The documentary being shown on Thursday, April 16, at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford is called "88 Days in the Motherlode: Mark Twain Finds His Voice." It could easily have been called "Mark Twain on the Lam."
The film tells the story of three months Sam Clemens spent hiding in a friend's cabin in Tuolomne County, Calif., after he bailed a friend out of the San Francisco jail with money he didn't actually have. While hiding from the cops, Clemens made friends and heard a lot of stories, including the one that inspired "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," his first big success.
"One of the things this journey through Angels Camp brings him is the knowledge that he too can get up on the stage and tell stories," producer John Brown said in a phone interview. "That's a big part of cementing Sam Clemens as the character of Mark Twain because that's how he became a celebrity."
The movie also tells the story of what led Twain to his cabin in the woods: a successful writing career in Nevada followed by a failed writing career in San Francisco that left him broke and so depressed he considered suicide.
"He was going to be a riverboat captain on the Mississippi. He never thought about working for newspapers. Then the Civil War came, and that ended. He had lost his brother Henry in a riverboat accident, so he came west with his brother Orion," Brown said. "He was forced to leave Virginia City [Nevada] when he challenged someone to a duel. He moved to San Francisco. He got a job as a reporter but he was not allowed the liberty and freedom he had in Virginia City. He was asked to resign. He invested in mining stock with Orion. That didn't work out. He didn't know where his next meal was coming from. He was in a very dark place."
This year is the 150th anniversary of Clemens' fateful hideaway. The screening at the Twain House, 351 Farmington Ave., will be at 7 p.m. Brown will be present and do a Q&A after the film. Admission is a $5 suggested donation. Information: marktwainhouse.org