Mark Twain and Me (1991)

Mark Twain and Me (1991)

Inexplicably, Mark Twain and Me is the only Disney Channel Premiere Film available on Disney+. My only theory is that some executive really likes this movie and wanted it on there. Per The Baltimore Sun, this movie first aired on Disney Channel during one of their preview weekends, which were meant to attract new subscribers, and it was based on Dorothy Quick’s true story, Enchantment: A Little Girl’s Friendship with Mark Twain. The book was adapted by Cynthia Whitcomb, and Daniel Petrie directed the film, which won two Primetime Emmys.

Disney Mark Twain and Me: Mark and Dorothy

Dorothy (Amy Stewart) and Jason Robards (a darn-good Mark Twain) meet aboard the S.S. Minnetonka (supposedly, this picture here shows the real Dorothy and Samuel Clemens). Mark Twain and Dorothy Quick have a sort of mutual admiration for one another — she reveres his writings, and he loves having a little fan who looks up to him. Twain begins inviting the girl to his residences. Though it’s not shown in this movie, since he lived there much earlier in his life, I have been to Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, Connecticut. It was fascinating to tour the house and see the rich decor in his living and dining areas, bedroom suites, and workspace. I saw similarities between that home and the ones depicted in the film, which are supposed to be in Redding, CT, and Bermuda. Robards captures the quiet emotion of Twain as he spends holidays with Dorothy. Two of those holidays are Christmases!

The first year she spends Christmas there, Twain’s daughter Jean tells Dorothy’s mother that the girl must not speak of Christmas, because Twain’s wife died during the holiday. I learned that this is an embellishment. Olivia Langdon Clemens died in June, not December. However, it is true that Jean died the following Christmas Eve. In the film, this takes place after her father has embraced the holiday and put up a tree and called carolers to come by and everything. Shortly before Jean’s death, Twain and Dorothy are walking in the woods, and he tells her, “Happiness is a strange thing. Grief can take care of itself. But to get the full value out of joy, you must have somebody to share it with.” Dorothy matches the sensitivity of her older friend, and the two enjoy their talks and their billiards. They even share a scene where they read Twain’s fan mail.

I won’t spoil the ending of this film, since it is readily available for you to watch on Disney+, and you may not have seen it yet! But I’ll tell you that the Christmas carolers still come. They sing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” a song with “tidings of comfort and joy.”

Mark Twain and carolers in his window

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