The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)
Article 5629 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Irving Rapper
Featuring Fredric March, Alexis Smith, Donald Crisp
What it is: Biopic
The life of Mark Twain is shown.
Let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first. The movie is being told by the spirit of Mark Twain, and miniature versions of some of his characters appear at one point. Furthermore, Tom, Huck and Jim appear as friends of Twain in his early years, which seems to imply they’re real people rather than fictional creations. Then there’s a final scene where Twain accompanies his fictional characters to heaven. Though this all remains a bit on the marginal side, the content is nonetheless there.
As for the movie itself, it’s an entertaining enough biopic on the great 19th century humorist, and it’s anchored by an excellent performance by Fredric March in the title role; his Twain always feels like a real human being. Early on in the movie I had to remind myself of a rule I follow whenever I see a Hollywood movie based on true events, and that was not to expect or demand accuracy; the movie is full of neatly-contrived scenes that feel much more like creations from a Hollywood writer than like anything that really happened, and some of the user comments on IMDB imply that the movie is rife with inaccuracies. Still, if it’s accuracy you want, you’re better off with a well-researched biography. Take the movie as a tribute to the man, and you’ll be much more satisfied by it. I do have one caveat; though many of his books are mentioned, I found no reference to his work with the most marked fantastic content, A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT.