Recreating the one-man show he starred in on Broadway, 'Hal Holbrook' portrays Mark Twain as a 70-year old humorist who skewers politicians, newspapermen and so-called patriots in this 90 ... See full summary »
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
He was a Southerner and a Northerner, a Westerner and a New England Yankee; a tireless wanderer who lived in a thousand places all around the world. He would call just two of them home: the Missouri town of his childhood, which he would transform into the idealized hometown of every American boy, and the magnificent Connecticut house he built for his wife and children, which he hoped would shelter them from hardship, but where heartbreak found them nonetheless.
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This is one of the finest films I have ever seen. And I have watched it over and over. One comes away awed that one man could have endured so much sorrow and been able to translate it in a way other people could learn from, sometimes through laughter.
Ken Burns is a treasure. He has given us a well rounded picture of a gifted man who was all too human. Could one person have lived his life more fully than Samuel Clemens? This is a fascinating study of a writer I knew little about and now will honor whenever I hear his name.
Mark Twain was not afraid to write about ugly things, evil things, but wise enough to do so in a manner that lead the reader deep into the subject before realizing the truths he met along the way, and by then it was too late. The reader learned something about slavery or how one group of people treats another or about human nature that he had not intended to learn.
This film is a masterpiece and worth viewing often.
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