Hal Holbrook’s ‘That Certain Summer’

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Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain

Hal Holbrook passed away on January 23 [just made public today] at age 95. He was one of my favorites, a giant of an actor who portrayed roles that will be remembered forever. Most notable was his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight which he played for six decades on Broadway and around the country. He also played Abraham Lincoln in a mid-80s TV mini-series. He was Deep Throat in All the President’s Men and I remember him as Senator Hays Stowe on NBC’s The Bold Ones in the early 70s. Holbrook even appeared in the Walking Dead.

That Certain Summer

Holbrook played a role in 1972 that I don’t hear mentioned much but it had a huge impact on me. In an ABC television movie, That Certain Summer, Holbrook played Doug Salter, a divorced gay father. His teenaged son Nick (Scott Jacoby) comes to visit and is upset to find his father has a male companion, Gary McClain (Martin Sheen). Hope Lange played Doug Slater’s ex-wife.

1972 promotional ad for the film

This was groundbreaking film under any circumstances in 1972, and even more so as a made-for-TV movie. NBC rejected the concept but the producers found an ally at ABC who fought for project. And they got it done, albeit with certain concessions to the network censors.

I don’t believe the film is available anywhere at this time in any format, not DVD or streaming or anything. There aren’t even brief clips of scenes on You Tube. There are some clips about the film, however, which I present here.

William Link

William Link was one of the film’s producers. Here he describes the film, its inception, and all the hurdles that had to be jumped to get it on the air.

Hal Holbrook

In this video, Hal Holbrook talks about doing That Certain Summer.

I’ll miss Hal. May he rest in peace.


Title image of Hal Holbrook is licensed under Creative Commons [License], with a book cover inset.
Image of Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain is licensed under Creative Commons [License].
The 1972 promotional ad is Fair Use.


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One comment

  1. Hal Holbrook was also one of my favorites. In a small world sense he was from Cleveland, graduated from Culver, and Denison. John and I had the opportunity to see him, up close and personal, portray Mark Twain when he returned to Culver. It was enchanting.

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