Mark Twain on YouTube

I’ve become so accustomed to seeing Mark Twain being done by actors, mostly Hal Holbrook, that it’s somewhat strange to see the man himself caught on film—who is that walking like Charlie Chaplin? But it is indeed him, strutting around his Connecticut home and taking tea with his daughters Clara and Jean, a hundred years ago. A hundred years. And now here he is on YouTube, on the occasion of the 174th anniversary of his birth.

And, in honor of the fact that the dapper figure composed of bits and bytes is really truly him, in a manner of speaking, one of my favorite of his essays: My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It.

What I am arriving at is this: When whole races and peoples conspire to
propagate gigantic mute lies in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why
should we care anything about the trifling lies told by individuals? Why
should we try to make it appear that abstention from lying is a virtue?
Why should we want to beguile ourselves in that way? Why should we
without shame help the nation lie, and then be ashamed to do a little
lying on our own account? Why shouldn’t we be honest and honourable, and
lie every time we get a chance? That is to say, why shouldn’t we be
consistent, and either lie all the time or not at all? Why should we
help the nation lie the whole day long and then object to telling one
little individual private lie in our own interest to go to bed on? Just
for the refreshment of it, I mean, and to take the rancid taste out of
our mouth.

Indeed. And happy birthday, Mr. Clemens.

(via MobyLives)

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4 Comments to Mark Twain on YouTube

  1. Margarita's Gravatar Margarita
    November 30, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Very nice post, and really – who would have thought? 174 years!

  2. Karen Wall's Gravatar Karen Wall
    December 1, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Terrific, Lisa. I’ve got to show this to my husband.

  3. Master Engineer's Gravatar Master Engineer
    December 9, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    As with most movies from this era, it’s being replayed at a faster frame rate than originally recorded. Before the film world standardized on 24 frames per second, there were many other speeds. However, once 24fps became standard, it was also distressingly common to play older, non-standard reels on 24 fps projectors (a practice you see even today). So, Twain does not walk like Chaplin; he’s only going at a leisurely pace that becomes comical when played back a bit too fast. For proof, notice how fast the smoke disappears when he exhales, or the chipmunk-like pace at which he is talking.

  4. December 9, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Aha. That’s interesting, thanks — one of those things I figured there was a reason for but never really thought out.

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