History 101: Mark Twain Tonight! LP Record

Harold Rowe Holbrook Jr. (February 17, 1925 – January 23, 2021) was an American actor, television director, and screenwriter. He first received critical acclaim in 1954 for his one-man stage show called Mark Twain Tonight! of which this album is a excerpt. He performed Twain as a character for over 60 years.

In 1967, Mark Twain Tonight! was presented on television by CBS and Xerox, and Holbrook received an Emmy for his performance. It was a treat to find this record of that show:

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name of Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. This album does a good job of introducing us to the wit and wry humor of this interesting man! Over the years he was praised as the greatest humorist the United States ever produced, but fans of Will Rogers might dispute that claim.

Now it’s time to stop typing and let Holbrook regale us with his Twain:

The Dreams of Our Youth

This is the shortest clip on the record but still gives a good glimpse of the kind of performances you can expect from the effort.

It’s worth enlarging and reading the notes by Richard Schickel from the back of the album cover. He tells us that listening to this album ‘is rather like knowing Samuel Clemens himself… or so one imagines’. Not having ever heard a real recording of Twain myself, I’ll have to take his word for it!

Holbrook performed in a special production as Twain for the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair for the Bell Telephone Pavilion. This was the famous Fair that Disney provided so many iconic attractions for, like Abe Lincoln. We can imagine that Walt Disney himself, a fan of all things Americana, must have enjoyed Holbrook’s show!

Vining Productions Inc. produced this album in association with the CBS Television Network. It was manufactured and distributed by Columbia Records.

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