All The President's Men is one of my top 10 films, Hal was great as Deep Throat/Mark Felt, his performance made all the more mysterious and a little menacing by the fact you only ever saw his face partially throughout!
The genesis of Hal Holbrook’s famous one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight!” was a show that Holbrook performed with his then-wife Ruby in which she would interview him portraying famous people in history, including Twain. Holbrook revised the concept into a one-man show in the 1950s, first performing it at the Lock Haven State Teachers College in Pennsylvania in 1954. He made his first New York City appearance as Twain in an Off-Broadway engagement in 1959 and premiered it on Broadway in 1966.
Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight!”
Holbrook's performance was first noticed by New York producer John Lotas at The Lambs Club in Manhattan. Lotas presented the show at the Forty-First Street Theatre, where it ran for 174 performances. Holbrook won a Tony Award for “Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play” for that appearance and an Emmy Award nomination for the 1967 television broadcast (which was produced by David Susskind) on CBS. Holbrook released three “Mark Twain Tonight!” albums on Columbia Records, in 1959, 1961, and after the television special in 1967.
The last performance on Broadway was in 2006. Holbrook was known to alternate the material that he performed. The original program from the 1959 Off-Broadway engagement included the note, "While Mr. Twain’s selections will come from the list below, we have been unable to pin him down as to which of them he will do. He claims this would cripple his inspiration. However, he has generously conceded to a printed program for those who are in distress and wish to fan themselves." This appeared on programs for the show until Holbrook abruptly announced his retirement from the show in September 2017.
At the time of his retirement, Holbrook noted that he had been performing under the name "Mark Twain" 13 years longer than its originator: Samuel Clemens had adopted the pseudonym at age 24 and died at the age of 74. It’s estimated that Holbrook performed his show well over 2,000 times.
In June 1933, eight young women, who are close friends and members of the upper-class group at South Tower College, graduate and start their adult lives. THE GROUP documents the years between their graduation and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe, and shows, in a serialized style, their romances and marriages, their searches for careers or meaning in their lives, their highs and their lows. Chemistry major “Polly Andrews” (Shirley Knight), sweet and practical, wanted to be a doctor but becomes a medical technician at a hospital, and has a brief, unrewarding affair with “Gus Leroy” (Hal Holbrook), an indecisive man who cannot break the ties holding him to his estranged wife and his psychiatrist. Candice Bergen and Hal Holbrook made their feature film debuts in THE GROUP.
Shirley Knight and Hal Holbrook in THE GROUP
THE GROUP is based on the 1963 novel by Mary McCarthy, which stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for almost two years. There was a longstanding rumor that producer Charles Feldman, having already bought the film rights to McCarthy's novel in advance of publication, made sure it would be a best-seller by sending employees to bookstores all over America to buy up numerous copies of it. The prestige accruing to the book allowed him and director Sidney Lumet to make the film with unknown actors and without too much interference.
Lumet agreed to direct the film purely on the basis of Sidney Buchman's screenplay, which he praised highly and to which (so he claimed) he made no alterations. He did not read Mary McCarthy's novel until later and was dismissive of it, saying the screenplay had improved upon it.
The making of this film was the subject of a long, notorious article written by critic Pauline Kael, who was present throughout the shooting and who attacked almost every aspect of the film, accusing the leading actresses of being pretentious and snobbish, the director of being incompetent and a fool, and the screenplay of being a travesty of what Mary McCarthy had written about. At no point did she address the obvious question arising from her remarks (how good was the finished film?), perhaps because she (years later) conceded that it had turned out quite well and that she had enjoyed it. The essay is included in her collection, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
With a budget of $2.6 million, THE GROUP was the most expensive film to be made in New York to that time. The film grossed $7.2 million at the box office. The score by Charles Gross has not had a release.
Candice Bergen and Hal Holbrook made their feature film debuts in THE GROUP.
Yes, and both of them made an impression on me at the time. Bergen actually arrived amid clouds of hype, owing to her famous father. Her subsequent career justified the attention. Most of the cast went on to significant careers. I think Kael praised Joan Hackett as the most talented of the lot. She died tragically young.
Holbrook was one of the four-person cast in a 1966 television adaptation of Tennessee Williams' THE GLASS MENAGERIE. The play is about restless young warehouse worker and would-be poet, “Tom Wingfield” (Holbrook), his fragile, reclusive sister, “Laura” (Barbara Loden), and his colorful but overbearing mother, “Amanda” (Shirley Booth), all living together in a shabby apartment in St. Louis during the Depression and struggling to dilute the grim realities of daily living by way of memories, fantasies, and grandiose dreams about the future. Into their lives comes “The Gentleman Caller” (Pat Hingle) to see Laura.
Pat Hingle, Shirley Booth, Barbara Loden and Hal Holbrook in THE GLASS MENAGERIE
Michael Elliott directed the film, which was shot in England. Paul Bowles provided the incidental music. The film was broadcast on CBS on 8 December 1966.
After its initial showing, the film was lost for decades. In 2015, the unedited video footage was found and it was reconstructed using an audio recording that a viewer had captured during the broadcast and later uploaded to The Internet Archive. The reconstructed film aired on Turner Classic Movies 50 years from the day of the original telecast.
In 1968's WILD IN THE STREETS, Hal Holbrook plays “John Fergus,” a liberal California congressman, who has decided to ignore the advice of his political mentor, “Senator Allbright” (Ed Begley), and run for the U.S. Senate by appealing to youth. Although young entertainer “Max Frost” (Christopher Jones) consents to perform at a Fergus rally, he double-crosses the politician by publicly demanding that the voting age be lowered to 14. The demonstrations that follow are so successful that within a month, eighteen states have given the vote to teenagers. Now determined to gain control of the nation, Max decides to run for President of the United States.
Ed Begley, Millie Perkins, Hal Holbrook, and Marvin Belli in WILD IN THE STREETS
Barry Shear directed the 1968 film. Les Baxter’s score shared space on the Tower Records soundtrack LP with original songs written by husband-and-wife songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The LP has not been officially re-issued on CD. WILD IN THE STREETS ended up in the top 40 films of the year, with an $11.4 million gross.
THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING was the second pilot film for the series that eventually became “The Bold Ones – The Lawyers.” The first pilot was 1968’s THE SOUND OF ANGER.
In this film, the law firm of Nichols, Darrell & Darrell (Burl Ives, Joseph Campanella, and James Farentino) defends the leader of a student protest movement (Rick Ely) charged with the murder of a campus policeman. The problem is that the student, and his supporters, may be more interested in making a statement about their grievances than about his acquittal. Hal Holbrook co-starred as “Chancellor Leonard Graham.”
Richard A. Colla directed the film, which aired on NBC on 11 March 1969. Pete Rugolo provided the unreleased score. Hal Holbrook was nominated for an Emmy Award for the “Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role,” but in an unusual turn of events, no Emmy was presented in that category because the judges felt that none of the nominees were worthy of an award.
In 1970's THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR, Eli Wallach and co-star Julie Harris are “the Masons,” a suburban couple whose daughter (Deborah Winters) gets involved with LSD. Hal Holbrook and Cloris Leachman are “the Hoffmans,” their next-door neighbors.
David Greene directed the film. Jazzman Don Sebesky’s score shared space on an Avco Embassy LP with six songs, but the recording has not been re-issued on CD. Gordon Willis was the cinematographer.
The film was an adaptation of an Emmy Award-winning television play that was broadcast on CBS in 1968. But the film was not well-received either critically or at the box office, where it grossed a middling $1.3 million.
Although the characters' names were changed, THE GREAT WHITE HOPE was a thinly veiled account of the trials and tribulations of boxer Jack Johnson, based on the play by Howard Sackler. James Earl Jones stars as boxing great “Jack Jefferson,” who defeats “Frank Bardy” (Larry Pennell) in a Reno, Nevada bout to become the world's first black heavyweight champion. After crossing a state line with his white girlfriend “Eleanor” (Jane Alexander in her feature debut), Jack is arrested and tried under the miscegenation-barring Mann Act. Hal Holbrook has a small role as “Cameron,” an overly clever district attorney who doesn't want to bring Jack Jefferson down but feels he must.
Martin Ritt directed this 1970 release, which did not have an original music score. The $7.5 million production fought to a draw at the box office, with an $8.5 million gross.
Hal Holbrook’s first foray into series television was in “The Senator”. This 60-minute show was part of a rotating series called “The Bold Ones”, which also featured the series “The New Doctors” and “The Lawyers.”
Holbrook had first created his character, “Senator Hays Stowe,” in a television film called A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, which aired on NBC on 21 March 1970. In the series, Hays Stowe is a new senator who comes to Washington DC with his wife “Ellen” (Sharon Acker) and daughter “Norma” (Cindy Eilbacher). He arrives full of optimism that being on the side of justice can help him change things for the better. His chief aide “Jordan Boyle” (Michael Tolan” is there to assist him.
Hal Holbrook in “The Senator”
NBC debuted the series on Sunday, 13 September 1970. “The Bold Ones” went up against the new Glenn Ford series “Cade’s County” on CBS and the popular “ABC Sunday Night Movie,” which was the #26 show on television that season. “The Senator” was nominated for nine Emmy Awards and won five of them, including a win for Hal Holbrook for “Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series.”
Despite this industry acclaim, “The Senator” did not deliver the ratings that the other shows in “The Bold Ones” did, and while “The Lawyers” lasted three seasons, and “The New Doctors” lasted four, “The Senator” was cancelled after a single season of eight episodes.
After “Larry Hackett” (Hal Holbrook) gets a divorce from his wife “Joanne” (Cloris Leachman), he finds himself SUDDENLY SINGLE and trying to find a place for himself in the world of swinging singles. Jud Taylor directed this made-for-television film, which aired on ABC on 19 October 1971. Billy Goldenberg provided the unreleased score.
Three days After SUDDENLY SINGLE aired, Hal Holbrook was on-screen again, this time on CBS in the made-for-television film GOODBYE, RAGGEDY ANN. In this film, Holbrook is a sensitive Hollywood writer who tries to talk a down-on-her-luck actress out of suicide (played by Mia Farrow, in her telefeature debut). Fielder Cook directed the film, which aired on 22 October 1971. Wladimir Selinsky provided the unreleased score.
Hal Holbrook and Mia Farrow in GOODBYE, RAGGEDY ANN
THAT CERTAIN SUMMER was an acclaimed drama in which television addressed homosexuality sympathetically for one of the first times. In the film, teenager “Nick Salter” (Scott Jacoby) visits his divorced father “Doug” (Hal Holbrook) and meets Dad's new friend “Gary McLain” (Martin Sheen). When Nick sees that Doug enjoys Gary's company more than the company of women, Nick must learn to deal with his father’s homosexuality.
Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen in THAT CERTAIN SUMMER
Hal Holbrook initially turned down the role when it was offered to him. Lamont Johnson won a Directors Guild of America Award for the film, which aired on ABC on 1 November 1972. The film won a Golden Globe Award as “Best Movie Made for TV,” and was nominated for seven Emmy Awards. Hal Holbrook lost the Emmy for “Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” to Laurence Oliver for LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. The unreleased score was by Gil Mellé.
THEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS was primarily filmed on MGM’s famed Lot 2, and was the last picture to be shot there before the studio’s backlot was sold off. In the film, California small town police chief “Abel Marsh” (James Garner) investigates a suspicious death involving the victim's own dog that presumably killed its owner. During his investigation, Marsh visits “Dr. Warren G. Watkins” (Hal Holbrook), the veterinarian who tranquilized the dog after it was found on the beach guarding the victim’s body.
Hal Holbrook in THEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS
Several old MGM stars were cast in the picture--June Allyson and Peter Lawford (who had starred together in GOOD NEWS and LITTLE WOMEN back in the 1940s), and Ann Rutherford, who had been in the Andy Hardy films and who hadn't been on the MGM lot in thirty years. James Goldstone directed the 1972 film, which has an unreleased score by Perry Botkin, Jr.