New Mark Twain Film Celebrates Jumping Frog Anniversary

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This 'n That Films new documentary explores the origins and impact of Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" on the story's 150th anniversary.

Mark Twain - in a rare photograph from his early days

Mark Twain in 1867, shortly after The Jumping Frog story was published nationwide.

“...they have taken on the most familiar, and analyzed, figure in American letters, and made him fresh again.” - Ron Powers

Twainiacs everywhere are praising This 'n That Films' "88 Days in the Mother Lode," the new documentary that chronicles the disparate events that coincided to lead 29-year-old Sam Clemens to Angels Camp, California, where he first heard the story about the frog.

Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of Mark Twain: A Life, says of the film, “The producers have accomplished a minor miracle: they have taken on the most familiar, and analyzed, figure in American letters, and made him fresh again.”

Joseph Csiscila, Editor of The Mark Twain Circular, called the film ”a beautifully paced and cinematically engaging film that offers fresh perspective on Mark Twain’s early development as a writer."

Barbara Schmidt, book review editor of the Mark Twain Forum, said, "This 'n That Films has scored a commendable success in this initial foray into Twain biography."

On November 18, 150 years ago this year, Twain’s “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” was published in the New York Saturday Press. Bret Harte picked up the story and re-published it in The Californian in December of that year, this time titled “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” It was soon reprinted and commented on in periodicals and magazines around the world. As the film explains, the tale introduced a new chapter in American Literature. It also gave an enormous boost to it’s thirty year old author.

The documentary features interviews with historians, and scholars as well as artistic re-enactments of some of Twain’s three month stay in the Mother Lode. Vic Fischer, Writer/Editor at The Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, offers viewers a rare look at Notebook 4 and the original notes Twain took while staying in Calaveras County.

An edited-for-television version of the film is currently airing on PBS stations around the country. Viewers should check their local listing for scheduling information. The full version of the film is available in HD from the producer’s website at

Watch the film’s trailer at:

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Bert Simonis
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