Hal Holbrook biography
Actor Hal Holbrook was born on February 17, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio. Highly respected for his stage performances of Mark Twain, which he began as a college student, Holbrook's career has also crossed heavily into film and television. A multi-Emmy winner, at the age of 82 he became the oldest actor ever nominated for an Academy Award, for his performance in Into the Wild (2007).
Born Harold Rowe Holbrook, Jr., on February 17, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, Holbrook was raised predominantly in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. He was the son of a retired vaudeville dancer.
After attending Culver Military Academy, Holbrook enrolled at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, to study theater. His time at Denison was interrupted by a three-year stint in the Army, which stationed him in Newfoundland as an engineer during World War II.
Following the war, Holbrook returned to Denison, where he turned an honor's project on Mark Twain into career defining performance of the iconic American author. Dubbed in 2001 by The New York Times as the "undisputed monarch of Mark Twain impersonators," Holbrook literally launched his Hollywood career with his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight, which he's continued to do well into his 80s.
To supplement his income during the Twain show's early years, Holbrook appeared on the CBS soap opera The Brighter Day. In 1956 Holbrook caught a huge break when Ed Sullivan asked the young actor to bring his Twain performance to his CBS variety show. That in turn led to a series of off-Broadway productions. In 1966, the show debuted on Broadway earning Holbrook Tony and Drama Desk awards. He'd later go on to write a book about his experience entitled Mark Twain Tonight! An Actor's Portrait. In 2011, Twain inspired another Holbrook book, this one being the actor's memoirs, called, Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain.
Film & TV Success
The mid 1960s and early 70s proved to be an important period for Holbrook, not just for his Twain show but also for his film and television work. His credits from this period included roles in such films as Wild in the Streets (1968), The People Next Door (1968), and the first sequel to Dirty Harry (1971). In 1976 he took on perhaps his most famous film role, when he played Deep Throat in the thriller, All the President's Men.
On the small screen, Holbrook's presence continued to mount as well. He was cast in 1973's Pueblo and 1976's Lincoln, both of which earned the actor an Emmy. In fact, television proved to play a vital role in Holbrook's career as the years passed and his film opportunities proved to be inconsistent.
He co-starred with Katherine Ross in the TV movie, Murder by Natural Causes (1979), and a year later, took on the role of a father whose teenager has run away in Off the Minnesota Strip. His credits also include Civil War mini series North and South (1985) and its sequel North and South Book II (1986). Around this time, Holbrook had a regular role on the CBS comedy, Designing Women, which saw him play opposite his third wife, the late Dixie Carter.
At an age when most actors show a desire to slow down or hardly work at all, Holbrook has continued his steady career. In the 2000s he made appearances on The West Wing and The Sopranos.
On the big screen, Holbrook made history in 2007 when the 82-year-old became the oldest actor ever nominated for an Academy Award, for his role in the Sean Penn directed, Into the Wild.
Holbrook, who has been married three times, has three children.