Hal Holbrook, Character Actor King, Dies at 95

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Hal Holbrook, Character Actor King, Dies at 95

Hal Holbrook, one of the most ubiquitous and acclaimed character actors of his generation, has died at 95. The New York Times reports that he passed away on January 23.

With over 130 acting credits to his name across film (The Fog, Wall Street) and TV—spanning long roles on miniseries like Lincoln, where he led as the president, and sitcoms like Evening Shade, where he supported Burt Reynolds—Holbrook was a staple of the screen. But his stage performances, particularly his long-running one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!, were where he shined brightest. The show, which he began in 1954, won a Tony for in 1966 and kept going for over 2,200 performances, was documented in Scott Teems’ Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey.

“Charting Hal’s journey over this last decade has been like sitting at the feet of the wisest sage,” Teems told Paste. “His life is a testimony to the remarkable amount of work required to create art that lasts, but also a cautionary tale about the costs of that kind of commitment. He was never less than honest about both sides of that coin, and his vulnerability was as instructive as the words of Twain he speaks from the stage.”

The actor who made his mark in everything from Into the Wild (for which he earned an Oscar nomination) and All the President’s Men (in which his Deep Throat hit the bullseye on the film’s classic, sticking lines) seemingly popped up everywhere. The Sopranos? Hal Holbrook made it better. The West Wing? Holbrook improved it. Sons of Anarchy? Lincoln? Disney’s Hercules? All enhanced their flavors thanks to a dash of Holbrook, whose presence and voice were unmistakably unique. He even directed a handful of episodes of Designing Women. The actor won five Emmys across his career.

Holbrook was married three times, remaining married to actress Dixie Carter until her death in 2010. He spoke briefly to Paste about his love for Carter in 2011. He is survived by his children and grandchildren.