The Adventures of Mark Twain Reviews
Which is too bad because if ever there was an author that deserves a decent biopic - it would be Mark Twain. He lived an interesting life during interesting times which he translated well into some of the more beloved novels and books of American literature. I have very fond memories of reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a kid and it remains one of my all-time favorite books.
One thing this film did right is the make-up on actor Frederic March. He looks like the spitting image of Twain and does a commendable portrayal. I just feel that the script doesn't do his performance justice though...it is very episodic (which is alright) but feeling a bit too rushed at times. His early childhood in Hannibal, Missouri mirrors the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn novels. He runs away from home to become a riverboat pilot. He travels to the west with his friend, Steve Gillis (the always enjoyable Alan Hale) in hopes of striking it rich during the Gold Rush. This portion of the film mirrors his work in ROUGHING IT and THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY...again, not always factual but entertaining at least.
If we are to believe the film - THE CELEBRATED FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY was a popular story and help lift the morale of the nation amidst the Civil War. Twain becomes a popular attraction as a humorist on the lecture circuit. It is during this part of the film where I feel the script fails because I just didn't feel the electricity of his talks. Oh, the audience in the film were laughing their butts off...but left me feeling meh!
It is during his lecture tour that Twain meets his future wife, Olivia Langdon, played by Alexis Smith - one of the lesser known beauties from the 1940's, if ya ask me. Twain was smitten by Olivia's beauty years earlier during his days as a riverboat pilot...espying her picture in a locket belong to a passenger...it being a photo of Alexis Smith - it's very understandable!!!
I think the best part of the film happens during the last third as Twain, despite being a successful novelist is verging on the brink of bankruptcy due to dubious business deals. He meets up with former US president and civil war hero Ulysseys S. Grant, himself destitute and in ill-health. Twain wants to publish Grant's memoirs and offers him what at the time was an unprecedented large advance. It's a key scene which touches on Twain's humanist side.
There are a couple of fantasy sequences involving Tom, Huck and the slave Jim which earned the film special effects nominations in 1945.
Overall, an interesting film...but really made me want to see a more definitive biopic of Mark Twain.
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.