Documentary charts Mark Twain's 1867 trip to stardom (review)

by Mark Dawidziak, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio - If asked to name two books penned by Mark Twain, most would respond with "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." If pressed a bit more, some might come up with "Life on the Mississippi," "The Prince and the Pauper" or "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court."

But not one of those works was Twain's best-selling title during his lifetime. That distinction belongs to his irreverent and audacious 1869 travel book, "The Innocents Abroad." An uproarious account of his June-November 1867 tour through Europe and the Holy Land, it was his ticket to stardom.

Clocking in at an hour, "Mark Twain's Journey to Jerusalem: Dreamland" is a fun and fast-paced documentary commemorating the 150th anniversary of that trip. It airs at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, on the WVIZ World channel, 25.3, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, on the main WVIZ signal, Channel 25.

Having established his reputation as a wild humorist in California, Twain headed east and managed to talk his way into the five-month cruise aboard the steamship Quaker City. He talked a San Francisco newspaper, the Alta California, into paying for his ticket.

In exchange, he sent back letters and dispatches that consistently showed he was anything but awed by the customs and traditions of the Old World. At almost every stop along the way, he poked fun at the local lore and "wonders" that were supposed to leave Americans speechless with awe.