The dramatized life of immortal humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, from his days as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River until his death in 1910 shortly after Halley's Comet returned.
Bob Gordon is staging a new Broadway Show, but he is short of money. He gets an offer of money by the young widow Lilian, if she can dance in his new show. Bert Keeler, a paper man, gets ... See full summary »
He was a riverboat pilot, newspaper reporter, penniless prospector, would-be entrepreneur, loving family man, world traveler, pomposity burster and raconteur. Then he passed away on April 21, 1910 at age 75 shorty after Halley's Comet returned as he predicted. This turns out that the man who created adventures for Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and a Connecticut Yankee led a mighty adventurous life himself. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) said, "Truth is a very valuable thing. I believe we should be economical with it." And that sets the tone for what follows: a biography about the immortal humorist's life from Hannibal boyhood to Big River exploits to global literary lion and more. Written by
Michael Crew <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The typesetting machine (aka Paige Compositor) for which Clemens was so enthusiastic was never a profitable venture due to the need for continual adjustment. Clemens' investment was about $300,000 or in present day monies: $5,820,000. See more »
The film first shows Mark Twain wearing his famous white suit as the author speaks to his wife Livy while she is on her deathbed. Twain began wearing the suit only after he had finished mourning his wife's death, at which time he swore he would only wear white for the rest of his life. (Michael Shelden recounted this in the opening of his biography, "Mark Twain: Man in White -- The Grand Adventure of His Final Years.") See more »
Well I found out what a mine is anyway. It's a hole in the ground with a darn fool at the end of it.
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Like Samuel Clemens, himself, this film is a great illustration of the Art of Exaggeration. The rough outline of Twain's life is retained as a foundation for greater elaboration. The Calaveras County episode is a perfect example. Would it have had the same impact on us if Twain (Fredric March) had been a mere bystander? Absolutely not! We have a stake in its outcome because HE has a stake in it. Would it have been as funny if Twain's partner, Steve Gillis (Alan Hale) hadn't been responsible for filling the opposing frog full of buckshot? No way; Gillis' responsibility involves us. That Twain has bet on the frog of the opponent, Bret Harte (John Carradine), and lost all their money serves the interests of justice. More importantly, however, it is one more example of the ironic failings of Twain's early life. Having Bret Harte be the owner of the opposing frog is pure genius - a clever homage to another great American author, who was Twain's contemporary. He is played with aplomb by John Carradine, a wonderfully versatile performer, whose earlier career as a character actor is sadly overshadowed by his later career as a stereotypical ghoul.
As other commentators have noted, March is phenomenal in capturing the legendary Mark Twain. March is one of the greatest actors in American film history. His performance here is typically nuanced, capturing the dry wit of Twain with understated charisma, and also the pathos of the man in his private life. Brilliant!
Alexis Smith is wonderful, too. She had the ability to capture loving, devoted women with a realistic warmth that is never over-sentimental. Besides, she is very easy to look at. (At a similar age, Jody Foster bears an uncanny resemblance to Alexis Smith in this movie. The cameo could easily have been of Foster.)
The very personification of the Art of Exaggeration is Alan Hale, here portraying Steve Gillis, Twain's sidekick out west. Somehow in roles such as Gillis he is capable of the greatest of acting paradoxes - delivering exaggerated performances that NEVER seem overacted or hammy. His characters always appear natural, yet larger than life. Offhand it is difficult to think of another actor who accomplished this incredible balance. I would watch ANY movie in which Hale appears.
Likewise, comedies of this era seem to be able to strike that same balance - natural, yet larger than life. That is what sets them apart. Later films don't seem to be able to capture the same balance. In attempting to do so, actors just come across as hammy. The Art of Exaggeration in American film, got lost some time in the late 40's. What a shame. Movies like this are the quintessence of that fine art.
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