Monday, February 8, 2021


From The Hollywood Reporter:
Hal Holbrook, the craftsman who reincarnated Mark Twain on stage and screen for more than six decades and also stood out as Abraham Lincoln and Deep Throat, two other American legends, has died. He was 95.

Holbrook died Jan. 23 in Beverly Hills, his personal assistant, Joyce Cohen, told The New York Times on Monday night.

A five-time Emmy winner, Holbrook was 82 when he became the oldest man (at the time) to receive an Oscar acting nomination when he was honored for his performance as a leatherwork expert in “Into the Wild” (2007).

The Cleveland native also was memorable as a Senate candidate in “Wild in the Streets” (1968); as the vigilante boss of police inspector Clint Eastwood in “Magnum Force” (1973); as a NASA exec who engineers a fake Mars landing in “Capricorn One” (1977); as a judge who takes matters into his own hands in ‘The Star Chamber” (1983); and as old-school stockbroker Lou Mannheim in “Wall Street” (1987).

Holbrook played Twain longer than Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who made Twain his pen name in 1863. He first appeared as the famed author and humorist in the late 1940s in a show for school groups; Holbrook’s first wife, Ruby, would ask questions of famous people in history, including Twain. He turned that into the one-man show, ‘Mark Twain Tonight!”, in the 1950s.

I would have liked to have honored his portrayal of Twain in the Television Crossover Hall of Fame; after all, Mark Twain is in the TVXOHOF, with his many recastings due to differing points of view.  But “Mark Twain Tonight!” is not of Earth Prime-Time but of Toobstage, that TV dimension of staged plays on television.  And that was with the understanding that it was Hal Holbrook playing the role (as established years earlier on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’.)  If Holbrook was eligible to enter the Hall as a member of the League of Themselves, I would certainly count that TV special among his qualifications.

O’BservationBy the way, the official representation of Mark Twain in the TVXOHOF gallery is of Jerry Hardin, Holbrook’s costar in “The Firm.”  He played Clemens in two episodes of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’.

But there are two characters played by Holbrook who are eligible for membership and I’ll be honoring him with a memorial tribute to one of them today….


From Wikipedia:
Following [Raymond] Burr's death in 1993, Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook starred in the remaining four television films that aired from 1993 to 1995, playing lawyers Anthony Caruso and "Wild Bill" McKenzie respectively.

From The Desert News:
You just ship Perry out of town and replace him with "Wild Bill" McKenzie, Harley Davidson-riding attorney-turned-rancher. If this sounds ghoulish, NBC reminds us that Burr wanted the "Perry Mason" series of occasional made-for-TV movies to live on, so all his longtime co-stars and crew could still get a paycheck.

With TV movies, each production is counted separately, even when there is an umbrella title (as is the case here.)  On the other hand, all TV episodes are counted as one entity by the title of the series.

My Hall.  My rules.

So Wild Bill qualifies as he had three movies under the “A Perry Mason Mystery” title, thus qualifying him for membership in the TVXOHOF.  (Unlike Sorvino’s Caruso who only had the one outing.  Which is a shame, since in the Toobworld Dynamic, Anthony Caruso was Perry Mason’s bastard son.)

Here are the TV movies that gained entry for Wild Bill McKenzie:


From the IMDb:
Bill McKenzie is a retired lawyer who prefers to spend time working on his ranch. But he occasionally takes on a case wherein the defendant is wrongfully convicted or falsely accused, and he's a friend of Perry Mason. Mason asks him to fill in for him at some thing wherein he is suppose to give a speech. At the thing are some important people including a chess master whom McKenzie knows. Also, there is a sleazy interviewer who is forcing the chess player to be on his show when he refused, and when the interviewer is found dead, the chess player is arrested, and McKenzie defends him. Della Street and Ken Malansky offer their assistance, and McKenzie tries to find out who had motive to kill the man.
When Perry is unable to deliver a speech at a conference he calls Bill McKenzie to offer him a hotel etc in exchange for delivering the work. Also at the hotel is filming for the newest episode of 'lifestyles of the wealthy and well-known' hosted by Adrian Lye. One of Lye's guests, and Bill's friend, Daniel Kingman (a famous chess player) is at the hotel and is being blackmailed by Lye. When he goes to Lye's room a fight ensues after which Lye is found poisoned to death. Bill defends Kingman while Ken Malansky goes after the 'waiter' seen delivering the poisoned drink to Lye's suite, assuming the drink was poisoned before delivery and not by Kingman.


From the IMDb:
When gubernatorial candidate Harlan Richards is murdered, the suspicions fall on the incumbent Governor Ryan Allison but when he, too, is murdered the plot thickens.

Maverick lawyer Bill McKenzie returns to action defending the daughter of a disgraced politician. The politico was murdered, but his death was successfully made to appear as suicide. Several years later, his daughter finds herself suspected of murdering the Governor of the state, who she held responsible for her father's suicide through a political smear campaign.

Hal Holbrook is great in this role and the mystery, while engaging is rather disturbing as McKenzie probes layer upon layer of political corruption during his investigation. One can't help but wonder about the political repercussions after the smoke cleared. It might have made an interesting film on its own. The final revelation, while not surprising, is clever and ironic.


From the IMDb:
Bill McKenzie's niece works as a production assistant for controversial television personality Josie Joplin, who publicly accuses her of having an affair with her husband. One night McKenzie's niece receives a message which she believes is from Josie to go to her hotel room, when she gets there someone knocks her out and when she wakes up, Josie is dead and she's the number one suspect, so McKenzie defends her.

As I mentioned earlier, Hal Holbrook has two characters worthy of membership.  And while I am writing up that “induction ceremony” now, I will be saving it to be a monthly showcase in 2022.

Welcome to the TV Crossover Hall of Fame, Wild Bill.  

Good night and may God bless….