The boy who became Mark Twain


Hal Holbrook (left) performs The Butter and Egg Man at the Denison Summer Theatre with Dick Welsbacher ’48 and Luke Utter ’50.

We know Hal Holbrook ’48 as the Emmy and Tony award-winning actor who has been praised for his stage portrayal of Mark Twain. We also know him for his Academy Award nomination in 2008 for his role in Into the Wild.

But did you know that his grandparents raised him? That he used to dance like Fred Astaire in their basement? That he never really knew his mother? That he and his college buddies called campus Shangri-la? And that he got the nickname “Hal” at Denison?

It’s all in his new autobiography, Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain, which hit bookstores in September. Holbrook dedicates some book real estate to his time at Denison, including his great affection for his teacher, Ed Wright, and his classmate, Ace Morgan ’45.

To learn more about Holbrook’s life, check out the excerpt from the book in the next Denison Magazine.

Comment Policy


Please note that new comment ratings will not appear immediately, but rather will be reflected within a few minutes.

Comments are no longer open for this article

2:15 PM October 28, 2011

chuck Knapp ’56 wrote:

I went with my sister and her husband (Bart and Betty Knapp Bawden ’51) to see Hal do Mark Twain in Sacramento recently. Having seen it several years earlier in NYC, I found him as charming and persuasive as ever. I wonder if anyone knows the whereabouts of Richie Welsbacher and Luke Utter, pictured with him. They were also terrific actors and and great persons as well, recalled from Summer Theatre days. — Chuck Knapp ’56


2:58 PM October 28, 2011

alumni relation wrote:

Check your email–We’ll send you an email with the current information that we have for Richie and Luke!


11:37 AM November 29, 2011

Howard Grubbs wrote:

met him in Atlanta about 15 years ago and told him that I too was a Denison graduate…he could not have been nicer. A truly stand up guy


4:33 PM February 22, 2012

Sue Shirk Bowling wrote:

I read the excerpt of HAROLD and immediately went online to order the book from Barnes and Noble. As a freshman in 1959, I was so impressed with Hal Holbrook’s “Mark Twain Tonight” that I have never forgotten that performance. I think it was in Swasey Chapel. Now I know that he was only 34 at the time and had lived a lifetime of struggles.


TheDen Archives