Actor Hal Holbrook dies aged 95

Hal Holbrook, an actor who appeared in films and television shows for decades, has died aged 95. Among the actor’s many credits was the 1972 film A Certain Summer which was one of the first positive depictions of a gay couple on mainstream television.

Holbrook passed away on 23rd January at his home in Beverly Hills, California. His passing was announced today.

While he had an impressive strong of film and television credits, Holbrook also received wide acclaim for Mark Twain Tonight his one-man play about Mark Twain, he performed the part for over 60 years. In 1966 he won the Tony Award Best Actor in a Play, and only stopped performing the role in 2017 due to failing health.

Among his film and television roles was the world’s most famous whistle blower ‘Deep Throat’ in All The President’s Men, he played President Abraham Lincoln in a 1974 mini-series Lincoln and again in the 1980’s TV miniseries North and South, and also had a memorable part in the 2007 film Into the Wild.

In 1972 Holbrook appeared in A Certain Summer. The ‘Movie of the Week’ told the story of divorced contractor Doug Salter, portrayed by Holbrook, who is expecting a visit from his teenage son. In preparation for the visit he asks his partner Gary McClain to move out of their house, so his son will not discover that he is in a same-sex relationship. Martin Sheen, who was yet to have his breakthrough role in Terrance Malik’s Badlands, played McClain.

When the teenager discovers his father is gay he runs away in disgust, they later reunite later Salter tries to explain his sexuality to his son with mixed results. The broadcast got the thumbs up from critics with the New York Times reviewer Marilyn Beck calling it “one of the finest pieces of drama you’ll see this year on large or small screen.”

Holbrook recalled in an interview just a few years ago that when he first received the script he was going to pass on the role, but was convinced to take it by Carol Rosen, his second wife.

“It turned out to be very prominent and powerful, and you have to remember that in those days, back then homosexuality was not talked about. ” Holbrook said back in 2018.  “It was a big risk for them to put it on. The principle of it what attracted me to it, the principle of fair play, honesty, decency – that’s it kid – we’re all human.”

Director Lamont Johnson said it the TV network were incredibly nervous about screening the film and has shared that he received a memo from a top executive at ABC ruling that there should be no physical contact between the lead actors, not even lingering eye contact.

The two lead actors were reunited when they both appeared on the TV show The West Wing where Sheen starred as President Josiah Bartlett and Holbrook made several appearances as Foreign Affairs expert Alby Duncan.

Holbrook was married three times, he wed Ruby Johnston in 1945, the couple had two children before divorcing in 1965. The following year he married Carol Rosen and they had one child, before divorcing in 1983.

In 1984 he married actress Dixie Carter, and he often appeared in her television show Designing Women. The couple stayed together until Carter’s death in 2010. He was buried alongside Carter in McLemoresville, Tennessee -her hometown.

OIP Staff

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