starred his third wife Dixie Carter. His final screen roles came in Grey’s Anatomy and Hawaii Five-0, at age 92.
Other Broadway credits include Do You Know the Milky Way?, Man of La Mancha and Arthur Miller’s After the Fall.
Holbrook is survived by three children, two stepdaughters, two grandchildren and two stepgrandchildren.
Before marrying Carter, to whom he was wed until her death in 2010, Holbrook was divorced twice. He had two children, Victoria and David, with his first wife, Ruby; a daughter, Eve, with his second wife, Carol Eve Rossen; and was stepfather to Carter’s daughters Mary Dixie Carter and Ginna Carter.
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