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  • If you love Mark Twain, then you will adore this great biographical film. The movie is not just the run of the mill biography made in the 1930's and 40's, but an amusing comedy, drama, and romance as one can imagine. Frederic March is so marvelous as Mark Twain, if Mark Twain was alive to have seen this movie...he would have definitely had said, "It seems that the news of my death has been greatly over exaggerated".

    You will find that the art of movie making, great acting, and a superb story is, The Adventures of Mark Twain.
  • THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN is one of my favorite films. Even as the years pass, and I discover an ever-increasing number of biographical errors, it still possesses a kind of magic that is captivating. It may not be the historic Twain on the screen, but it's a Twain we all would have liked to know!

    How can you criticize a film when, at the beginning of the story, the lead character threatens, in writing, to 'shoot you' if you look for a higher moral? As the camera pans back while a hand signs a name to the document with a flourish, we are 'introduced' to the spirit of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, himself, the living embodiment of the white-haired rascal we've all seen in his many 'turn of the century' photographs, with a twinkle in his eye and his tongue firmly 'in cheek'. Fredric March bears an astonishing resemblance to the author (thanks, in large measure, to Perc Westmore's extraordinary make up), and, more importantly, portrays him with a sense of irreverence and fun. His Twain is a man who loves the 'Mighty Mississippi', writes from his heart, and observes life with the eye of a born humorist, seeing all of Man's foibles as part of a giant Cosmic joke he is privy to.

    In the fanciful biography, Clemens is delivered as Haley's Comet streaks overhead, as scores of black slaves listen to his father call the celestial event a "jubilation in Heaven". As a child, he plays with Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and the slave, Jim, then escapes to the river after writing a far-fetched tale, which gets his older brother, a printer, in hot water. Despite the boy's total ineptitude, a riverboat pilot swears to teach him his profession, and in a few years, the adult Clemens masters the Mississippi, successfully guiding his riverboat through the dangerous waters at night, until the cry of "Mark Twain...Safe Water" is heard. While dazzling naive passengers with tales of how alligators 'hitch rides' on the paddlewheel, Clemens sees a cameo with the image of young Libby Langdon (Alexis Smith), and announces to her brother that she would be the girl he'd marry.

    Heading west with friend Steve Gillis (the always wonderful Alan Hale) to strike it rich where the "gold is on the ground waiting to be picked up", he fails spectacularly, and ends up a reporter at a frontier newspaper. He writes an account of a leaping frog competition, and the sad fate of novelist Bret Harte (John Carradine, perfectly cast!) and his prize jumper. Not thinking the story very good, he signs 'Mark Twain' as the author's name...then decides to throw the manuscript away. Fortunately, his editor retrieves it from the garbage, and sends the story back east, where, to a public overwhelmed by Civil War news, it provides welcome relief, creating a sensation. Mark Twain becomes a national celebrity! When finally tracked down, Clemens sees a way to win his ladylove, and plays both himself and Twain at a packed New York lecture. Libby is dazzled by him, he goes courting and 'moves in' to her home (much to the bemusement of her father), and, with her inspiration, his fabulous career as 'America's Voice' begins.

    Chronicling Clemens' eventful life with unforgettable scenes of spectacular success as well as tragedy and failure, THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN is the tale of a legendary man, told in 'larger than life' terms. While most of the story is fictitious (the real Clemens' biography would require a Ken Burns documentary to do it justice), the film is never less than entertaining. Fredric March is superb in the lead, and, as Haley's Comet returns, ending his time on earth, you may find it hard to hold back a tear, especially when his spirit says to his grieving daughter, "The reports of my death have been GREATLY exaggerated..."

    He was absolutely correct...Mark Twain will never really die!
  • He's now been physically dead all of 95 years, but Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) is still the most popular novelist and writer in American history, and one of the few great American writers to merit his own film biography. There is no film (at the very least no remembered films) about Charles Brockden Brown (our first major novelist), Washington Irving, Fenimore Cooper (whom Twain hated reading), Hawthorne, Melville, Howells, James, Crane, Dreiser, Wharton, Alcott, Cather, Fitzgerald, Lewis, Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Wouk, Salinger, Vonnegut, or Bellow. You have to go back to Edgar Allen Poe (the subject of several films, including a silent one (THE AVENGING CONSCIENCE) by D.W. Griffith) to find another major American writer who is a subject of biography. There is also a film on the life of Jack London made in the 1940s. But the key is that Poe, London, and Twain had interesting lives meriting filming.

    The film is true in its outline but the fleshing out is questionable. For example, Twain did go into the mining fields of California and Nevada in the late 1860s, but he probably did not win the jumping frog contest that was the basis of his first literary success, "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". Nor was his literary rival, Francis Bret Harte (John Carridine), the man who lost that contest. But there was a contest he apparently witnessed in 1865, and he expanded on it for his classic short story.

    Some aspects of the story I am surprised to find in the film. The infamous Whittier Birthday Speech fiasco (although still debated) did occur in 1876, and somehow hurt his acceptance by the eastern literati whose "gods" (Emerson, Holmes, and Longfellow) were somewhat laughed at in it. Also there is the frightening story of the Paige Typesetter that helped bankrupt Twain (forcing him to go lecturing and writing around the world in the 1890s.

    The fact is, the film is actually better in presenting Twain's literary and private life than the average movie biography of that period or even now. March looks like his subject (and his make-up ages him properly). He knows how to do the delivery of the comic lectures perfectly. Note how at one point when he says to the audience, "The last time I went south....", March points quietly but prolonged downward, so the audience realizes he means "the last time I went to Hell...." We are used today to Hal Holbrook's "MARK TWAIN TONIGHT" performances, with his southern delivery, but March is just as effective in his way.

    The other performances are good, with Walter Hampden lecturing March about what gentlemen of his class consider REAL literature, or with Percy Kilbride as a typesetter who trains Twain, and who later claims he helped make Clemens Mark Twain. Alexis Smith manages to portray Livy (Olivia) Twain as the perfect love match she was. The film does not hesitate to show Twain's career had as many missteps as successful peaks. It does avoid his attack on American Imperialism, and it does not detail the series of family deaths that plagued his last decade (two daughters and a nephew followed Livy to the grave before Sam followed her in 1910). But for getting the general outline correct, and for casting the film correctly and producing it very well I can say it deserves a "10" out of "10".
  • I have always admired Fredric March as an actor. This roll showed his great versatility. The writing and editing of Mark Twain's life into this movie makes it one of the finest biographical movies of all time. The soliloquy by the chancellor of Oxford, played by C. Abrey Smith, encapsulates the life of Twain, better than any I've heard or read since. This movie is a must for any student of American literature.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Irving Rapper directs this biopic of the beloved American author Sam Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Fredrick March is excellent in his portrayal of Clemens from his early 20's to his death at age 75. The story goes that Sam's birth was ushered by Halley's Comet. This entertaining tale may not be accurate enough to be a serious biography, but is good enough to sustain Twain's legacy. Alexis Smith plays Twain's wife Olivia, who understands that her husband may always be a boy at heart. His tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn remain enduring as the day he introduced them. The prolific writer had a major financial reversal due to bad investments and his struggle to publish the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. Twain would go on a world wide speaking tour to pay off his debts before his death. Most memorable is the film's finale with spirits of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn urging the spirit of Twain to join them in heaven...just at the time Halley's Comet streaks the sky. In supporting roles are: Donald Crisp, John Carradine, Percy Kilbride, Alan Hale and William Henry.
  • Like Samuel Clemens, himself, this film is a great illustration of the Art of Exaggeration. The rough outline of Twain's life is retained as a foundation for greater elaboration. The Calaveras County episode is a perfect example. Would it have had the same impact on us if Twain (Fredric March) had been a mere bystander? Absolutely not! We have a stake in its outcome because HE has a stake in it. Would it have been as funny if Twain's partner, Steve Gillis (Alan Hale) hadn't been responsible for filling the opposing frog full of buckshot? No way; Gillis' responsibility involves us. That Twain has bet on the frog of the opponent, Bret Harte (John Carradine), and lost all their money serves the interests of justice. More importantly, however, it is one more example of the ironic failings of Twain's early life. Having Bret Harte be the owner of the opposing frog is pure genius - a clever homage to another great American author, who was Twain's contemporary. He is played with aplomb by John Carradine, a wonderfully versatile performer, whose earlier career as a character actor is sadly overshadowed by his later career as a stereotypical ghoul.

    As other commentators have noted, March is phenomenal in capturing the legendary Mark Twain. March is one of the greatest actors in American film history. His performance here is typically nuanced, capturing the dry wit of Twain with understated charisma, and also the pathos of the man in his private life. Brilliant!

    Alexis Smith is wonderful, too. She had the ability to capture loving, devoted women with a realistic warmth that is never over-sentimental. Besides, she is very easy to look at. (At a similar age, Jody Foster bears an uncanny resemblance to Alexis Smith in this movie. The cameo could easily have been of Foster.)

    The very personification of the Art of Exaggeration is Alan Hale, here portraying Steve Gillis, Twain's sidekick out west. Somehow in roles such as Gillis he is capable of the greatest of acting paradoxes - delivering exaggerated performances that NEVER seem overacted or hammy. His characters always appear natural, yet larger than life. Offhand it is difficult to think of another actor who accomplished this incredible balance. I would watch ANY movie in which Hale appears.

    Likewise, comedies of this era seem to be able to strike that same balance - natural, yet larger than life. That is what sets them apart. Later films don't seem to be able to capture the same balance. In attempting to do so, actors just come across as hammy. The Art of Exaggeration in American film, got lost some time in the late 40's. What a shame. Movies like this are the quintessence of that fine art.
  • Mark Twain has always been my favorite author since I was a boy. I read voraciously but I always return to Mark Twain and if I was stranded on the proverbial deserted island and had to choose to take only books by one author, those books would be by Mark Twain.

    This movie is wonderful although it takes great liberties with Twain's real life story. I have seen it several times over the years and, in fact, I am writing this review now because I just saw the last 20 minutes of it on a classic movie channel. The ending has to be the corniest tear-jerker of all times but it is also wonderful. Being a big, tough male, I have a total aversion to touchy-feely things and I am not one to cry even at funerals but the ending of this movie always makes me cry like a baby. It is shamelessly emotional but it is gets to me every time. If you haven't seen this movie, do so. The only problem is that I believe it is out-of-print on VHS and I don't think it has been released on DVD. Perhaps your local video store or your library has it. Don't confuse it with two more recent movies of the same name. One of those stars James Whitmore and I have not seen that one so I cannot comment on it. The other one is a claymation movie, presumably for kids.

    Like another reviewer of this movie, Mark Twain changed my life. In fact, in many ways, he shaped my personality. That reminds me that I have not read any Twain works in a couple years so when I finish this review, I am going to start reading one again from my library. Those who only think of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn when they think of Mark Twain are missing so much. Many consider Twain to be the greatest American author of all time. I agree with those people. The world is a better place because of Twain.
  • gagrice24 December 2002
    In spite of the discrepancies it was a fine movie. I have read most of the biographical works and this gives a wonderful picture of who Mark Twain really is. It captures his love of his wife & family very nicely. I recommend it to all that enjoy Mark Twain. The acting was better than average for that period in movie making.
  • Frederic March has a wonderful time playing the great author with all his humor and wisdom. This film is often overlooked, but it is one of the great bio-flicks. The settings, cast, Max Steiner score, and magic of the adventures add up to a funny and touching movie.

    With a film like this available, I can report that the rumors of Mark Twain's death are indeed exaggerated.
  • Arguably the gentleman born in Hannibal Missouri with the arrival of Halley's Comet named Samuel Langhorne Clemens at birth is America's greatest man of letters. Though his character was a great deal more complex than what you see in slightly over two hours Mark Twain, The Adventures Of Mark Twain presents the most positive aspects of his character as realized on screen by Fredric March.

    Warner Brothers did a fabulous makeup job on March and his skill as a player makes you really believe you're watching Mark Twain in action. At least this is the public image that Twain liked to convey that of a shrewd observer into the foibles of the nature of man.

    One of the things that does show is the love match that was made with Olivia Langdon and Sam Clemens. It's not much of a part in terms of something to work with, but Alexis Smith is a kind and loving help mate to March something the real Olivia was to Clemens. Mark Twain's private life contained not a hint of scandal in all of his 76 years on earth.

    In wartime especially American audiences liked to see those values affirmed. But with the deaths of Olivia and a favored daughter, the shrewd cynicism of Twain multiplied exponentially. What we don't see in the last several years of his life Twain becoming a brooding pessimist about life and the afterlife in general. The rollicking humorist that wrote about the Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County became an almost Stephen King like figure when his posthumous story The Mysterious Stranger was published. If there's a more pessimistic work out there, I'd like to know about it.

    When Alexis Smith says to March in the film that he's captured youth itself on page, she was referring to Tom Sawyer. In that and to an even greater extent in Huckleberry Finn, Twain was able to channel his Mississippi childhood into the book. It's not the adult Twain who observes human nature in either book, but it's the child Sam Clemens. That's the power both works have and they are what set Mark Twain's name firmly among literary immortals.

    The Adventures Of Mark Twain received three Oscar nominations, for Special Effects, for Art&Set Direction, and for its musical score by Max Steiner. Special mention should also go to Donald Crisp who plays Twain's literary agent especially for the lengths at which he goes to find the guy who published that jumping frog story under a pseudonym.

    The Adventures Of Mark Twain succeeds in capturing the public Mark Twain and the private Sam Clemens. I think the viewer will like both of them when they see the film.
  • In the Adventures of Mark Twain, Frederick March portrays the author as Sam Clemmons himself would approve. This film is the most true to life account of Clemmons life as any film I have seen on the author. It not only lets the viewer see the humorous side of Twain, but shows the desperate and dark sides as well. This is a film that every Twain "buff" should view!
  • I really enjoy movies like this one, it tells not only about the life of a real person, the the time he grew up in, & lived it, I feel at least once in a person's life they should take the time to watch this movie~ the actor Fredric March gave a brilliant performance.I can't think of any actor today except maybe for Harrison Ford, that could play this role, with realism. It takes a very gifted actor to play this part and Fredric March even looks and acts more like Mark Twain, then even Mark Twain himself. I would like to know how others feel about this movie, and if it had any effect on their lives at all? I know it did me, I began to write, keep notes in my notebook in high school, I wanted to be a writer, and over the years I have had several articles published and a book. Thanks~
  • President Taft said: " Mark Twain gave pleasure -- real intellectual enjoyment -- to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come... His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature."

    How true. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) is one of only a handful of men in American history I wish I could travel through time to meet. He has created several of the most memorable characters in all of literature.

    The Adventures of Mark Twain, while not a very accurate biography, is still highly entertaining and offers viewers a brief glimpse into the man, his life, writings, trials and tribulations. After all, how many 100% accurate film biographies would be worth watching? Most would be as boring as watching a chess match in slow motion. The film makers took some liberties, but the end result is one that Mr. Twain himself would probably enjoy. The final scene is heart touching and unforgettable.
  • This film is fun; it has some fine performances (I especially like Frederic March's lecture scenes) and a great Max Steiner score. However, a faithful biography of Mark Twain it is not. Apart from the fact that the script twists and distorts events in Mark Twain's life nearly out of recognition, it presents a false portrayal of him as a sentimental sap suffering from arrested development who probably wouldn't have written a word without his wife's persistent prodding.

    Some examples of egregious distortions of fact:

    * Mark Twain did not go west to get rich so he could marry Livy Clemens (he never even heard of her until after leaving the West)

    * his jumping frog story did not alleviate the nation's pains during the Civil War (it wasn't published until after the war ended)

    * he didn't leave Nevada to fight for the Confederacy when the war started (he went to Nevada partly to get away from the war after it started)

    * publishing U. S. Grant's memoirs didn't cause his bankruptcy (that publication was a huge success; his bankruptcy came 7 years later)

    * when he went on his round-the-world lecture tour, he didn't leave his wife behind not knowing she was gravely ill (she and a daughter went with him; her health was fine at that time)

    * his wife didn't make him promise to go to England to accept an Oxford degree (she died three years before he got the invitation)

    According a friend of Mark Twain's daughter, Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch, Clara was not allowed to set foot on the film's sets while it was being made, for fear she would confuse the cast and crew with the truth.

    For a more detailed dissection of the film, see my book, MARK TWAIN A TO Z, which compares the episodes of the film with the real events in Mark Twain's life. And for a film that presents a more honest portrait of Mark Twain, see the 1985 claymation feature of the same title: THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN.

    Meanwhile, there is a simple test you can make while watching the film: Prepare a list of Mark Twain's books in the order in which they were published. As you watch the film, pay attention each scene mentioning a new Mark Twain book, give it a sequential number, and write that number next to the title in your list. When the film is over, compare your numbers to the sequence in which Mark Twain actually wrote the books. If you want to make the test even more fun, try keeping track of the years in which the books appear in the film. What you'll end up with is a hopeless mishmash, leaving you uncertain whether the film follows Mark Twain's life forward or backward.

    Is it necessary for a film biography to get all all its facts correct? Probably not. But is it excusable for a film get almost all its facts wrong?

    Trivia note: An early scene shows the bedroom in which Mark Twain was born. Study the size of the room carefully. Then, when the film cuts to an outside view of the house (which looks authentic, by the way), ask yourself if it's physically possible for the bedroom to fit inside that house--even if it's the only room in the house.

    You can apply the same test to the steamboat in which Mark Twain later appears: Is it possible that the steamboat you see is big enough to contain the gaming room in which Mark Twain first appears?

    As I said, it's a fun movie in many ways ... but don't make the mistake of thinking that it has much to do with Mark Twain.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I just graduated with a B.A. in History from The Ohio State University. I wrote a paper about the life of U.S. Grant. First, I read Grant's autobiography. Grant was a childhood horse expert. He wanted to be a math teacher, but his grades were too low. He went into the military. At West Point, he fell in love with and later married Julia Dent, the sister of another student.

    Our class covered the Civil War, Grant's presidency, then his business bankruptcy. Mark Twain enters here (as in this movie). Twain wanted to publish Grant's autobiography so Mrs. Grant could have an income. Grant was near death, but Twain persuaded him to finish writing just before the end.

    Twain saved Julia's life financially (the movie showed the check being made out to Julia Dent Grant), giving her the largest royalty check ever given to anyone. She later moved to New York City, becoming friends with Varina Howell Davis (widow of Confederate President Jefferson Davis), who had also moved to NYC after Davis' death. Newspaper stories talked about "the famous widows".

    I enjoyed seeing the Grant portrayal in this movie. I am glad they did not show the buffoonish-alcoholism associated with him, though Julia admitted he was certainly no teetotaler. How many other drunkards can say that their face is on the $50.00 bill?

    I enjoyed Fredric March as Mark Twain. I read "Tom Sawyer" during my childhood. In another college course, we had a lecture about Mark Twain the philosopher. Twain said that God exists, but He sends us evil to overcome so that we can be good again.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Producer: Jesse L. Lasky. Copyright 13 May 1944 by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Hollywood: 3 May 1944. U.S. release: 6 May 1944. Australian release: 10 January 1946 (sic). 11, 928 feet. 132 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: The life and careers of Samuel Langhorne Clemens from his birth in Florida, Mo., on 30 November 1835 to his death in Elmira, N.Y., on 21 April 1910.

    NOTES: Nominated for Academy Awards for Art Direction (black and white) (lost to Gaslight); Music Scoring of a Drama or Comedy (lost to Steiner's own Since You Went Away); Special Effects for which oddly neither Butler nor Linden were nominated. Instead the nominees were Paul Detlefsen and John Crouse for the photography, Nathan Levinson for the sound. (Lost to Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo).

    COMMENT: Produced on a remarkably lavish scale, this long film traces Twain's career from his birth in 1835 to his death in 1910. This is not the usual reverent, inaccurate Hollywood hodgepodge. The lively, witty script deals first with Twain's boyhood in the Mississippi of Tom Sawyer. The 12-year-old Clemens is well played by Jackie Brown. After glimpsing Twain as an apprentice printer to his brother Orion (played by Russell Gleason), we are plunged into an exciting section dealing with Twain's experiences as a river pilot, based on "Life on the Mississippi".

    After this, Twain turns to prospecting with Alan Hale and we are introduced to the celebrated jumping frog. I always imagined this incident would defy screen adaptation, but the writers and the director have not only succeeded in doing the impossible, they have turned it into sparkling entertainment.

    Later, Twain goes on lecture tours and, as they are presented in this film, it is not difficult to imagine why Twain was so popular. He was the Bob Hope of his era - save that he wrote his own material and his jokes are still so fresh they even have present-day audiences convulsed with laughter.

    Of course, a great deal of the film's success is due to the splendid playing of Fredric March and the very able supporting cast. The sets are also most impressive, ranging from the plush gambling saloon of the "Queen of Dixie" to an accurate reproduction of the Great Hall at Sydney University, and the number of extras is phenomenal.

    Max Steiner's music score is very effective, particularly in the riverboat-in-the-fog sequence where it is quite out of character with the composer's usual approach - and all the better for this innovation! The fine photography is the work of Sol Polito.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Directed by Irving Rapper, with additional dialogue provided by Harry Chandlee, this Harold M. Sherman play, co-adapted with Alan Le May, stars Fredric March in the title role. It's an above average fictionalized biography of the famed author and humorist, from his humble beginnings in Hannibal, Missouri to his final, worldwide speaking tour.

    The cast includes Alexis Smith, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, C. Aubrey Smith (near the end), John Carradine (in not much more than a cameo appearance), William Henry, Robert Barrat, and Dickie Moore (who plays Samuel Clemens at age 13), among others. The film received Oscar nominations for its B&W Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Special Effects, and Max Steiner's Musical Score.

    The story plays out in four well constructed 30 minute segments, each of which tells a significant part of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain's life, and includes numerous of his famous witticisms:

    After being born coincident with Halley's Comet, the first scenes touch on Samuel's life as a boy through the time that he became a river pilot on the Mississippi River. It begins with him as a youngster (Jackie Brown) playing with friends Tom, Huck, and a Negro slave boy on a makeshift raft on the river, pretending to be pirates as they lounge on an island in the river's middle and try to avoid getting run over by the riverboat Missouri. As a teenager (Moore), Samuel kissed his mother's head before running off to learn the river's 1,200 miles of turns and hidden shoals from Horace Bixby (Barrat), captain of the Paul Jones. We learn that the term "mark twain" means safe water, e.g. water deep enough for a river boat's safe passage. By the time he was in his twenties, Clemens (March) had become its master, piloting "his" Queen of Dixie with derring-do through the fog to impress his former teacher(s) and Charles Langdon (Henry), from whom he stole a picture of his sister (picture of Alexis Smith) upon declaring that one day, he would marry that girl.

    Off to make his fortune, to make his statement good, Clemens partners with Steve Gillis (Hale) and heads West hoping to strike it rich by finding a gold mine. Though their mule seems to know where they should stake their claim, the two novices fail to discover any valuable minerals and return to town penniless where they witness the newspaper reporter being shot dead in the street. The next thing you know, Clemens is the town's reporter. Enter Gillis with another get rich quick plan by winning a frog jumping contest against the longtime defending champion, owned by Bret Harte (Carradine, whose character may have been the man that shot the previous reporter). Though Clemens is on the verge of having enough money to return East to find his future bride, his friend Steve convinces him to catch a frog and then bet everything he has on their challenger. Unbeknownst to Samuel, Steve has sabotaged the champion jumper (filling it with buckshot) on whom Clemens has really placed their bets. This foreshadows Samuel's bad financial sense, exhibited throughout the film. The thing which eventually rescues Clemens is his writing about the flog jumping contest, using the pen-name Mark Twain, which is discovered by J. B. Pond (Crisp), who pursues Samuel until he finds him on a levee of Mississippi, looking at his post-Civil War ruined Queen of Dixie.

    Pond takes Twain East on a speaking tour, during which he introduces himself and entertains the paying customers with his witty insights about our culture, and ourselves. In attendance is Charles Langdon, who introduces Mark to his sister Olivia (Smith) after the show and invites him home. She turns out to more than he had dreamed she was and, eventually he (and her love for him) convinces her skeptical father (Walter Hampden) to allow their marriage. Twain writes several popular books but, according to the film, didn't begin Tom Sawyer until the death of their first child, a boy, after Olivia convinces him to capture the stories he'd been waiting to tell their son. As everyone should know, Tom Sawyer was an international bestseller which gained him wealth (Willie Best, uncredited, plays their butler) and the respect of his father-in-law and his favorite authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Unfortunately, just as he'd nearly completed Huckleberry Finn, Twain made a social error at a luncheon in his honor that insulted his would-be peers.

    The final fourth the film delves into the financial folly undertaken by Twain; he'd become his own publisher in order to avoid writing any more "funny" books such that he could concentrate on more serious works. He invested a lot of his assets in a failed automatic typesetting machine as well such that he was "forced" to write many of the classics he penned like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and The Prince and the Pauper just to stay afloat. His insistence on publishing the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, for the benefit of his near destitute widow and so that his three daughters (including Joyce Reynolds) and other children would know the man's great deeds, ruined him to the point that a Pond sponsored speaking tour around the World was his only hope of existing bankruptcy by paying off all his creditors in full. Once he'd accomplished that, he met his wife in Europe where she'd lived her final days, but not before learning of his pending honors at Oxford University. C. Aubrey Smith plays the University's Chancellor who, not only honors Rudyard Kipling, bestows the "highest possible honor" on the now humble, and teary eyed Twain, who later days with Halley's Comet.
  • The first thing to note about "The Adventures of Mark Twain" is that it is by no stretch an accurate biography of Mark Twain. In that sense the film is unfortunate, because no doubt they could have still had an interesting film without the need for blatant inaccuracies.

    Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Fredric March is memorable as a witty and principled Twain. March dominates the movie, but the supporting cast gives notable performances as well. The film has a number of great humorous moments as befits a film about Twain. The problems and conflicts developed in the film, although often fictitious, are engaging.

    If you are looking for an accurate biography of Mark Twain, avoid this film. However, if you can tolerate the historical liberties, see "The Adventures of Mark Twain" for Fredric March's stellar performance as Twain.
  • I am one of the biggest fans of the classic era of Hollywood films of 1920-1950. However, there are a few genres within this that I am not especially fond of--musicals, religious epics and biopics. As far as musicals go, I only like a few...very few. I am not against the idea of religious epics, but most play fast and loose with the source material and would bore non-believers. And, biopics are usually wildly inaccurate--with a much greater emphasis on theatrics and sentimentality.

    As far as this film goes, it is like the prototype of a bad biopic. While the life of Samuel Clemens was pretty exciting and full of strange twists and turns, the film generally only handles these interesting facets in an episodic fashion. Instead, the emphasis is on schmaltz and sentimentality--and it sure ladles it on thick!! Here are a few god-awful examples:

    1. When Clemens (Frederic March) is having doubts about his chosen life as a writer, his wife (Alexis Smith) tells him that he MUST go he "...owes it to the ages"! First, how would she know that he could become the world-famous writer he would become?! Second, who talks like this?! My wife is, incidentally, a very successful writer--and IS world-famous. Yet, I don't remember a single conversation that sounded anything like this!! Of course, she's not Mark Twain...but one talks this way!

    2. Throughout the film, music drones on and on and on in order to make some of the sappiest scenes I can recall--and I've reviewed a ton of films! Can't a scene be simply done--without patriotic or sentimental music?!

    3. Clemens' wife always refers to him as 'Mark Twain'. Whose family refers to a writer by their pen name?! She WAS Mrs. Clemens...NOT Mrs. Twain. Was this some dopey attempt to continually remind the audience that Sam Clemens WAS Twain?!

    In addition, the film is highly episodic--especially later in the film. The first 2/3 of the film is actually pretty enjoyable as Clemens tries a variety of careers and begins his work as a writer. But then, the film bounces wildly through the next few decades in only a few short minutes--like they weren't especially important--yet this is when Clemens created the bulk of his works.

    I should point out that I don't hate all biopics. Some, such as "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet" or "Young Tom Edison" are quite enjoyable and stick closer to the facts. It's the way that humans are no longer human (almost saint-like) in many biopics of the day that turns me against them--especially since I am a history teacher and want the whole truth (warts and all). And, because of this and some bad storytelling, I am NOT recommending you waste your time with "The Adventures of Mark Twain" and instead watch a documentary about him instead.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I sort of chuckled when I read a few of the other reviews. I didn't know anyone realistically expected biopics from the 1930s through 1950s to be accurate. I'm not sure I've ever seen one that was. What I realistically expect is to sometimes find biopics from that era to have a shade of truth and some good acting. From that perspective, this is pretty darned good! Frederick March is far from one of my favorite actors, but as he matured I found him to be quite good, and in this film, excellent. Most of the supporting actors do fine, including Alexis Smith, Alan Hale, and the always welcome Donald Crisp. The production values are surprisingly good, although as one reviewer pointed out, the ship Twain piloted couldn't have possibly had the gambling hall depicted. As one reviewer pointed out, the details of Twain's bankruptcy were botched, but in terms of being an entertaining movie, it was close enough to keep the plot moving forward. If you want an accurate biography, this isn't it (although it's certainly closer to the truth than, for example, the Cary Grant biopic of Cole Porter).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was really looking forward to viewing this pic, but could barely make it through due to the script, which tried to accomplish WAY too much...ending up as a very episodic and un-focused two-plus-hour behemoth.

    Too bad, because Frederic March's performance is monumental, and the Warner Brothers production is lavish and awe-inspiring in its scope. An incredible number of scenes and settings (including some clever matte-painting and artificial crowd effects during Twain's stop in India during his big world-wide speaking tour) practically overwhelm the viewer, and produce an unwieldy, structurally flawed film.

    And the grand world tour is only one of MANY events crammed into the film's running time, in an attempt to create a compelling narrative of Twain's ENTIRE career----which is even more challenging when so much Hollywood make-believe has been added on.

    Take another Warner Bros biopic, the great 1937 "Life of Emile Zola", and you'll see the difference a sensible script makes. "Zola" also gives us something of a Reader's-Digest version of the author's life UP TO THE POINT of the famous Dreyfus affair. The film then settles into one of the most beautifully controlled, intense and thrilling dramas ever captured on film, highlighted, of course, by the classic courtroom/trial scenes with Paul Muni delivering the performance of a lifetime, and Donald Crisp, Henry O'Neill, Louis Calhern etc at the top of their game.

    AND THUS-- the historic trial becomes the focus, the dramatic nucleus of the entire film (as well as the majority of its running time) and doesn't attempt to STRING TOGETHER every possible aspect of the subject's life, as "Twain" does.

    And as "Twain" careens rather haphazardly (but predictably) towards its end, we know it's only a matter of time--within the final 15 minutes--- that Mrs. Twain will die, Twain himself will be honored for his life's work (boy, that big white wig of his never lost ANY of its full-bodied shape as he aged), and then will die (or should I say "Croak", like those big old rubber frogs?).

    I didn't expect the lovely effect at the very end----with the magical change of scenery from earth to heaven but, after so much tedium caused by the sensory overload of the rest of the film, it seemed manipulative and a bit sappy.

    Could have been a great film. LR
  • Fredric March is an absolute pro, so if you're watching one of his movies, there's a high likelihood that you'll see him give a wonderful performance. He made a few stinky movies, but The Adventures of Mark Twain isn't one of them. It's a very interesting biopic about one of America's most beloved authors.

    Full of interesting tidbits, like how he picked out his pen name, and including well-known interests that permeated his life, like time travel, you'll learn an awful lot about Mark Twain. One of his books is one of my favorites of all time, so I was particularly moved to find out the personal tragedy that surrounded him before he got the idea to write A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I've read it many times, but it's never made as much sense to me as it does now that I've seen this movie. If you're a Mark Twain fan, I highly recommend you watch this movie.
  • An easily enjoyable period piece. It gives you a Readers Digest version of the authors life, and will likely inspire some to sit down and read a proper biography. As entertainment it does the job for its time and has a lasting value. The lead actor - adult version - does a good job, except when Twain/Clemens does his speaking performances ( that difficulty does stand out oddly enough ). Some will find the ending to be 'a bit much' but it does fit the tone of the movie and the time well. If you are fond of vintage Hollywood movies, then you will enjoy noticing multiple character actors from the time who enjoyed long careers afterwards. A movie that is easy to recomend for its audience; period movie fans, Mark Twain fans and anyone in the mood for a drama with emphasis on the 'ups' over the 'downs' of a mans life.
  • If you didn't watch the credits for this, you might not have realized what an all star crew director Irving Rapper was working with...Max Steiner doing the music, John Hughes and Fred M Maclean on set design, Paul Detlefsen and John Crouse on visual effects with Nathan Levinson doing sound effects- all of whom would be nominated for academy awards for this picture- Alan Le May behind the screenplay, and Don Siegel in the cinematography and editing department.

    And that's not even mentioning the brilliant cast.

    The story covers the prophetic life of Mark Twain, from his conception- riding in on the tail of Haley's Comet- to his death- riding back out on it.

    It begins with his life in the south, as a boy, working for his brother Orion as a typesetter in the printing business. Though, dreaming of one day being a steamboat pilot, and navigating his way along the stretches of the Mississippi River into infamy.

    He'd eventually run away from home to achieve this dream...and make his name famous, when he successfully dircted a steamboat through a dangerous series of shoals in a pea soup fog.

    Knowing there was nowhere to go but down from there, he'd exit this life at his peak, and set out on his next adventure with his good friend- a small time hustler- named Steve Gillis.

    The two friends would venture to Virgina City, Nevada with hopes of striking it rich in the gold rush.

    There they would open Queen Dixie Mines (named after the Steamboat he captained), on Jackass Hill. But they were unsuccessful. Only to discover they had just barely missed a vein which would later be discovered at that very spot.

    And when they tried to get in on the claim, they just missed out on that too.

    Timing really is everything.

    Timing would be on his side, however, when Twain and Gillis witnessed the murder of the local reporter at the hands of a gunslinging thug, who didn't appreciate a story that was written by the now deceased man.

    Twain saw this as a new opportunity, putting himself up for the job, by writing a story to honour the memory of this slain reporter.

    Truth and Justice by his side.

    It was during this tenure that he would go on to write his first short humour story- The Jumping Frog Of Calveras County- about an experience he and Gillis went through to try and rally up a few bucks.

    And put him on the path to legacy and infamy.

    It skips over his whole stint in California, but does mention his return to the south, to cover the war, after Fort Sumter is attacked by the Confederate troops during which the Mississippi would become blocked by a sunken steamer.

    And it is here, that he would make his third prophecy (which would later come true)...that he would one day marry Olivia, the sister of another one of his friends, and the girl of his dreams.

    One might point out that saints have been anointed for less.

    Eventually he would be tracked down by a man named JB Pond, who sought to send him on a lecture tour in the East, in promotion of his story about the frogs, that would help all of America laugh their way through the war.

    And while travelling through New England, he would get the chance to make that prophecy come true...winning the heart and hand of Livy, for the rest of his life.

    He would keep writing humour stories, to pay the bills...but desperately wanted to write something more serious to prove to Livy that he could. Even though she was perfectly content that he was the man who could make everyone laugh.

    He was as much a stand up comedian as he was writer. And it was laughter through which he touched her heart.

    However, he would always have to put off these plans because of bad investments, including an attempt to start his own publishing company...which put him deeply in debt.

    To pay off these debts, he would travel around the world on a final lecture tour. And it is this that established himself as the most famous man in the world.

    Winning him a seat alongside Disraeli, Brown, Emerson, Wordsworth, Longfellow and Tennyson as one of the greatest authors in the history of mankind. With honours from Oxford and Yale to prove it.

    Though it would not come without a cost, as illness would take Livy's life in Florence, Italy. Where they spent their final days together.

    Twain would eventually return to his three daughters- Jean, Suzy and Clara- in the US, where he would live out his final days in Stormfield...before exiting the stage- on the tail of Haley's Comet- like he came in.

    Passing over to the realm of his imagination, while reminding his daughter, "What you look upon as my death is greatly exaggerated" (citing a quote he had made to a reporter in Europe when rumours he had died had been circulating).

    And so ends the magical tale of the great life of the man known as Mark Twain.

    Safe waters are ahead.

    A truly magical, and highly underrated film. Backed by excellent writing and the perfect cast. Frederic March shines as Twain, while Alexis Smith inspires as Livy. With everyone in front of and behind the camera doing their jobs to perfection, to honour this great man as he should be honoured. With heart and imagination.

    But as the ending quote suggests, artistic liberties were taken in the telling of this story. Which is not wholly accurate.

    Not like Sam would have minded anyways.

    10 out of 10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody wants to do anything about it", Frederic March says here in character, and of course it get laughs. He had a view of the big and mighty Mississippi that influenced not only his stories but his view of the world around him. To Samuel Clemens, the world started and stopped with the river that divided the east from the west and carried goods from the north to the south, so when the steamboats were docked with the civil war, to him, it was as if the world stopped moving for him.

    Frederic March is every inch Mark Twain here, only rivaled on stage and TV by Hal Holbrook, as much Twain here as Raymond Massey was Abraham Lincoln just a few years before. His tales of the Mississippi flow from the veins of his own life, aided by the loving assistance of his wife (Alexis Smith). But this isn't just a story of "I wrote this, and then I wrote that", but how he influenced the publishing world as well, even if it lead him to bankruptcy for a time.

    This doesn't paint Twain as a grownup version of either Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, but there's always the sign of the little boy living through these stories. He's a raucous jokester, a hot tempered artist and an incredible storyteller, definitely an incredibly devoted family man. It's obvious that he'd appreciate my own joke as a younger on a 7th grade history test, putting Sam Clemens down as a test paper answer over Mark Twain then bringing the test to my teacher to have the answer marked wrong changed to correct.

    The supporting cast here is vast and incredibly good, featuring Alan Hale, John Carradine, Donald Crisp, Percy Kilbride, Willie Best and C. Aubrey Smith among the many familiar faces. I learned from this what a mark twain really is in terms of river jargon, and the importance of Halley's Comet in his life. The film only received three technical Oscar nominations, but deserved so much more, perhaps at least for March over Barry Fitzgerald who was nominated for leading and supporting for the same film, "Going My Way".

    This is a joyous film in so many aspects, filled with wit, heart, history and the idea that if the problem with the human race is the human race, then Twain indeed was a member of an advanced species of that race that has yet to be surpassed.
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