Mark Twain Media Update No. 2

By Wesley Britton
Sherman, TX

Copyright © Wesley Britton, 1996

This article updates information on Mark Twain media not listed in _The Mark Twain Encyclopedia_ or the first _Media Update_ published both in the _Mark Twain Circular_ (July/Sept. 1995) and on the _Mark Twain Forum_ online. Please forward any information not listed in these sources to me for inclusion in future updates.


R. Kent Rasmussen's 1995 _Mark Twain A to Z_ contains much information on Twain media not listed in the _Mark Twain Encyclopedia_. His reference work contains synopses of Twain films, such as the two _Adventures of Mark Twain_, and his articles on books made into movies, such as _A Connecticut Yankee_ and _Huckleberry Finn_ provide lengthier analysis than was possible in the _Encyclopedia_. For example, his commentary on _A Connecticut Yankee_ includes a musical version not previously listed along with cast notes and observations on various film's approaches.

Chapter 16 of Charles Norton's 1983 _Writing Tom Sawyer_ (McFarland and Co.) is a brief, four-page discussion of film adaptations of the novel, emphasizing the early black-and-white versions beginning in 1917. The previous chapter discusses dramatic stagings of _Tom Sawyer_ during Twain's lifetime.

Andrew Hoffman's 1991 "The Unspendable Fortune" (in the _Connecticut Review_) traces the development of "The One Million Pound Banknote" into _Trading Places_, a 1983 John Landis comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akyroyd. Hoffman also discusses _Man With a Million_ (1954), a Gregory Peck film directed by Ronald Neame also based on Twain's story. Hoffman describes this film as being closer to Twain than _Trading Places_, and notes MGM-UA has not issued the 1954 film on video, has destroyed most of the prints, and that the film is only available on rare television airings and 16 mm. non-theatrical releases available in film archives such as the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, CA. (See also_Movies_ below).

James S. Moy's 1993 _Magical Sights: Staging the Chinese America_ (U of Iowa P) contains much useful discussion on Twain and Bret Harte's 1877 play, _Ah Sin_. Unfortunately not indexed, Moy's lengthy passages on _Ah Sin_ repeatedly intermingle with Moy's broader discussions on American culture's perceptions of the Chinese on stage.

Glen M. Johnson's review of Clyde V. Haupt's _Huckleberry Finn on Film: Film and Television Adaptations of Mark Twain's Novel, 1920-1993_ (Jefferson, NC, and London: McFarland and Company, 1994) finds Haupt's overview of eleven films "frustratingly uneven, but valuable for the amount of information it contains." Despite the "omissions, oddities, and weaknesses," Johnson praises Haupt's eye for visuals, Twain and movie trivia, and insights into the various endings of the film. Johnson also notes other sources on Twain media.


A third adaptation of the "Million Pound Bank Note" was released in 1994, _A Million to Juan_ (also known by _A Million to One_), produced by Trimark Pictures and directed by Paul Rodriguez who also stars in the title role. Other actors include Polly Draper, Larry Linville, Liz Torres and Cheech Marin. "Written by Robert Grasmere, Francisca Matos, and Mark Twain," the rather flat, low-budget effort borrows from Twain's plot transporting the setting to a Hispanic neighborhood.

In 1995, Disney released two Twain-related projects, the juvenile-oriented _A Kid in King Arthur's Court_ which reprised the 1989 television version starring a child in the Hank Morgan role. Of more interest was _Tom and Huck_, arguably the best if imperfect rendition of _The Adventures of Tom Sawyer_. Directed by Peter Hewitt, starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro, the film was produced by Laurence Mark and John Baldecchi. Written by Stephen Sommers, David Loughery, and Mark Twain, the film is darker than previous versions, with much alteration of the novel's plot and characters. (Available on video).

Director Michael Gottlieb's _A Kid in King Arthur's Court_ is far more removed from its source, listing the authors as Michael Part and Robert L. Levy without mentioning Twain. In the film, Little Leaguer Calvin Fuller (Thomas Ian Nicholas) falls into a tunnel leading him back to the time of Camelot. Calvin befriends King Arthur (Joss Ackland) and his daughters, and helps them save their kingdom from the evil Lord Belasco (Art Malik). Produced by Robert L. Levy, Peter Abrams and J.P. Guerin for Trimark Pictures and Tapestry Films.


The science-fiction series _Babylon 5_ aired one episode entitle "The War Prayer" based on Twain's story. According to Jim Zwick, a plot summary is available on the _Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5_ on the internet at

The PBS series, _Frontline_ episode, "The Shakespeare Mystery" (#710F) quotes lengthy passages from Twain about his skepticisms regarding Shakespeare's credibility. Produced and directed by Kevin Sim with correspondent Al Austin, the episode was first aired in 1989, then repeated on April 23, 1996. Transcripts are available from Journal Graphics (WGBH Educational Foundation) or at

The script first quotes Twain's description of Shakespeare's bust, then maintains, "It was at the wheel of a Mississippi riverboat more than one hundred thirty years ago that Mark Twain began to have doubts about Shakespeare of Stratford. Twain learned the language of Shakespeare while he was learning the language of the river. From a riverboat captain who kept mixing the poetry and his commands together." Then, Horace Bixby's oration from _Life on the Mississippi_ is quoted to illustrate the point that Twain could not believe a glove maker had the experience to write Shakespeare's plays.

One episode of CBS's _Murder, She Wrote_ entitled "The Wild and Wooly West" centered its plot on a Mark Twain scholar's murder as he attempted to authenticate what turned out to be a bogus Twain manuscript. Twain scholars beware!

Victor Doyno, Random House _Huck Finn_ contributor, appeared on the TODAY SHOW on May 14, 1996 and was interviewed in the studio by Katie Couric.


According to Jim Zwick, the world premiere performance of "The War Prayer Oratorio" (music by Herbert Haufrch, Libretto by Mark Twain) took place on April 22, 1995 at the Ulster Choral Society in Kingston, NY. An announcement and poster (which features Civil War flags rather than those of the Philippine-American War that inspired the story) can be found on the internet at

According to Bill Cosgrove, Roger Miller's _Big River_ (listed in the _MT Encyclopedia_) was presented in part on the television series "Fame," including some raft scenes and the song, "River in the Rain." On May 21, John Goodman sang "Government," based on Pap Finn's speech, from the same musical on the "David Letterman Show."

Singer and actor Jim Post wrote the script, lyrics and music for _Mark Twain and the Laughing River_. According to Ed DeJean, "the music/lyrics have a restful, wholesome lilt. Plus, he does a most acceptable Mark Twain as he gives his lines" accompanied by musician Luke Nelson. In early 1996, performances occurred in Old Town (North Side Chicago) in The Theatre Building, 1225 West Belmont Street. The telephone number for information or tickets is (312) 327-5252.

Harry Belafonte's 1954 recording _Mark Twain and Other Folk Favourites_, (RCA Victor LPM-1022) is not directly related to Twain but the title song features the words of a riverboat leadsman singing personal observations between river measurements. These lyrics indicate different meanings for these measurements than Twain stated in _Life on the Mississippi_.

Stage Drama

The script of Ed DeJean's 1994 two-act play, _Sam and Joe_ is available at the Mark Twain Forum website. The play, based on the lives of Samuel Clemens and Joseph Twichell, can be found under the filelist link on the Forum's home page, at According to Taylor Roberts, "The text is available in two formats, plain text and RTF. For the most attractive formatting, I recommend downloading the RTF format and printing it from MS Word or another word processor."

In summer 1996, Central Works in San Francisco premiered Berkeley playwright Gary Graves' "Bret Harte's THE GOLDEN ERA: including the literary contributions of Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Warren Stoddard, Ina Coolbrith, Ada Clare, and the fabulous Adah Issacs Menken! (an original play in two acts)." Or The Golden Era for short. Graves dissertation was on the history of San Francisco's Bohemian Club and reportadly based his script on letters, memoirs, and GOLDEN ERA columns by the mentioned writers.

Audiobooks and Radio

In 1995, Audiopartners released three cassette books; Patrick Fraley's _The Complete and Unabridged Adventures of Tom Sawyer_; Hal Holbrook's _Mark Twain Tonight_: and McAvoy Layne's _Mark Twain: Wild Humorist of the West_. Of these, the most significant was the long-awaited re-issue of Hal Holbrook's first two Columbia record albums of his "Mark Twain Tonight" impersonations. Layne's _Mark Twain: Wild Humorist of the West_, a two-cassette set of his one-man show is less satisfying. Fraley's unabridged reading of _Tom Sawyer_ is both useful and entertaining. (A more detailed review of these books is available at _The Mark Twain Forum_ website).

The Commuters Library (Sound Room Publishers) has two audio tapes of Mark Twain Stories. "A Double Barrel Detective Story" is one volume, and _Jumping Frogs to Cannibalism_ includes "The Beef Contract." For information, contact them at (800) 643-0295.

In addition to "The Stolen White Elephant" adaptation listed in the _Mark Twain Encyclopedia_, the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre hosted by E.G. Marshal produced two other Mark Twain stories in 1979. "The Goddess Caper," based on "The Legend of the Capitoline Venus," featured Twain assisting a young sculptor in a script by Sam Dann. Dann also scripted a version of "The Mysterious Stranger" starring Tony Roberts (later a member of Woody Allen's stable of character actors) as an adult Victor Fisher who learns about the "Moral Sense" from Satan. Both adaptations keep to the spirit if not the letter of Twain's stories and are well worth Twainians's attention.

Victor Doyno, Justin Kaplan and Jane Smiley (by telephone) appeared on the May 14, 1996 "Talk of the Nation Program" on National Public Radio, discussing the new Random House edition of _Huckleberry Finn_. Audio cassettes of the program may be ordered for $15.45 by contacting NPR Audio Services at (202) 414-3232.

Needing further information

According to a member of the American Literature List-serve, an animated Japanese film called The Dagger of Kumri ( or_Kamui?) has Mark Twain speaking in Japanese. Word has it a popular Japanese television series features Tom Sawyer in a treehouse. I am still seeking information on a film of _Roughing It_ with James Daly as "an elderly Mark Twain" and Andrew Prine as the younger Sam Clemens. Robert Saudek Associates produced it. Does anyone have information about "The Great Rocky Mountain Chase" in which Sam Clemens and Mike Fink have a contest? Graham Allanreported hearing "a very good radio documentary dealing with _Huckleberry Finn_." It was broadcast in the UK in May 1996 by BBC Radio 4. "There was a good range of erudite contributors" including Justin Kaplan. Produced by Paul Quinn, but we have no other information about it.

A Short Bibliography of Twain Media Reviews

Annichiarico, Mark "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 2/15/93, Vol. 118 Issue 3, p212. Reviews the sound recording of CY read by Richard Kiley.

"Audio books." Billboard, 12/9/95, Vol. 107 Issue 49, p75. Reviews a audio book of TS.

Baskin, Barbara. "Audiobook Reviews." Booklist, 1/15/95, Vol. 91 Issue 10, p946. Reviews audiobooks from Audio Bookshelf including _The Mark Twain Sampler_.

Deltz-Silerd, Barbara. "Audiovisual media: Audiobooks." Booklist, Nov94, Vol. 91 Issue 5, p530. Reviews the audiobooks by `Recorded Books Library Service' including `The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.'

Carr, Jo. "Audiobooks for the road." Horn Book Magazine, Jul/Aug 94, Vol. 70 Issue 4, p436-9. Reviews audiobooks for children including HF.

Ellis, Luana. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 5/1/94, Vol. 119 Issue 8, p155. Reviews the sound recording `The Mark Twain Sampler' read by Blair Einstein.

Hartshorn, Laurie. "Audiobooks." Booklist, Aug93, Vol. 89 Issue 22, p2081. Reviews audiobooks by Durkin Hayes Audio including CY.

Hiett, John. "Video reviews." Library Journal, 2/15/94, Vol. 119 Issue 3, p199. Reviews the videotapes `Mark Twain (Famous Authors),' and William Faulkner (Famous Authors),' by Landmark Films.

Hipple, Ted. "Audiovisual media: Audiobooks." Booklist, Aug94, Vol. 90 Issue 22, p2064. Evaluates audio books from Commuter's Library including _Jumping Frogs to Cannibalism_ by MT.

Hoffman, P.; Annichiarico, M. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, Jul91, Vol. 116 Issue 12, p152. Reviews a sound recording of HF. Jaeger, Ernest and Fox, Bette-Lee. "Video reviews." Library Journal, 5/1/96, Vol. 121 Issue 8, p146-7. Reviews the videotape _Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn_.

Josyph, Peter. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 6/1/94, Vol. 119 Issue 10, p186. Reviews the sound recording `_Mark Twain: Jumping Frogs to Cannibalism_ read by Thomas Becker.

Josyph, Peter. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 10/1/93, Vol. 118 Issue 16, p141. Reviews the sound recording `A Tramp Abroad'read by Wolfram Kandinsky.

Josyph, Peter; Annichiarico, Mark. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 3/15/93, Vol. 118 Issue 5, p124-5. Reviews the sound recording of PW read by Norman Deitz.

Markuson, Carolyn. "Audiovisual media: CD-ROMs." Booklist, 12/1/95, Vol. 92 Issue 7, p645. Reviews the CD-ROM The Best of Mark Twain.

Paul, Nancy and Annichiarico, Mark. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 6/15/94, Vol. 119 Issue 11, p111. Reviews the sound recording `Fenimore Cooper to Membranous Croup' by MT, read by Thomas Becker.

Paul, Nancy. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 2/1/94, Vol. 119 Issue 2, p128. Reviews the sound recording `Stories of New England: Then and Now' by MT, H.P. Lovecraft, James Thurber, Susan M. Dodd and others.

Prevetti, C.A. "Audiovisual review: Recordings." School Library Journal, Apr94, Vol. 40 Issue 4, p89. Reviews the sound recording `The Wild West,' by MT and others, read by Jack Palance and Charles Dean.

Quain, John R. "300 Clemens titles on CD-ROM." PC Magazine, 1/11/94, Vol. 13 Issue 1, p426. Introduces the multimedia CD-ROM `Twain's World,' from Bureau Development Inc which contains complete works of MT, Full-text works by Clemens, video and animation clips.

Schnol, Janet. "Spring children's audio and video." Publishers Weekly, 2/27/95, Vol. 242 Issue 9, p44-8. Lists book and audio versions of children's literature including HF.

Schwartz, Paula. "Three childhood treasures." New York Times, 4/14/96, Vol. 145 Issue 50397, Arts & Leisure p18. Discusses movie adaptations of children's books including P&P.

"Sight & sound." American History Illustrated, Jan/Feb91, Vol. 25 Issue 6, p14. Reviews the film _Mark Twain's America,_ part of Time-Life Video's`America: A Look Back' subscription series profiling MT.

Stander, Bella; Maughan, Shannon. "Spring children's audio and video." Publishers Weekly, 2/15/93, Vol. 240 Issue 7, p169-73. An extensive listing of children's audio and video books including TS from Dove Audio.

Taylor, Brian; Annichiarico, Mark. "Audio reviews." Library Journal, 11/15/92, Vol. 117 Issue 19, p124. Reviews a sound recording of PW.

White, Ron. "J.F.K.' Mark Twain, Darth Vader and Elvis: New CDs rated." PC Computing, Feb94, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p80-9. Reviews a selection of compact disc (CD) products including `Twain's World.'