Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in the tiny town of Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835, two weeks after Halley’s Comet made its closest approach to the Earth. He was the sixth of seven children born to John and Jane Clemens. He was a sickly youth, whose parents feared he might not survive, and the family was beset by the tragic early deaths of three of Twain’s siblings.
More commonly known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was also called America’s “greatest humorist” The film revolves around his footsteps as a young reporter setting out on a bold adventure sailing around the Mediterranean and throughout Europe in 1867 with Jerusalem and the Holy Land as his ultimate destination.
The 31-year-old reporter smartly made a San Francisco newspaper agree to pay for his travel aboard the Quaker City. This was the world’s first-ever cruise ship, in return for writing about his travels regularly. The documentary is narrated by Martin Sheen and reveals Twain’s deep-rooted and complex relationship with religion.
Hannibal, Missouri was Twain’s place of birth and it made him famous, and vice versa, Twain made Hannibal famous. Very few authors are as closely connected and influenced by their hometowns as much as Twain. The childhood years spent in this Missouri town gave birth to some of the most famous characters in American literature, an emotional and memory-filled well that Twain would return to again and again.
Twain in his life wanted to publish an autobiography and could easily do so using the freshly invented Dictaphones by Thomas Edison at that time. But Twain was used to talking to the crowds and hated the life-less dictaphones and instead found his audience in stenographer Josephine Hobby and author Albert Bigelow Paine.
Twain could not, however, come up with a plan to write his autobiography. Twain said he did not want to write something that “starts you at the cradle and drives you straight for the grave, with no side excursions permitted.”
Then he finally came up with the idea, in his words, “Start at no particular time of your life,” he wrote. “Wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing that interests you for the moment; drop it at the moment its interest starts to pale.”
Twain wanted his autobiography to be published 100 years after his death however, that didn’t happen as the 2000 pages dictated by him were studied by multiple individuals and editors weren’t even sure if it was complete.
Dreamland – How the Facts were Collected
We also reached out to Jeffery Wisseman who played the lead, to find out how he impersonated Mark Twain, as per Wissseman:
Inspiration from His Books
“So uh for preparing for Mark Twain I had actually not a lot of time between when I got cast him when we started shooting but I read the book that the shoot “Dreamland” Mark Twain in Jerusalem was based on his book the innocence abroad of his trip to Europe and the holy land of 1867. So I tried very hard to get as much research in and you know make-up and hair and everything and a wardrobe and find what mannerisms felt right through his reading his work aloud.”
How did Jeffery Imitate Twain’s Voice?
“Then I also did research on finding his voice, there was no one even though he had a Dictaphone in his office no known recordings of his voice exist. But a very famous 19th-century actor or early 20th-century actor named William Gillette, lived next door to twain right, and he met Mark Twain, William Gillette was a little boy maybe four or five years old and Twain was an old man by then and William Gillette in a recording of him imitates Mark Twain’s voice, right! And that was somewhat helpful in that though I put together though Gillette was imitating mark Twain’s drawl.”
Finding Young Twain’s Voice and Tone
“When mark twain was an old man and here I needed to play Twain at the age about 35 or so then I just basically put together my own sort of mix of a dialect from Missouri combination Missouri western and new England because he lived in all three places so it was uh and it didn’t ultimately it didn’t matter because they took out all of my dialogue and my lecturing and put in narration and used some older guide imitating Hal Holbrookish Twain accent for the Twain’s voice which was very disappointing but I can continue to play Twain in fact I’m trying to redefine myself right now by developing an educational entertainment show for schools and homeschoolers called Twain’s three lessons basically so I’m trying to develop that right now.”
Dreamland is a joy for twain fans, as you see Twain’s only known film and Jerusalem’s first film. Furthermore, the film shows Twain’s messages with a clear and emotionally revered authenticity.
Mark Twain’s journey to Jerusalem is that rare documentary feature, which mixes a reasonably simple approach with an insightful, entertaining, and surprising presentation of his content. Dreamland is focused on Twain’s best-selling novel “Innocents Abroad”.
The 150th anniversary of Twain’s journey to Europe was in 2017, and Twain’s footsteps are accompanied by the Holy Land and Dreamland using information from his real letters and journal notes.
The film tells the fairly unknown tale of Twain’s work as a young reporter and his embarkation on his first voyage to the Holy Land and across the Atlantic. It’s a journey that would have Jerusalem as its final destination, a destination for years to come that would influence Twain’s writing for the rest of his life.
Dreamland has also been screened at the International Film Festival Las Cruces the film should have a long festive life but is looks to be suited more for TV/cable channels than for indie film and arthouse trips. The movie potrays Jeffrey Weismann as Twain and Julius Moulton as Wylie Herman. The story of Sheen gives the movie a warm feeling which humanizes Twain and gives depth and insight into side of Twain, which many of us have never really understood yet.
Here are some behind the scene photos of the making of the film
You can also have a virtual tour of The Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT USA by clicking here, it has been converted into a museum.