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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Alex Effgen <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 6 Jun 2007 16:48:17 -0400
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Not to dismiss Mr. Holbrook's current interpretation of Twain, but I
would disagree (in some respects) with Kevin's perspective on the
1966 performance.

In 2006 (forty years after Holbrook's TV recording!), Audio Partners
released a two-disc collection of pieces from "Mark Twain Tonight!"
I listen to them regularly, and while familiarity may birth contempt,
it's conjoined with insight.  Mr. Holbrook's performance is
noticeably faster in his later recorded renderings.  Twain's famous
pause, as discussed in biography and in his own "How to Tell a
Story," seems less stressed, and I argue, based on Twain's emphasis
on the pause as the critical aspect to "The Golden Arm," that
Holbrook toned down this aspect already by 1966.

The siamese triplet of familiarity would be carelessness, and I don't
mean that in the negative sense.   Holbrook's interpretation for a
modern audience must be dynamic and therefore hold less care in
certain academic details that potentially could not play as well to a
living, attention-deficit audience.  I readily admit I love
Holbrook's Twain whether at 40 or at 80 years of age, and in
communicating the spirit of Twain he deserves all the accolades
bestowed, but I wonder if Clara's approval was not swayed in part by
the visual similarities and at least forty years separation.  How
might she have reacted had she only listened to him first, as we are
left to listen to Gillette's (now ancient) recording by FC Packard.

For those who have not done so, I recommend listening to Gillette's
impersonation of Twain, and if you can, also track down the
additional recording done that same session of Gillette's dramatic
enactment of Sherlock Holmes.  Try to extract the Twain from
Gillette's natural speech pattern.  Both clips can be procured
through ILL from Michigan State's Vincent Voice Library (though the
Twain clip is only two minutes long, erroneously reported as nine
minutes on the VVL's website--has anyone been able to find the
nine-minute version?).


Alex B. Effgen
Boston University