About Christmas TV History

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dennis the Menace (1959)

I've been getting prepared for my upcoming appearance at The Hollywood Show in Chicago, September 6th-8th, 2013.  I'm getting excited about all the celebrity guests at the event--many of whom have appeared in outstanding Christmas entertainment.  One of the guests who will be in Chicago is actor Jay North.  Among his many roles, North played Dennis Mitchell on the sitcom Dennis the Menace, a TV series based on the comic strip by Hank Ketcham.  Do you remember the first Christmas episode of Dennis the Menace, 1959's "The Christmas Story?"

Henry Mitchell is having a hard time finding a place to hide the Christmas gifts--out of Dennis' reach.

In this episode, Henry and Alice Mitchell struggle to keep the family's Christmas gifts hidden from young Dennis as he searches through every nook and cranny of their home.  When Henry thinks he knows the perfect place to hide the gifts--in a locked trunk in the attic--Henry finds Dennis and his friend Tommy already there trying to pry open the trunk!

Henry gets the idea for next-door neighbor Mr. Wilson to hold the Mitchells' gifts for them until Christmas day.  Mr. Wilson agrees to this and he hides them in the closet.  Unaware that the gifts have left the home, Dennis still searches high and low for the Christmas presents.

Dennis sets a buzzing alarm clock to go off so he can hear where the gifts are hidden!

Then Dennis gets the clever idea of asking his mother to place the alarm clock gift he plans to give his father with all the other hidden gifts.  What Alice doesn't know is that Dennis has set the snooze alarm on the clock and it will buzz every few minutes until it is shut off! 

Dennis knows what time he set the alarm clock to go off at--but he can't hear it from where it's hidden.

Poor Mr. Wilson keeps answering the buzzer at the front door--but no one is there.

Though Dennis never hears the alarm clock in the Mitchell home, Mr. Wilson mistakes the buzzing noise for his front door bell.  On Christmas Eve, the Mitchells invite the Wilsons to their home to trim the Christmas tree.  Though Dennis has been practicing his bugle all week long in order to play "Silent Night," his parents suggest that everyone sing the beloved carol instead.  Upon hearing Dennis' sweet voice, the adults one-by-one drop out from singing.  The devilish little boy looks positively angelic as he sings “Silent Night” in front of the Christmas tree.

Dennis' sweet, innocent voice brings tears to the eyes of his parents and the Wilsons.

If you're familiar with this series, you may already know that Dennis sings "Silent Night" in each of the three Christmas episodes.  This charming musical moment is just one of the many TV sitcom musical highlights that I discuss in my most recent book Merry Musical Christmas: Volume 1: The Best Christmas Music in Sitcoms and Dramas that was released last holiday season.

Did you ever relentlessly search for your hidden Christmas gifts when you were a child?

I'm looking forward to The Hollywood Show in Chicago on Sept. 6th-8th.  In addition to actor Jay North being there, the actress who played Dennis' friend Margaret, Jeannie Russell, from the Dennis the Menace series will also be there.  I hope to see you there too!


  1. I enjoyed your recap of the "Dennis the Menace" Christmas Episode so much, Joanna.

    It is such a fun and beautifully touching episode that has stood the test of time and is still just as beautiful today as I'm sure it was to viewers, who saw it the very first time.

    Thank you and I can't wait to hear about your trip to 'The Hollywood Show'... especially about Jay North and Jeannie Russell! Will you be allowed to take photos there? I sure hope so! Sounds wonderful!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure exactly what I can and can't do there since I'm a guest with a booth--and not a visitor. I guess I'll find out! I'll let you know when I get back!