Monday, October 12, 2015
PD and former BJ entertainment critic Mark Dawidziak and actor Hal Holbrook, joined at the hip with their love for and admiration of author Mark Twain, had another reunion Sunday night, Oct. 11 in Toledo’s Valentine Theatre.
Holbrook, 90, was performing “Mark Twain Tonight,” his signature one-man show about the humorist from Hannibal, before a sellout crowd. Mark was there to applaud and hug Hal.
They’ve been together many times over the years, in venues around the country, including the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut and at Elmira (New York) College, the town that has Twain’s grave site. Dawidziak does Twain shows at the drop of the hat if there are three or more people standing on a street corner. And well.
Holbrook’s Twain production, which began in 1954 at Lock Haven State Teachers College in Pennsylvania, is the longest continuously running play in theater history.
Harold Rowe Holbrook, Jr. has starred in such movies as “Lincoln” and “All the President’s Men” (as Deep Throat, who provided tips to reporters Woodward and Bernstein that caused Richard Nixon to resign his presidency).
The role of Mark Twain got its start when Holbrook’s first wife, Ruby, would interview him portraying famous people onstage. When they had a child, Holbrook inquired about finding another actress to take over Ruby’s role, but it was suggested that he adapt the material for him to perform as a solo. Which he did, for more than 60 years.
Said Holbrook: “I always stay as Mark Twain in 1901.” No updating to make it more topical because Twain’s observations are just as on-the-money today as they were more than a century ago.
Twain, who lived from 1835 when he was Samuel Langhorne Clemmens to 1910, saw the impact of the Civil War and witnessed a time when the United States shifted from a farming society to one of growing industry. He routinely wrote about the absurdities of social and political norms.
Holbrook was born in Cleveland to vaudeville dancer Aileen Davenport Holbrook (1905-1987) and Harold Rowe Holbrook, Sr (1902-1982).
Holbrook married Ruby Holbrook in 1945 and they divorced in 1965. They had two children. He married Carol Eve Rossen in 1966 and they divorced in 1983. They had one child. His final marriage was to “Designing Women” actress Dixie Carter in 1984. They remained married until her death in 2010.
Holbrook’s film career ranges from “The Group” in 1966 to “Go With Me” in 2015.
Dawidziak came to the BJ from Tennessee in 1983 and grew up on New York City’s Long Island. His latest Twain tome is "Mark Twain's Guide to Diet, Exercise, Beauty, Fashion, Investment, Romance, Health and Happiness” which was preceded by “Mark Twain’s Ohio.”
Dawidziak is married to Sara Showman Dawidziak, who often performs with Mark when they’re not at their Cuyahoga Falls home.