Ken Burns, the premiere documentarian of Americana, tackles the life of Mark Twain, the first writer with a uniquely American voice. In this installment in Burns' "American Lives" series, the two 2-hour episodes explore a side of Twain that is unfamiliar to many. Widely regarded as the funniest person of the 19th century, Twain suffered through severe personal tragedies and lack of business sense that brought him to the brink of financial ruin on several occasions. Includes interviews with writers William Styron and Arthur Miller and actor Hal Holbrook (who has portrayed Twain in a one-man play each year for over 50 years). Written by
During his long life, he was a printer's apprentice and a riverboat pilot, a prospector who never struck gold, and a Confederate soldier who never fought a battle. He was considered the funniest man on earth, a brilliant performer on the lecture circuit who could entertain almost any audience... and a spectacularly inept businessman whose countless schemes to get rich quick threatened again and again to bring him to ruin. But above all, Mark Twain was a writer, a natural born storyteller, and a...
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To call him a great American is to limit him. He is a citizen of the world, read in every country, more American than anyone else, yet more critical of his country than most. I will never forget how mother read Tom Sawyer to me in German, in a park in Montevideo, Uruguay, when I was only nine, and how I couldn't stop laughing at the funny way the characters talked. I was convulsed with laughter, one of the first big laughing fits of my life. Alas, as I grew up, I lost interest in fiction. But Twain is more than a writer. He is a character with flaws and all. His taste for luxury is disappointing. To coin an aphorism: How sad that people born in log cabins, don't want to live in them! It is heartbreaking to see Twain sink into debt and his family separated by penury. And one also wonders how much Huckleberry Finn owes to Uncle Tom's Cabin. Why not a big documentary about Harriet Beecher Stowe? Was she less of a writer?
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