He was considered, in his time, to be the funniest man on Earth. Mark Twain
is the fifth film in Ken Burns's popular American Lives series and features interviews with Hal Holbrook, Arthur Miller and leading Twain scholars.
A popular humorist, philosopher and social satirist, Mark Twain was the well-known nom-de-plume of writer Samuel Clemens, the nation's first literary celebrity. One of the most quoted men of his time, he was born in 1835, the year Haley's Comet passed over, and vowed that he would not die until he saw the famous comet. He died in 1910 -- the day after the comet's return. Tracing Twain's rise from his humble birth in Missouri to his prosperous life in Connecticut as the nation's best-selling author, Mark Twain reveals a compelling portrait of the father of American literature.
Nearly three years in the making and drawing from 63 hours of material, thousands of archival photographs and nearly 20 interviews with top writers and Twain scholars, Mark Twain is the story of an extraordinary life-one full of rollicking adventure, stupendous success and crushing defeat, hilarious comedy and unbearable tragedy. Told primarily through the words of Twain himself and narrated by Keith David (the voice of Jazz), viewers of all ages will be personally introduced to this compelling yet contradictory genius, who said with some justification, "I am not an American, I am the American."
The DVD-18 edition of Mark Twain contains interview outtakes, twelve great Twain quotes and photographs, a "Making of" interview with Ken Burns and the short documentaries Ken Burns: Making History and A Conversation with Ken Burns.
Given the legendary life of its subject, it's not surprising that Mark Twain
is perhaps the most entertaining documentary Ken Burns has made. The creator of The Civil War
achieves reverent harmony with the magnificent story of Missouri-born author Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), encompassing legend and fact with an exhilarating sense of adventure. Hailed by Hemingway as the originator of American literature, Twain (a nom de plume taken from a riverboat pilot's term for "safe waters") viewed himself as the
American. Burns's film backs that claim as it follows Clemens's literary odyssey around the globe, from unrivaled acclaim as a writer to near destitution and the devastating deaths of his wife and three children. As usual, eloquent writers and scholars (including longtime Twain performer Hal Holbrook) provide a wondrous flow of anecdotes and observations, recounting Twain's remarkable humor while acknowledging a darker side that felt anger toward an indifferent god. Like all of Burns's films, Mark Twain
is must-see viewing. --Jeff Shannon