Legendary actor Hal Holbrook passed away last week, at the age of 95-years-old. We will remember him by revisiting the Tony and Emmy Award winner’s incredible resume. Rest in peace.
A Tough Beginning
Hal Holbrook’s daughter, Victoria Holbrook, along with his assistant, Joyce Cohen, confirmed that the actor died in peace in his home in California. While he became one of the most famous stars ever, Holbrook had to work his way up. Since his mother worked as a vaudeville performer and his father a shoe salesman, his grandparents raised him. From Holbrook’s days in boarding school to his time at Denison University, he remained fascinated by both acting and the written word. Particularly, the actor loved Mark Twain. So, while at Denison, Holbrook started working on a one-man show about Twain. Of course, at the time, he had no idea the writer would become a career-defining character.
Holbrook debuted his show, Mark Twain Tonight, in 1954 to rave reviews. Iconic late-night host Ed Sullivan saw the show, bringing him on The Ed Sullivan Show a year later. From there, the actor’s fame exploded. CBS aired Mark Twain Tonight in 1960 and Holbrook won an Emmy. Soon, he not only starred in Broadway hits like Do You Know the Milky Way?, but also shows and movies like The Brighter Day and Magnum Force.
Though it all, Holbrook always remembered his roots. “I’m an actor, and that’s all I’ve ever been,” he said. “But I’ll tell you one thing: Mark Twain has been my education. He has taught me more than I ever learned in college.” But, even by the ’80s, few had any idea that Holbrook would continue proving just how great he was for decades to come!
In the ’90s, Holbrook made his name with the new generation thanks to the sitcom Designing Women, which starred his then-wife Dixie Carter. Following Women, the actor moved away from television and the stage to being a film career in earnest. From his silver screen debut in 1966 to his retirement from film in 2016, Holbrook starred in various hit films, including Wall Street, Creepshow, Into The Wild, Hercules, and many more.
Sadly, despite incredible roles like “Deep Throat” in 1976’s All the President’s Men, it took quite a while for Holbrook to earn an Oscar nomination. Finally, in 2008, it happened! Holbrook earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his role in Into The Wild. While he did not win, the actor became the oldest actor to win a nomination at the age of 82-years-old!
Given his incredible talents, really no surprise that many of his former colleagues came out to remember Holbrook…
Remembering Hal Holbrook
Iconic director Steven Spielberg worked with Holbrook on his 2012 film, Lincoln. “In 1970, I visited the set of the TV series The Bold Ones: The Senator to watch Hal Holbrook play Senator Hays Stowe. From that day on, it was my dream to work with this transformative actor, and it finally happened 42 years later when he portrayed Preston Blair in Lincoln,” Spielberg wrote in a statement. “Hal was, quite simply, an American classic who brought Mark Twain and so many of our nation’s most memorable characters back to life. I’ll be forever grateful for the time we spent together on Lincoln, and the world has lost a class act.”
Another famous director, Edgar Wright, also praised Holbrook’s many performances. “Rest well Father Malone,” he wrote on Twitter, a reference to one of Holbrook’s characters. “The estimable Hal Holbrook has passed away, but what work he leaves behind. Loved his performances in The Fog, All The President’s Men, Magnum Force, Creepshow, Capricorn One, The Star Chamber, Wild In The Streets & Into The Wild, among many many others.”
Rest in peace, Hal Holbrook!