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O. Henry's Full House (1952) Online

O. Henry's Full House (1952) Online
Original Title :
O. Henryu0027s Full House
Genre :
Movie / Drama
Year :
Directror :
Henry Hathaway,Howard Hawks
Cast :
Fred Allen,Anne Baxter,Jeanne Crain
Writer :
Lamar Trotti,Richard L. Breen
Type :
Time :
1h 57min
Rating :
O. Henry's Full House (1952) Online

"O. Henry's Full House" is a film divided in five segments telling five tales in the beginning of the Twentieth Century. 1) "The Cop and the Anthem": the winter is coming and the homeless drifter Soapy wants to go to jail for three months to get shelter and food. His partner Horace suggests they look for shelter with the Salvation Army, but Soapy refuses. He forces many situations to be arrested but he is always forgiven. When he goes to the church, there is a miracle and Soapy decides to seek a job position. Will he succeed? 2) "The Clarion Call": when a thief kills a man, the police investigators do not have any lead to follow. Police Sergeant Barney Woods sees a pen that was found in the crime scene and he seeks out a man called Johnny Kernan. He finds Johnny that invites Barney to drink with him and they go to his hotel room. Johnny recalls their youth, when they were friends but Barney tells that he must arrest him since he recognized the pen that belonged to Johnny. However the ... {locallinks-homepage}
Cast overview, first billed only:
Fred Allen Fred Allen - Sam 'Slick' Brown (segment "The Ransom of Red Chief")
Anne Baxter Anne Baxter - Joanna Goodwin (segment "The Last Leaf")
Jeanne Crain Jeanne Crain - Della (segment "The Gift of the Magi")
Farley Granger Farley Granger - Jim (segment "The Gift of the Magi")
Charles Laughton Charles Laughton - Soapy (segment "The Cop and the Anthem")
Oscar Levant Oscar Levant - Bill Peoria (segment "The Ransom of Red Chief")
Marilyn Monroe Marilyn Monroe - Streetwalker (segment "The Cop and the Anthem")
Jean Peters Jean Peters - Susan Goodwin (segment "The Last Leaf")
Gregory Ratoff Gregory Ratoff - Behrman (segment "The Last Leaf")
Dale Robertson Dale Robertson - Barney Woods (segment "The Clarion Call")
David Wayne David Wayne - Horace (segment "The Cop and the Anthem")
Richard Widmark Richard Widmark - Johnny Kernan (segment "The Clarion Call")
Joyce Mackenzie Joyce Mackenzie - Hazel Woods (segment "The Clarion Call") (scenes deleted) (as Joyce MacKenzie)
Lee Aaker Lee Aaker - J.B. Dorset aka Red Chief (segment "The Ransom of Red Chief")
Richard Rober Richard Rober - Chief of Detectives (segment "The Clarion Call")

When preview critics felt that "The Ransom of Red Chief" episode was weak, it was cut from the official premiere prints. When the film was released to television in the early 60's, the sequence was restored.

Marilyn Monroe received star billing despite the fact that she's on camera for only about one minute.

After the popular and critical success of two British anthology films based on W. Somerset Maugham short stories, Quartet (1948) and Trio (1950), with different casts and crews for each episode, 20th Century-Fox felt that the time was right for an American version of this format.

Steinbeck opens an O. Henry volume at the start of each segment, and the viewers are shown the first one or two paragraphs of the upcoming story's first page.

However only the introduction to "The Ransom of Red Chief" seems to show exactly what O Henry wrote at the start of that tale. What is shown prior to the other four yarns, is similar to, but not O. Henry's actual opening words.

User reviews



O'Henry's short stories are a joy to read. This master of the genre left behind a number of small gems that never seem to go out of style, as they are timeless. The author had an incredible eye to spot situations in which human beings are shown at a moment of crisis only to have fate intervene with ironic twists.

"O'Henry's Full House" offers five of his best works directed by five distinguished directors. Howard Hawks, Henry Hathaway, Henry Koster, Henry King and Jean Negulesco do an excellent job in bringing the five stories to the screen adapted by some of Hollywood's best writers of the time in which they were filmed. John Steinbeck does the introductions.

The first story, "The Cop and the Anthem" presents us with Soapy, brilliantly played by Charles Laughton, as a poor homeless person in the middle of a crude winter in New York who wants to be taken to jail in the worst way. He goes to extremes to have him sent to prison, without much luck. David Wayne plays his pal Horace and Marilyn Monroe is seen briefly at the end.

The second installment, "The Clarion Call" shows a police detective, Barney, and his adversary, Johnny, a man to whom he is tied by a loan that stands between them. Dale Robertson is Barney and an annoying Richard Widmark plays the bad guy. Unfortunaly, Mr. Widmark's performance full of silly laughter and tics ruined the story for this viewer.

The third tale is "The Last Leaf". We have two sisters in the middle of a blizzard in Manhattan. Joanna, played by the fine Anne Baxter, who we see after an apparent breakup with her boyfriend, gets pneumonia as a result of her exposure to the elements. Her good sister Susan goes crazy trying to nurse Joanna to health. Enter the painter Behrman, who is the upstairs neighbor to the rescue. Behrman sells his painting in order to buy medicine and when Joanna in her feverish state believes the tree across the street full of dry leaves is an omen, because as the leaves keep falling, so are the chances for her to get well. Thanks to the caring painter, Joanna survives. Jean Peters plays the kind sister and the wonderful Ratoff is the painter.

The fourth segment is the weakest. "The Ransosm of Red Chief" presents us two con men in Alabama kidnapping a young boy who is wiser and acts much older than what the two con men thought. Fred Allen and Oscar Levant play the kidnappers.

The last, and perhaps the best realized story of the O'Henry's stories is the unforgettable "The Gift of the Magi", which is the equivalent to Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". As directed by Henry King and played wonderfully by a beautiful Jeanne Crain and the handsome Farley Granger, this is a story about love and sacrifice under the worst possible circumstances. Della and Jim, with their youth, are penniless, yet, they sacrifice whatever little each one has in order to give the other partner a small token as proof of their love.

This is an immensely endearing film thanks to the legacy of O'Henry.


I'm amazed this film has never been put on video or DVD. If the people in the video department at Fox were smart they would release it every Christmas, since one of the short stories it includes is The Gift of the Magi. Another is the Cop and the Anthem, where Charles Laughton plays a tramp trying unsuccessfully to get himself arrested at Christmas so he can get a warm cell to sleep in. (Red Skelton used that story every Christmas for his Freddy the Freeloader character). As a kid I was a Warner Brothers fan, but this is the one Fox movie I never missed when it came on TV. O. Henry wrote great short stories with twist endings that influenced such TV anthology series as Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock presents. Included here is The Clarion Call, a nice tight little film noir with Richard Widmark virtually repeating his role from Kiss of Death. The Last Leaf is nice life affirming tearjerker. The Ransom of Red Chief has Fred Allen and Oscar Levant in a hilarious tale of two luckless kidnappers in a tale worthy of Mark Twain. Fox is sitting on a gold mine. Put it out on video.
Prince Persie

Prince Persie

"O. Henry's Full House" is a film divided in five segments telling five wonderful tales in the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

1) "The Cop and the Anthem": the winter is coming and the homeless drifter Soapy (Charles Laughton) wants to go to jail for three months to get shelter and food. His partner Horace (David Wayne) suggests they look for shelter with the Salvation Army, but Soapy refuses. He forces many situations to be arrested but he is always forgiven. When he goes to the church, there is a miracle and Soapy decides to seek a job position. Will he succeed?

Directed by Henry Koster, this segment tells an ironic story of a bum with top-notch performance of Charles Laughton and a cameo of Marilyn Monroe.

2) "The Clarion Call": when a thief kills a man, the police investigators do not have any lead to follow. Police Sergeant Barney Woods (Dale Robertson) sees a pen that was found in the crime scene and he seeks out a man called Johnny Kernan (Richard Widmark). He finds Johnny that invites Barney to drink with him and they go to his hotel room. Johnny recalls their youth, when they were friends but Barney tells that he must arrest him since he recognized the pen that belonged to Johnny. However the criminal recalls that Barney owes him $ 1,000 that Barney lost in a card game. Barney unsuccessfully tries to raise the money to quit the debt. He decides to tell to the Chief of Police but out of the blue, he sees the spotlight on "The Clarion Call" and and runs to the newspaper. What did he see?

Directed by Henry Hathaway, this segment tells the story of an honest policeman that has a debt with a criminal that is wanted by the police. Richard Widmark is excellent in the usual role of a felon.

3) "The Last Leaf": When the lover of the twenty-one year-old Joanna Goodwin (Anne Baxter) breaks up with her, she wanders on the snow and gets pneumonia. Her older sister Susan Goodwin (Jean Peters) finds that Joanna does not want to live anymore and is following the leaves that keep falling from a tree. Their upstairs neighbor, the painter Behrman (Gregory Ratoff), tries to help the girls the best he can. Will he be able to save Joanna?

Directed by Jean Negulesco, this is the most sensitive and touching segment, with a heartbreaking conclusion. Anne Baxter is very beautiful in the role of a young woman with broken heart.

4) "The Ransom of Red Chief": the con men Sam 'Slick' Brown (Fred Allen) and Bill Peoria (Oscar Levant) flee to the countryside in their car and plot to kidnap the boy J.B. Dorset (Lee Aaker) to ask for ransom to his parents. But soon they find that the boy is a little devil.

Directed by Howarks, the segment is a funny comedy about two confidence men that make a wrong move kidnapping an evil boy. Lee Aaker's character seems to be Dennis, the Menace, created in 1951.

5) "The Gift of the Magi": In Christmas Eve, Della (Jeanne Crain) and her beloved husband Jim (Farley Granger) are penniless and in love with each other. Jim dreams on giving a tiara to Della since she has a wonderful hair and Della wants to give a chain to the pocket watch of Jim. On the Christmas night, they find a way to buy the gifts.

Directed by Henry King, this segment is a delightful love story with an ironic and funny conclusion.

My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Páginas da Vida" ("Pages of the Life")


I first saw this movie on TV as a child in the 1960s, and never watched it again until now (2005), but it's strange how many characters and even specific shots lingered in my mind all those years. This is a gem that has something for everyone: sentimentality, humor, pathos, and loads of good performances. "The Cop and the Anthem" is probably the most tightly written of them all, with subtle touches of humor throughout (besides the most obvious gags). If I had to single out one performer who delighted me the most it would be David Wayne, doing a twitchy down-and-outer playing off of Laughton's haughty tramp (especially just having seen him play a totally different character in ADAM'S RIB just a week ago).

As an old thespian friend of mine would say, "The Last Leaf" could bring a tear to a glass eye. And in "Red Chief," Fred Allen and Oscar Levant make a strange but fun team.

Not having seen Richard Widmark in the other movie mentioned in reviewer's comments, I could only think how much he reminded me of Frank Gorshin in various roles he played in the 60s. Watch this segment again and think "Frank."

Your whole family will like this movie. Why doesn't someone bring it out nice and crispy clean on DVD?


This is one of my favorite old movies. You can't go wrong with this one--if you ever have a chance to see it! I don't recall enough details to improve upon what's been said by other reviewers, but each part was engrossing (though I agree that "The Ransom of Red Chief" was the weakest dramatization of a great short story of the bunch), especially "The Gift of the Magi" and "The Last Leaf." Lingers in the memory long after you see it.


I had never seen this film until a couple of days ago and it was an interesting experience. I enjoyed John Steinbeck's narration of the five O'Henry stories. It was obvious he greatly respected William Sidney Porter as writer and as human being.

The segments are nicely done. Charles Laughton has a fabulous turn as a gentlemen tramp who's just simply looking for his room and board for the winter by trying to commit a minor infraction that will give him jail time during what looks like a rough winter coming. Anne Baxter and Jean Peters are also good as a pair of sisters one of whom has convinced herself she'll die if the last leaf falls off of a bush. Fred Allen and Oscar Levant do nicely as a pair of confidence men turned kidnappers who have the tables turned on them by their victim. You have to have confidence to be a confidence man is Allen's advice to Levant. Nice to see that legendary radio comedian on the big screen. And Farley Granger and Jeanne Crain are touching in the classic Christmas story

The Gift of the Magi.

The only jarring note comes from one of my favorite actors, Richard Widmark. He and Dale Robertson do a turn as a bad guy and cop

respectively in a short story called The Clarion Call. Widmark has committed a murder and Robertson knows it, but can't bring himself to arrest him because of a monetary debt from years past.

The O'Henry stories are set in the gaslight era of New York. Widmark does not do anything original but just repeats his Tommy Udo character from Kiss of Death. He even dresses like him, the standard black dress shirt and white tie are jarringly out of place here. The director of this segment was Henry Hathaway who did do Kiss of Death as well so

that might offer an explanation. But it just looks ludicrous.

Other than this segment the film is fine. 7 out of 10.


Saw this with a childhood friend of mine in the 50's on TV when we were 'sneaking' staying up very late. When it was done, we looked at each other, both having been touched deeply, though we couldn't have described how. Ever after, it has been one of our 'special' memories -- one of us says "remember that movie?" and the other understands perfectly! That's what movies should do! Did anyone else have that experience on first watching it? I remember being very affected by Hitchcock's Saboteur, also, after watching it late one night as a kid. It stirred the same response that later made me a 'movie fan' -- that magical sense of someone (the director) saying something to you in a way that seemed to make life 'bigger' than it had been before.


O. Henry was a late 19th and early 20th century short story writer. He was best admired for his twist endings. O. Henry's Full House selected five of his tales to dramatize.

As a kid I watched the film on television, sitting on the couch with my beloved dachshund sleeping in my lap. "The Last Leaf" starring Anne Baxter was absorbing my attention. Tossed into a New York City blizzard by her rejecting lover, she despairingly makes her way to her sister's apartment building in front of which she passes out. How curious that in real life, Baxter would decades later collapse on a city sidewalk and die.

Baxter is helped inside by her sister and a doctor makes a house call. Diagnosing her with pneumonia, he naively believes that due to her young age she will survive. However, the sister knows about the affair yet cannot convince Baxter to forget it. Lying in bed looking through the picture window, noting the leaves dropping from the vines, she declares that when the last leaf has fallen, she will die.

That night the sister and we see two remaining leaves. One blows away and the other is beginning to break off. We all fear the leaf will fall by morning. When dawn comes, there is sunlight behind the curtains, and Baxter demands her sister pull them open. In horrific anticipation, I found myself squirming, startling my poor doggy. To avoid spoiling the scene, I won't reveal what next transpires, but take my word that O. Henry's twists could be quite complex - what you think you see, might not be what really is there.

The last movie segment was based on his most popular "The Gift of the Magi", wherein newlyweds experience their first Christmas Eve together. Even in 1905 there was commercialism demanding that people spend rather than focus on their love for each other. We witness the wife in tears as she sells a precious possession to buy a gift for her beloved. When he comes home he is shocked at what she sold. Then she and we experience shock discovering what he in fact sold to afford his present. Fortunately the pair laugh at what they've done, celebrating the true meaning of the season.

They've learned the priceless lesson that this feature reminds us of - count your blessings.


The Fox DVD release of their 1952 "O. Henry' Full House" is a gem in every way. Not only do we get a beautifully restored rendition of five of O. Henry's finest short stories, but we also get a wonderful set of special features that enrich our appreciation and understanding of the author. It starts with the enclosed insert that gives some fascinating information on one of America's pure-eminent storytellers. This insert is very well written and tells a great deal about William Sidney Porter, who took up the pen name of O. Henry. And the "goodies" continue with the DVD. Both the featurette ("The Life and Writing of O. Henry) and the commentary are in the capable hands of Dr. Jenny Lind Porter, Ph.D. I don't know if the Porter's are related, but she certainly knows a great deal about O. Henry -- and loves her subject. She is a delight to learn from. The featurette of "The O. Henry Museum" in Texas, is also a treat. There are dozens and dozens of stills from the film and on the set, as well as a nice look at the original Press Book that theatres used in selling the film. The BIG "Extra" are two treasures from the vault when 20th Century Fox was known as the studio of William Fox. Most of the silent films of the William Fox period no longer survive, so it is very special to find (in very nice condition) two O. Henry short stories from the year 1927! One is called "Girls" and the other "Man About Town". Each run a little under 20 minutes. These are two of thirteen silent O. Henry short stories turned into films by Fox during the silent era. Saddly they haven't been scored, but they do come with tints and are in nice condition. This DVD is a true treasure that is well worth adding to your collection.


Watching a film may not be the same as reading the book, but this anthology of O. Henry stories does a good job of capturing the author's talent for crafting a story, thanks to good direction and wonderful casting. Here are a few highlights:

In "The Cop and the Anthem", the versatile and talented Charles Laughton brings nobility to his portrayal of a bum. Marilyn Monroe adds a touch of class.

In "The Clarion Call", Richard Widmark's portrayal of a cocky criminal jumps off the screen. The story centers around the concept of honor--even among the less than honorable.

"The Last Leaf" deals with the humanity, sometimes hidden, that lies within all people. Surprisingly, the concept of artistic realism is elevated over expressionism, though a spiritual thread runs through the story.

I read "The Ransom of Red Chief" as a boy and the memory of that story is still vivid for me. Here, O' Henry turns a dramatic story on its ear, producing comedic results. It's a fish out of water story about two Yankee conmen who think that uneducated Southerners are easy marks. Fred Allen and Oscar Levant are well matched in this classic.

"The Gift of the Magi" is perhaps O. Henry's best known story. This tale has Dickensian roots and celebrates the true spirit of Christmas. Jeanne Crain brightens this story with her beauty and sensitivity.

The film is narrated by John Steinbeck, who helps unify the five parts into a tribute to O. Henry.


I was surprised when I saw this film was made in the 1950's. I would have guessed the 40's or sooner. It is a real treasure. These stories are, of course, the very epitome of irony. Every story has a "surprise" ending, although, with this writer, we are anticipating a surprise. Some are part of Americana and are ingrained in our memories. The two best, in my estimation, are "The Last Leaf," about a dying girl who is giving up hope. The other, perhaps his most famous story, is the Christmas story "The Gift of the Magi." A young woman and her husband are just beginning their lives and have no money for Christmas presents. They go to great sacrifices to do an act of kindness. The ending is so charming and loving, we should all see it. The quality of each episode is excellent.


What better way to introduce a film consisting of a number of stories than to have a story writer do it. John Steinbeck is the narrator for this picture, having a few words to say as he brings each of these anthology pieces forward for the viewer. I think it would have helped if he lightened up a bit, he looked like a total curmudgeon doing it.

A handful of other reviewers here have described the individual segments so no need to rehash them here. I guess what I'd like to do is comment on my favorite episode, that being 'The Last Leaf'. I managed to figure out the ending of the story, but that didn't make it any less poignant or meaningful. The three dollar abstract painter Behrman (Gregory Ratoff) performed a hero's response to the disheartened Joanna Goodwin (Anne Baxter) after being dumped by her lover (I would have said boyfriend but the guy looked like a creep). Joanna's sister Susan (Jean Peters) said she would explain her comment about Behrman (in my summary above) at a later time when she would be better able to handle it. In a way, Susan's comment was the best statement coming out of all five stories that might have described O. Henry himself.

Overall I enjoyed all of the stories to varying degrees. I thought Richard Widmark went out of his way to build on the Tommy Udo character from "Kiss of Death', to the point of annoyance. At one point, his character Johnny Kernan makes one of the most belittling racist statements I've ever heard in a movie when he says to a black porter on a train, "There you go tar bucket". So at least the clam head got what was coming to him in a neat twist to 'The Clarion Call' segment. Actually, that was writer O. Henry's forte, providing neat twists to his stories in a way that surprised and amazed.

As far as surprises here goes, having Marilyn Monroe show up in the opening segment with Charles Laughton was a neat touch. She might have been wistfully commenting on her own status as a Fifties pin-up girl when she noted to Horace (David Wayne) that "He called me a lady". Shortly after this film her brief film career took off.

With some melancholy touches and personal flourishes, each of the guest directors did a nice job with their particular stories. Howard Hawks didn't particularly like the way "The Ransom of Red Chief" came out, but I didn't think it was all that bad. An interesting side note to the picture that wound up entirely coincidental, three of the directors happened to be named Henry!


Although known for his surprise endings, the endings of the five tales told here are not all that surprising. The "The Cop and the Anthem" (Rating 6 of 10) is a bit heavy-handed and contrived. In "The Clarion Call" (Rating 7), Widmark not only reunites with "Kiss of Death" director Hathaway but seems to be (over)playing his role from the earlier film. "The Last Leaf" (Rating 8) is touching and well-acted, particularly by Peters. The much-maligned "The Ransom of the Red Chief" (Rating 8) is the only comedy here and is quite amusing. O. Henry's most famous story, "The Gift of the Magi" (Rating 6), is rather unsatisfying. All in all, a mixed bag but well worth watching.
Little Devil

Little Devil

Terrific 1952 film highlighting the famous writer's work. It certainly must have been a pleasure to be a contract player for 20th Century Fox at that time so that you could have a part in such a great film.

The most poignant of the 5 vignettes shown was where Anne Baxter, a rejected woman, is succumbing to pneumonia and equates her situation to falling leaves. With her sister, Jean Peters at her side, she continues to fail as the leaves fall off. Gregory Ratoff is marvelous as the upstairs neighbor, Mr. Berman, whose paintings aren't appreciated as he paints out of the ordinary sequences. His final effort, a life-saver for Baxter, is memorable and so touching.

2 segments provided comic relief. Charles Laughton is sensational as the hobo trying to get arrested so as to avoid the cold wintry weather on the streets. While in church he promises to mend his ways and look for work only to finally be arrested for vagrancy and sentenced to 90 days. Laughton, as versatile as ever, is aided by David Wayne. The second comedy is where Fred Allen and Oscar Levant kidnap a young boy only to get more than they bargained for in "Ransom of Red Chief." Both men are hilarious as they fall victim to the young menacing brat.

The always excellent Richard Widmark almost reprises his role in 1947's "Kiss of Death." He again displays that sinister laugh and face in a segment with Dale Robertson, both men matching wits as friends. Robertson grew up as a cop and you can guess what Widmark has become.

The film ends with the final segment of the meaning of the Christmas holiday with Jean Crain and Farley Granger.

The film is so good because each story essentially deals with sacrifice in its own way. This is truly a classic to be remembered through the ages.


I noticed that one reviewer said this film is not on DVD. Perhaps that was true back in 2002, but it is available now and that's how I saw it. The film is an anthology piece of short stories written by O. Henry (the pen name for William Sidney Porter) and it seems like an American answer to the popular British films based on Somerset Maugham stories--such as "Quartet" (1948). Interestingly, the film is introduced by John Steinbeck! They consist of the following stories--each directed by a famous director:

THE COP AND THE ANTHEM--Charles Laughton plays a man without money--though he's dressed and behaves like a very successful man. Again and again, however, he tries to get himself arrested because he is without means--and again and again, things happen and the cops don't arrest him. It is a bit funny seeing just how hard it is to get pinched! I don't want to say what's coming next--but it's the sort of irony for which O. Henry was famous for in his stories. Marilyn Monroe appears for about one minute and utters a line or two--so naturally, 20th Century-Fox marketed it as a Monroe film! Despite this dishonestly, it's clever and worth seeing. I'd give this one a 7.

THE CLARION CALL--Dale Robertson and Richard Widmark star in this one. Robertson is a cop and Widmark is an old associate--a VERY obnoxious and nasty one. They meet in a bar after many years and soon Robertson realizes the man wanted for a murder is his old 'friend'. He's about to arrest him and bring him in, but there is a twist. As far as Widmark goes, his character is a lot like the one that made him famous in "Kiss of Death"--all laughs and a heart as black as coal. Why he kept calling people 'Clam Head' was beyond me! Not a great segment, but the ending was satisfying. I'd give this one a 6.

THE LAST LEAF--Anne Baxter and Jean Peters star in this one. Baxter has a broken heart and pneumonia. Despite her sister's best efforts, she keeps slipping away. She also has this weird obsession with a vine growing outside the window--counting all the leaves as they fall and she believes she'll die when the last leaf hits the ground. How does a failed artist save the day? Tune in. I'd give this one a 5. It's pretty predictable.

THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF--This is one of O. Henry's most famous stories and one that the filmmakers removed from the original release--as they saw it as pretty weak. It has a great cast--with two amazingly funny 1950s raconteurs in the leads--Oscar Levant and Fred Allen. While pretty much forgotten today, these men were both brilliant conversationalists--guys who had a gift with the English language. These two knuckleheads are ex-cons who need money, so they kidnap a completely obnoxious monster of a child. The boy is like an evil version of Dennis the Menace and after a while you feel sorry for the two guys--he's THAT bad! And, although the two men are technically the stars, young Lee Aaker steals the show as the little maniac! All in all, enjoyable--mostly because even though this is a somewhat pedestrian version, it's still a great story. This one gets an 8.

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI--Like RED CHIEF, among O. Henry's most famous stories and one frequently read around Christmas each year. This one stars Farley Granger and Jeanne Crain as a very, very poor young couple. They are desperately in love but have no money for Christmas presents. Where this all goes next you probably know, but in case you don't I will end it here. Unlike the others, which are mostly comedies, this one is an ironic and touching love story. Sweet and probably the best of the lot--even if the tale is familiar today. This one gets a 10--and they saved the best for last.

Overall, while not all the segments are great, the overall film is quite enjoyable and worth seeing. Very good acting, production values and stories make this one worth seeing.


'Tis the season to become tired of endless showings of It's a Wonderful Life. One antidote is to watch O. Henry's Full House. Twentieth Century Fox took five stories by O. Henry, gave each to a different director and screenwriter and assigned a number of Fox's top stars to the project. The result? A movie made up of five charming, sometimes sentimental tales stuffed with turn-of-the-century Americana and gentle irony. We learn about human nature, good intentions, humor in adversity, hope, a bit of despair, and love that's far more important than money. We're left smiling and contented, with happy endings all around. Not bad at all. John Steinbeck gives the bridging on-screen narrative.

"The Cop and the Anthem" is directed by Henry Koster and features Charles Laughton, Marilyn Monroe and David Wayne. A down-on-his luck, sly and verbose old tramp is determined to be arrested so he can spend the wintery Christmas season in jail where it's warm and he'll be fed. His stratagems backfire, but kindness and his good intentions result in...

"The Clarion Call" is directed by Henry Hathaway and features Dale Robertson and Richard Widmark (doing his Tommy Udo shtick). A police detective and a crazed killer, acquaintances once, find out just who the smarter one is when it comes to repaying a...

"The Last Leaf" is directed by Jean Negulesco and features Anne Baxter, Jean Peters and Gregory Ratoff. A young woman who no longer wants to live believes she will die when the last leaf from a vine outside her bedroom window falls to the ground. A poor painter, ahead of his time, intervenes when he...

"The Ransom of Red Chief" is directed Howard Hawks and features Fred Allen and Oscar Levant. When two hapless confidence men decide to kidnap a young boy for ransom, they can't understand why the parents seem happy to let them keep the kid. Then they learn what they have on their hands and realize there's only one solution...

"The Gift of the Magi" is directed by Henry King and features Jeanne Crain and Farley Granger. This young couple are as poor as mice and love each other with joy. When they each make a sacrifice to ensure that the other will have a Christmas present, the irony is sweet and loving...

Sure, the movie is sentimental, but in a very nice way.

One of the pleasures of O. Henry's Full House is a chance to be reminded of Fred Allen. He's largely ancient history now, if he's remembered at all. In the Thirties and through the mid- Forties, he was one of the very best and most successful radio comedians America ever produced. Unlike Bob Hope and Jack Benny, his wit and his personality never made the bridge to movie or television success. Allen eventually was done in when radio discovered game shows after WWII and his audience migrated to a low common denominator. Allen was acerbic, inventive, very funny...and, week after week he wrote most of his own material. If you've ever heard his slightly nasal, questioning delivery you won't forget it. His autobiography, Treadmill to Oblivion, concentrates on his years in radio and what it was like grinding out wit every week and dealing with pigmy executives and humorless network censors. Fred Allen's Letters gives us a large sample of his witty, literate correspondence with all sorts of people.

O. Henry's Full House was Twentieth Century Fox's answer to Britain's three movies featuring stories by Somerset Maugham, Quartet in 1948, Trio in 1950 and Encore in 1951...all fine movies and worth watching.
Cherry The Countess

Cherry The Countess

One cannot really make a pastiche movie like this hang together as a coherent whole, but this oddity is interesting for the contributions of the high-powered cast: standing out are Charles Laughton, a disturbingly nasty Richard Widmark, Anne Baxter, and the drily comic Fred Allen, of whom we don't have enough of a film record. However, Oscar Levant's acting skills are really nonexistent; he should have stuck to his career as a musician and professional neurotic. Look for Marilyn Monroe in a cameo in "The Cop & the Anthem".


When I first saw this film some 45 years ago, I recognized Francis Ford in the last episode, "The Gift of the Magi," as the street corner Santa whom Jeanne Crain addresses as Mr. Schultz and inquires about his lumbago. He appears in three scenes, and despite the fact that his face is partially hidden by his beard, his bloated eyes and deep bronchial voice with that trademark Maine accent seem unmistakeably Fordian. Ford, older brother of legendary director John Ford, appeared periodically for Fox during this time, and I chalked this up as another one of his uncredited roles.

Recently watching the film on DVD, I checked out IMDb's cast and saw perennial movie policeman Fred Kelsey credited as Santa. Kelsey, who made a career of playing cops, doesn't seem to be in the film in his traditional role in a movie that has numerous police parts.

If that isn't Kelsey as Santa, then why is he billed in the film's credits? I suspect he's not in the film at all. The film underwent severe cutting after previews and elements of the prologue and the entire "Ransom of Red Chief" episode were eliminated, not to be reinstated until the film's TV premiere in the early 60's.

I think there are problems with the film's opening credits. The first billed supporting player after the twelve stars is supposedly Joyce MacKenzie in the role of Hazel. Neither MacKenzie nor a character named Hazel appears in the current DVD version film either.

One last point: Kelsey spent the 1940's and early 50's in Columbia shorts and is visible in uncredited bits in Warner films, not at Fox. Please check out the three Santa Claus scenes and come to your own conclusions as to who's playing Santa.


O. Henry's Full House is an interesting experiment. Introduced by John Steinbeck, it features adaptations of five of O. Henry's literally dozens of stories. Two of them have a genuine feel for the early twentieth century New York the author knew so well: The Cop and the Anthem and The Clarion Call. The former features Charles Laughton as a tramp with big ideas, and offers Marilyn Monroe in a bizarre cameo; while the latter is a tough little crime story about two boyhood friends from Erie, Pennsylvania whose lives could scarcely have turned out more differently. Jean Negulesco sensitively directed the sentimental The Last Leaf, the most accomplished of the group. On the downside, The Gift Of the Magi is ruined by unsympathetic lead players; and the Howard Hawkes-directed Ransom Of Red Chief is a near-total disaster.

A mixed bag, to say the least, the film was doubtless inspired by the success of the British series of movies adapted from Somerset Maugham's stories. This one isn't nearly as good, but is a good try. Had the producers stuck to dealing with O. Henry's more rugged, ironic New York tales the film might have worked out better, but it opted for heavy doses of sentiment and broad comedy instead. This is a pity, as O. Henry's influence on American literature and popular culture was enormous, and can be seen in many television anthology series, such as The Twilight Zone, and in dramatic shows such as The Naked City. In the first two stories in the film one can see much of the irony and love of simple humanity that must have inspired such later authors as Rod Serling.


Perhaps I am getting too old, but this film grows in my eyes as the years pass. The old saying they don't make films like this anymore is set in granite here. The under 40 generations has perhaps heard of a few of the stars here, but each in his day and time has their moment in the sun. They made a moved called Ragtime a few years back, it never hit the spot, marked the era as well as this film did. 1890-1910, the United State from the small towns to big New York City. The more you know about history the more I think you can feel the verse and sense the style of this movie. Ragtime, 1900 in New York, the city of Teddy Roosevelt, The time of Ben Hecht and Ring Lardner.... The Clarion Call is to my mind, a classic that seems to ring out a sense of the era. The other critics think that Richard Widmarks over the top performance was a bit much. No way, he was playing a type, a person you might find in Guys and Dolls that at one time and day did exist. The feel of the day, the period of Yellow Journalism, the sense of honor and betrayal. all speak to me. I give the Clarion Call a big thumbs up. The Last Leaf and The Gift Of The Magi will leave romantics smiling or crying. Short films are not made like this anymore. Each of these stories is put to film by a master filmmaker and most people just need to sit back and move back to those days of yesteryear's. For a story to read, O'Henry will knock the sock off your average reader as he lived much of what was in each story. The Ransome of Red Chief and The Cop And The Anthem....Are each good casting and funny and ironic. Marilyn Monroe fans will want to watch this movie to see her at her most lovely. If you missed Oscar Levant or don't know about Fred Allen, here a time to pause and reflect. The time is 1900,Scott Joplins music is playing, Tin Pan Alley really exists...The coin of the realm is an Indian Head Penny and O'Henrys characters come alive in this classic movie. Too bad you don't get to see Alias Jimmy Valentine, or the Cisco Kid and his tales of Old California. but for the price of admission you can be taken back to yesteryear when the 20th century was new. American society is so different now, but ... if you turn off the lights... put this movie on, you too can start to better understand America. Marilyn, its time for your close up.........


I think my mom & I stayed up late one night years ago & watched this; thanks to TCM, I've seen it again & recorded it for posterity.

"Full House" is film versions of five O. Henry short stories & stars the top box office draws of the day. My favorite remains "The Last Leaf," a heart tugger about a love-torn woman (Anne Baxter) & the grumpy abstract artist (Gregory Ratoff) who rescues her from her near-death funk. Marilyn Monroe has a brief appearance as a prostitute who seeks momentary solace in Chas. Laughton's plight in the old chestnut, "The Cop & the Anthem." All five are turn-of-the-20th-century period pieces & are introduced & narrated by writer John "Grapes of Wrath" Steinbeck. I don't know what kind of business this movie did in theaters back in '52, but it probably didn't help that "The Ransom of Red Chief" starred two top radio wonks of the day, Fred Allen & Oscar Levant: Oscar did fare better on screen & on TV than poor old Mr. Allen, although neither could carry 15 to 20 minutes of film.

I've seen this available somewhere on VHS, but you might see it sooner on TCM or premium cable, so check your local listings.


Twentieth Century Fox anthology film based around five O.Henry short stories, with each story introduced by John Steinbeck. The stories are:

"The Cop and the Anthem", directed by Henry Koster, stars Charles Laughton as a homeless man trying to get arrested so he may have shelter for awhile. He tries numerous tactics but nothing seems to work. Marilyn Monroe figures into one of these attempts. It's a humorous but brief appearance by her. This is an amusing beginning, with Laughton giving a good performance.

"The Clarion Call", directed by Henry Hathaway, stars Dale Robertson and Richard Widmark. Robertson is a cop who follows a murder clue to an old friend (Widmark). But he owes Widmark $1000 from an old debt and his honor won't allow him to arrest him. This story started off well but its contrived premise doesn't hold up and the ending I saw coming too early. Widmark is fantastic though.

"The Last Leaf", directed by Jean Negulesco, stars Anne Baxter and Jean Peters as sisters. Depressed Baxter becomes deathly ill and Peters can do nothing to help her. This is a simple story. A little corny, I suppose, but it made me smile just the same.

"The Ransom of Red Chief", directed by Howard Hawks, stars Oscar Levant and Fred Allen as two con artists who kidnap a boy, only to discover he's more than they bargained for. Hilarious story, even though we've seen whole movies built around "problem children" in the years since.

"The Gift of the Magi", directed by Henry King, stars Farley Granger and Jeanne Crain as a poor young married couple who make sacrifices for each other at Christmas. Probably O. Henry's most famous story and justifiably so. It's a beautiful, heartwarming Christmas story. They saved the best for last. This is a good anthology film. There's not a bad story in the bunch. The second story is the weakest but it's still watchable thanks to Richard Widmark. Definitely a film you should check out.
Brick my own

Brick my own

One of the only times you'll get to see Steinbeck on film. The stories are all Unique and each comes with its set of twists and lessons learned. Of course I have my favorite and also my least favorite. I love that these stories are so full of detail, even the scenery and costuming. It's a true classic with an all star cast. Don't pass it up if it comes on. It's not perfect but what is?


William Sydney Porter was a citizen of North Carolina who (following the period of Reconstruction) moved to Texas. He married and worked in a bank. His wife became very ill. Now he was charged with embezzlement (presumably for his wife's medical bills). He fled the U.S. to Latin America, and then returned when he heard his wife was dying. After her death he was arrested tried and convicted for embezzlement and got four years in prison.

Prison destroys many inmates, but it has occasionally helped some writers. John Bunyan, author of THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, wrote part of it in prison. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was imprisoned for debt and began DON QUIXOTE. Porter wrote some of the prison newspaper, and the chief guard in the prison, Mr. Orrin Henry, persuaded Porter to try writing as a career. Porter did, when he left prison, and proceeded to become one of America's greatest short story writers. In honor to his friend the prison guard, Porter wrote under the still remembered pseudonym, "O. Henry".

Porter / "O.Henry" died in 1910. Therefore he really missed the full effect of motion pictures. In his own lifetime only one of his stories, "A RETRIEVED REFORMATION", became dramatized as ALIAS JIMMY VALENTINE. He did not do the dramatization. He was working on a play at the time he died. Also a novel. Given his sharp characterizations, and his fast moving plotting that leads to a surprise ending, we just don't know if he could have done either a play or novel as well as a short story. But we know he was never approached to do a movie script...the films didn't begin talking for seventeen more years until after his death.

In the late 1940s another master of the short story, William Somerset Maugham made a three picture deal in which he narrated introductions to a total of ten of his short stories. The three films, QUARTET, TRIO, and ENCORE remain great examples of how real literature can be brought to the screen without loss, and certainly were a hard act to follow for other film makers. There were few contemporary takers (Hemingway and Faulkner just did not seem to be the type to introduce some of their shorter fiction). 20th Century Fox managed to get the only other master writer of the period, John Steinbeck, to do the equivalent introductions that Maugham did.

The resulting film, O.HENRY'S FULL HOUSE, was a good one but not as good as the Maugham films. Don't forget, Maugham's introductions were to stories HE wrote, whereas (despite Steinbeck's respectful comments) Steinbeck's introductions were to stories written by someone else. So the impact is a little different. Pity it was not Hemingway (if they could have gotten him) introducing some of his short stories.

The five choices are fine. The best ones (to me) are "THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF", "THE LAST LEAF", "THE COP AND THE ANTHEM" and "THE GIFT OF THE MAGI". Were they the best possible choices? Well, I have always liked "A MUNICIPAL REPORT", which is light-years ahead of it's "Jim Crow" era views on race relations (and by a Southerner, for that matter). It could not get into the film because of Southern distribution. The one failure as an episode is "THE CLARION CALL". One of the other reviewers faults Richard Widmark's giggling 19th Century "Tony Udo" as the cause, but the story is not very exciting to begin with, and for once the trick in the conclusion is rather routine.

The two comic episodes are amusing as they prove Bobby Burns' "The best laid plans of mice and men..." (a comment that Steinbeck would be familiar with). In "THE COP AND THE ANTHEM" the hero Soapy is a hobo, determined to spend a month or so on a any charge so he can have a warm place to be (i.e. prison) while avoiding the winter. He keeps failing to get arrested (including one interesting episode with Marilyn Monroe - her only time with Charles Laughton). Then, at it's bleakest moment he hears an anthem coming out of a church, and starts recalling how he heard it as a boy. He softens and begins to consider reforming. Then comes the conclusion. "The Ransom of Red Chief" stars Fred Allen and Oscar Levant, who mistakenly think kidnapping a child is a piece of cake. They learn quickly the word "hellion". Howard Hawks directed that episode, and his touches for farce help it tremendously.

"THE LAST LEAF" is about two sisters, Anne Baxter and Jean Peters, in a rooming house, living beneath a grumpy artist named Behrman (Gregory Ratoff). Baxter is dying, and Ratoff takes an interest in her health and mental condition. It is late autumn, and the leaves on the trees are falling, and Ratoff hears that Baxter believes she will die when the last, topmost leaf falls off the tree. But the last leaf is still there after a storm rips all the foliage off the tree, and Peters is sure this will give Baxter her grip on living again. Then comes the final, sad surprise.

"THE GIFT OF THE MAGI" has been reprinted more frequently than most stories (and spoofed - Durwood Kirby and Carol Burnett spoofed it delightfully on the old Gary Moore show once). Farley Granger and Jeanne Crain are happily married, but in straightened circumstances, each with one prize possession. Christmas is coming, and both want to get fitting gifts for each other. They do at tremendous personal cost, but they realize how deep their love is at the conclusion of the story.

Not as good as the Maugham films but worthy of being seen.
Sermak Light

Sermak Light

This is perfect example of the Fox look in the beginning of the fifties, prior to the Scope. Here are the directors, actors and actress, cinematographers,musicians (Alfred Newmann), etc., under contract. Jean Peters, Anne Baxter, Richard Widmark, Jeanne Crain, Marilyn in her beginnings, etc.

What a pair of wonderful actresses in the moving "The last leaf", directed by Jean Negulesco with an almost expressionist style! Really, he was an very underrated director with good film as "Three came home", "The mask of Dimitrios", "Humoresque".

In "The gift of the magi" Henry King puts grace and gusto in some sweet Christmas commonplaces. This is also a good episode, perhaps a little marred by the overacting of Jeanne Crain.

Also very watchable "The clarion call", directed by Henry Hathaway in a dry and concise style.

In "The cop and the anthem" we have a memorable line by the lovely Marilyn: "He called me madam!"

The Hawks episode is the only drawback in the film, but one can forgive it in front of the other good four. And, above all, the sublime "The last leaf".