Actor Hal Holbrook has passed away at the age of 95. The accomplished TV, film, and stage actor died on January 23rd, at his Beverly Hills home. His death was confirmed by his assistant Joyce Cohen to The New York Times on Monday night. The breadth and versatility of Holbrook’s career lives on through acclaimed movie roles, such as Deep Throat in All the President’s Men (1976), the wise and generous Ron Franz in Into the Wild (2007), for which he earned an Oscar nomination, and Republican figure Preston Blair in 2012’s Lincoln. Holbrook had a lengthy and successful career in television, as well. Some of his popular projects include, the sitcom Designing Women (1986-89), the mini-series Lincoln (1974), in which he won the Emmy for his portrayal of Abe, and groundreaking TV movie That Certain Summer (1972), playing a closeted gay father.
As exceptional as those roles are, Holbrook’s most recognized and longest-standing role was as Mark Twain in his one-man stage performance, “Mark Twain Tonight!” Holbrook became intimately acquainted with the persona of Twain, playing him for almost 60 years. He began at age 29 and retired from the character and show in 2017 at 80. Holbrook as Twain arose from a small sketch performance called “Great Personalities,” with his first-wife Ruby, where the couple pantomimed historic duos like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His Twain became the most successful feature of the sketch and took Holbrook around the country and the world.
As Twain, he was featured on late-night talk shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show in the fifties. By 1966 he had won a Tony for his first Broadway run of “Mark Twain Tonight!” and later reprised the role in 2005. The character of Mark Twain provided inspiration and solace for Holbrook throughout his life, an experience he details in his 2011 memoir, Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain.
Holbrook continued to work in all three mediums of entertainment into his nineties. His final credits are from 2017, in which he made guest-appearances in the series Grey’s Anatomy and Hawaii Five-0 at the age of 92. His wife Dixie Carter, whom he co-starred with on Designing Women, unfortunately passed away in 2012 from endometrial cancer complications. Holbrook is survived by his children and step-children, as well as four grandchildren.