Another great performer has passed away, as Hal Holbrook took the final bow as of February 1st, leaving behind a legacy that many have found quite impressive as the 95-year old has been fondly remembered for many years due to his vast experience and skill within the performing arts. Lauded as a man that helped people to remember Mark Twain more than anyone else thanks to his performance as the famed writer, Holbrook also has many other credits to his name that are worth mentioning since he was one of the long-timers in the business that had been around for longer than many could recall. It’s astonishing to realize that he and his siblings were left by their parents to be raised by their grandparents, but as it turns out they succeeded in life as Hal went on to become quite the performer, creating a solid career that many might have forgotten in part but many others still recall from several movies in which he was either a main part of the cast or was a supporting actor that held an important role that was easy to notice. Over the last couple of decades, he’s definitely been one of those that people have noticed on occasion but wasn’t regarded as a lead actor any longer, at least not in any major way that many could claim.
There are so many different instances that could be used to showcase Hal’s talent that it could take up several articles just describing each role, but there are a few that come to mind that are definitely personal favorites. His role in the original Creepshow was great since even though it was brief it allowed him to pack in a great deal of good acting and a few laughs actually. In the story titled The Crate, he played a mild-mannered professor named Henry who was married to a horrible woman named Billie, played by Adrienne Barbeau, who was verbally and emotionally abusive without fail. One funny part of this however is that Henry continued to have fantasies of killing his wife, but never found a way to follow through on those fantasies. That was the case until his friend Dexter and a janitor at the college opened a crate that was found beneath a staircase in the lower reaches of the school. When the creature in the crate breaks out and kills the janitor and then a curious student, Dexter runs to Henry, his best friend, and tells him what happened. After drugging his friend so that he’ll sleep, Henry then goes to verify the story and sees the evidence. Before he does, however, he writes a note to Billie, asking her to come to college after telling her a story of how Dexter got in a spot of trouble with a young woman that had hidden under the stairs after becoming so frightened that she wouldn’t come out. As anyone should be able to guess, this was Henry’s moment as he not only cleaned up the mess that had been left behind, but he ended up tricking Billie into getting close enough to the crate that the beast finally came out and dragged her into its crate, thereby ridding Henry of his wife for good.
That story was definitely one of the more entertaining in his long history, but he also managed to show a comedic side as well during his career, though drama was always his strong point. In Men of Honor, with Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr., he played a superior officer who was overtly racist and didn’t want to allow Carl Brashear, played by Gooding, to graduate as a Navy diver. His character was so horrible that he even ordered De Niro’s character to keep Brashear underwater for an exercise until he stopped moving, meaning until he was dead. The exercise in question was to assemble a flange, and not only was the water so cold that it could eventually kill a person, but Brashear’s chances had been torpedoed when an instructor was told to slice his bag open and then send his equipment to the bottom, spilling out of the torn bag as it went. This was definitely one of Hal’s more extreme acts since the officer, who was called “Mr. Pappy” was a rather hateful individual, while Hal was known to play quite a few roles in which he was immediately likable. He even guest-starred on many TV shows over the years and was considered to be a fine addition to any cast he was required to work with.
People are going to keep passing away, that’s a part of life, and those that we enjoy watching and revere in various ways are getting older. There are new actors coming up and actors that are currently well-established, but as time goes on, we’re going to have to keep saying goodbye now and again. Rest in peace sir, you’ll be missed.
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