Humorist, author, lecturer, essayist, social critic and entrepreneur Samuel Clemens was best known by his pen name Mark Twain and was labeled by William Faulkner “the father of American literature.” While born in Florida, Missouri in 1835, he lived long enough in the state of Connecticut, and died here in 1910 at the age of seventy-four, to be considered an honorary Connecticut son and a true state legacy.
Sixty years ago, in 1954, actor Hal Holbrook first donned the traditional white suit that brought to mind Mark Twain. Since that iconic moment, Holbrook's and Twain's names have been synonymous. Holbrook developed his unique one-man stage show while he was in college: "Mark Twain Tonight," for which he won both a Tony and a Drama Desk Award. Ed Sullivan saw one of his early performances and gave him national exposure. He was even sent by the State Department to Europe to perform. Holbrook has done the role well over 2000 times. As he has aged with this role, one advantage is that make-up is considerably less these days.
Now the city that Twain called home for two decades, Hartford, will pay a remarkable tribute to Twain on the momentous occasion of Hal Holbrook's 90th birthday, on the exact day, February 17. All these celebrations will serve as a noteworthy fundraising event for the Mark Twain House, termed "one of the loveliest home(s) that ever was." The evening will be filled with philosophy and wit and excerpts from Twain's most memorable books, with an emphasis on the humorous ones, like "Huckleberry Finn."
This gala event will take place at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday,, February 17 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets ($25-75), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org. A special VIP/Gold/Broadway Circle Package includes Premium Orchestra Seating and a private dessert reception after the show with Mr. Holbrook at a higher ticket price.
His home in Hartford at 351Farmington Avenue is a tribute to the memory of this man of letters, a house he designed and built and lived in with his family for seventeen years, from 1874-1891. His beloved wife Olivia gave birth to their three daughters there, Susy, Clara and Jean. In 1927, the house was rescued from demolition and is now a fascinating place stuffed with personal memorabilia. It was here he wrote some of his best known works: “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” “Life on the Mississippi,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court."