Hal Holbrook, who for decades has entertained as Mark Twain, received a big honor over the weekend in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Mo. Read more below:
News release from the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum: Hannibal, Mo., November 19, 2012 — After giving an electrifying performance in “Mark Twain Tonight!” the night before, veteran actor Hal Holbrook received the Mark Twain Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in a ceremony at the museum gallery on Sunday, November 18. Holbrook, who has been performing as Twain since 1954, is the first recipient of the award. The museum, which is celebrating its centennial year, announced the establishment of the award to honor someone whose life’s work has significantly furthered Twain’s legacy. There was no doubt among the one hundred attendees at the ceremony that Holbrook was the obvious choice.
Holbrook appeared deeply moved by the award. He spoke fondly of Hannibal and young Sam Clemens’s boyhood experiences there, saying, “Praise here goes a lot deeper than what you get in Hollywood.” He also commended the progress that has been made in Hannibal since his first appearance there in the 1950s and emphasized Twain’s importance to American culture, calling Twain “a critic of the entire human race.” Noted sculptor Don Wiegand created the award, a bas relief of Twain writing in bed, and presented it on behalf of The Wiegand Foundation and the Mark Twain Home Foundation. The piece was inspired by a portrait sculpture Wiegand had done for the museum in 1985, which he recreated and presented to President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office along with curator Henry Sweets. Wiegand presented the award alongside Sweets and Cindy Lovell, executive director of the museum.
Rich Warren, host of The Midnight Special, introduced Holbrook, comparing his legacy to Twain’s. “Often art and talent change the lives of people unknown and unseen by the author and actor.” Warren described Holbrook’s early influence on him and a countless unseen audience. He frequently includes excerpts from Holbrook’s audio recording of “Mark Twain Tonight!” on his radio program.
Stephen Foutes of the Missouri Division of Tourism spoke on behalf of Governor Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon, who prepared a proclamation for Holbrook honoring him for sharing Twain’s legacy in more than two-thousand performances since 1954. Nixon proclaimed Holbrook “an adopted son of Missouri.”
Steve Potter of St. Louis Public Radio closed the ceremony by interviewing Holbrook, who delighted the audience with personal anecdotes about family, life experiences, and his admiration for Twain. Holbrook published an autobiography last year, and will soon publish the second volume. He appears in Stephen Spielberg’s new film, “Lincoln,” and in the upcoming film “Promised Land” with Matt Damon.