About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Red Skelton Show Christmas (1954)

Another O.Henry classic that takes place at Christmas time.

For the past several weeks I've been discussing noteworthy adaptations of O.Henry's Christmas short story The Gift of the Magi.  O.Henry also wrote another Christmas story, The Cop and the Anthem that has been adapted several times in the movies and for television as well.  Remember the 1952 theatrical release film O.Henry's Full House?  The film consists of four vignettes adapted from O.Henry short stories and includes versions of both The Gift of the Magi and The Cop and the Anthem

The Cop and the Anthem segment from the 1952 movie O.Henry's Full House stars Charles Laughton (left) and David Wayne.

Comedian Red Skelton was a hit in vaudeville and radio before bringing his funny characters to TV audiences.

One of the most heart-warming versions of The Cop and the Anthem was adapted for the 1954 Christmas episode of The Red Skelton Show.  In this half-hour sketch, the role of O.Henry's homeless character Soapy is played by Skelton’s lovable hobo, Freddie the Freeloader.

As it gets closer to Christmas, Freddie wants to find a warmer place to bed down--away from his snow-covered park bench.

Freddie awakens on a park bench on Christmas Eve with the plan to get arrested so he can spend the holiday and the rest of the winter in jail with a roof over his head and three square meals.  At first he tries to get arrested by eating a luxurious meal in an elegant restaurant without paying.  While the other patrons assume he’s an eccentric millionaire, the staff decide to give him the meal for free in the generous spirit of the holiday.

At the restaurant, the glutton Freddie takes the entire dessert tray rather than one piece from it.

Freddie is disappointed that the man with the umbrella is a thief as well!

Freddie tries to steal a gentleman’s umbrella on the street but it turns out he had stolen the umbrella as well and refuses to call a policeman.  Next Freddie throws a brick through a store window but no one believes he broke it because he didn’t flee the scene.  Then Freddie tries to shoplift an expensive bracelet from a jewelry store but he becomes the victim of a pickpocket.  The kind-hearted hobo even tries to be a masher in the park to scare a woman into calling for a policeman but it turns out the lonely spinster likes the attention.

A policeman arrives to rescue poor Freddie from the clutches of this desperate, lonely woman.

Contemplating his next attempt to be arrested, Freddie hears a boys choir sing as they emerge from a nearby church.

Standing in front of a church, contemplating his next crime, the desperate hobo is inspired to change his life when he hears a boys choir singing “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  One of the boys in the choir talks to Freddie about a job opportunity at his father’s factory and Freddie decides to stop being a freeloader.  It’s just then that a policeman arrives to arrest the hope-filled Freddie for vagrancy, taking him off to prison until Spring.

Freddie finally gets charged with vagrancy--a 90 day sentence that will keep him in jail until Spring.

Much like The Gift of the Magi and many of O.Henry's tales, this story utilizes a twist ending.  It is just as the homeless man is inspired to take a job and be responsible for himself that he is finally arrested and sent to jail--Freddie's goal for the entire day.

Though most of us are familiar with the story The Gift of the Magi, have you ever read or seen an adaptation of The Cop and the Anthem?  Share your comments below.  Check out Part 1:

1 comment:

  1. I have two Christmas TV memories that have endured throughout my decades: One is of Red Skelton as a toymaker who has a machine that converts objects to toys. The ending was the toymaker himself jumps into the machine and turns himself into Santa Claus. Two is Sid Caesar as a hobo who discovers a discarded gift box in the trash and sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". Just wish I could see them again.