- The Night of the Meek
"The Night of the Meek" The Twilight Zone episode
Art Carney in The Night of the Meek
Episode no. Season 2
Directed by Jack Smight Written by Rod Serling Produced by Buck Houghton Featured music none credited Production code 173-3663 Original air date December 23, 1960 Guest stars
Art Carney: Henry Corwin
John Fiedler: Mr. Dundee
Robert P. Lieb: Officer Flaherty
Val Avery: Bruce the Bartender
Meg Wyllie: Sister Florence
Kay Cousins: Irate Mother
Burt Mustin: Old Man
Andrea Margolis: Little girl
Jimmy Garrett: Little boy
Nan Peterson: Blonde in the bar
Matthew McCue: Derelict man
Larrian Gillespie: Young elf
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As snow begins to fall, a drunk and dejected Henry Corwin, wearing his Santa Claus suit, stumbles and half-falls at a curbside lamppost. He is approached by two tenement children pleading for toys, a Christmas dinner and "a job for my daddy". As Corwin begins to sob helplessly, the camera slowly pans to the right revealing, in the same shot, Rod Serling standing on the sidewalk, wearing a winter coat and scarf, with the snowflakes settling on his hair and shoulders. His two-sentence introduction describes Henry Corwin, "normally unemployed", whose brief annual job is "that of the department-store Santa Claus", as entering "a strange kind of North Pole" which consists of the "spirit of Christmas" and "the magic" of "the Twilight Zone".
It is Christmas Eve. Henry Corwin, a down-and-out ne'er-do-well, dressed in a baggy, worn-out Santa Claus suit, has just spent his last few dollars on six drinks at Jack's Place, the neighborhood bar. Bruce, the brusque bartender, throws him out after spotting Corwin, now low on funds, reaching for the bottle. Arriving an hour late for his seasonal job as a department store Santa, the visibly drunk Corwin is soon fired by Mr. Dundee, the mean-spirited manager, acting on a complaint from the overbearing customer who pushed her ill-mannered son to sit on Santa's lap. As Dundee orders him to leave the premises, Corwin pours out his heartache over living in a "dirty rooming house on a street filled with hungry kids and shabby people" for whom he is unable to fulfill his desired role as Santa. He declares that if he had just "one wish" granted him on Christmas Eve — "I'd like to see the meek inherit the earth". Still in his outfit, he returns to Jack's Place, but is refused re-entry by Bruce who explains to the inebriated patrons that "Santa's a lush".
Stumbling aimlessly into an alley, he hears sleigh bells and trips over a large burlap bag, overfull with packages, which seems to have the ability to produce any item that's asked of it. Overjoyed at the sudden ability to fulfill his lifelong desire, Corwin proceeds to hand out gift-wrapped presents to passersby and then, entering Sister Florence's "Delancey Street Mission House", to derelict men attending Christmas Eve service. Irritated at this interruption, Sister Florence goes outside to fetch Officer Flaherty who proceeds to arrest Corwin for apparently stealing merchandise from his former place of employment. Flaherty then contacts Mr. Dundee who arrives at the police station exclaiming, "Ah-ha, here he is, and here we are, and there that is!". Calling Corwin a "moth-eaten Robin Hood", Dundee reaches into the garbage bag to display some of the purported "wholesale theft of thousands of dollars worth of goods", but all he manages to pull out are a couple of empty cans and a meowing stray cat, as Corwin interjects that "this bag doesn't know whether to give out gifts or garbage". At this point, Flaherty tells Corwin to "clean up this mess and get out of here", as Dundee, angry at having his time wasted, throws accusations of incompetence at Flaherty who responds that "like Corwin says, we're dealing with the supernatural here". With sarcastic disbelief, Dundee challenges Corwin to produce a bottle of cherry brandy, vintage 1903 and, as he continues to berate Flaherty ("...how dare you drag me here at the busiest time of the year..."), Corwin comments "oh, that's a good year" and reaches into the bag to hand Dundee his exact request. Leaving the precinct, he continues to distribute gifts for the remainder of the evening, until the bag is empty. Burt, an elderly local resident who had already received a couple of Corwin's presents, points out that Corwin has taken "...nothing for yourself, not a thing" and Corwin replies that his only wish is to do this every year. Returning to the alley where he found the bag, he encounters a young female elf, sleigh and four reindeer waiting to take him to his destiny as the eternal Santa Claus.
Emerging from the precinct, Flaherty and Dundee, now slightly tipsy from sampling the brandy, hear the tinkle of bells and confirm to each other that they have, indeed, just seen Henry Corwin, in a sleigh with reindeer, "sitting next to an elf", ascend into the night sky on Christmas Eve. Dundee invites Flaherty to accompany him home and share some hot coffee and more brandy, adding, "...and we'll thank God for miracles, Flaherty..."
Rod Serling's voice is heard inviting "all the children of the twentieth century", young and old, to appreciate "a wondrous magic" that belongs "to Christmas" and especially a "power reserved for little people". The original narration, in 1960, ended with the words, "and a Merry Christmas, to each and all", but that phrase was deleted when the episode was initially repeated in August 1962, and was not restored in the syndicated edition.
- "THE NIGHT OF THE MEEK"
- Directed by Jack Smight [third of four Twilight Zone episodes—see "Episode notes"]
- Written by Rod Serling [thirty-sixth of ninety-two Twilight Zone episodes]
- Produced by Buck Houghton [forty-sixth of one-hundred-one Twilight Zone episodes]
- The Twilight Zone Created by Rod Serling
- Starring Art Carney as Henry Corwin [sole Twilight Zone appearance, but previously starred in Rod Serling's "The Velvet Alley" on Playhouse 90—see "Episode notes"]
- John Fiedler as Mr. Dundee (the department store manager) [first of two Twilight Zone appearances—see "Episode notes"]
- Robert P. Lieb as Flaherty (the police officer who arrests Corwin)
- Val Avery as the Bartender ("Hello. Jack's Place... No, Jack's not here. This is Bruce")
- Meg Wyllie as Sister Florence (who leads a rendition of "Joy to the World" at the Christmas service for skid row derelict men)
- Kay Cousins as Irate Mother (of "Percival Smithers", the ill-mannered kid who tells "Santa Corwin" that, for a Christmas present, he wants "a new front name")
- Burt Mustin as Old Man (Burt, who receives from Corwin a pipe and a smoking jacket) [first of two Twilight Zone appearances—see "Episode notes"]
- Trains by LIONEL CORP.
- Reindeer Furnished by SANTA'S VILLAGE Skyforest, California
Unbilled (in order of appearance)
- Andrea Margolis (little girl pleading with "Santa Corwin" for "a carriage and a dolly and a playhouse... a job for my daddy") [first of two Twilight Zone appearances—see "Episode notes"]
- Jimmy Garrett (little boy pleading with "Santa Corwin" for "a gun and a set of soldiers and a fort... a big turkey pot Christmas dinner")
- Nan Peterson (blonde in the bar, sitting next to the sleeping drunk, as Henry Corwin knocks on the window glass of the entrance door) [second of four Twilight Zone appearances—see "Episode notes"]
- Matthew McCue (Collins, one of the derelicts at the mission, who requests a sweater... "what size? who cares what size")
- Larrian Gillespie (adolescent female elf who, along with a large sleigh and four reindeer, waits for "Santa Corwin")
By November 1960, The Twilight Zone's second season had already broadcast five episodes and finished filming sixteen. However, at a cost of about $65,000 per episode, the show was exceeding its budget. As a result, six consecutive episodes were videotaped and subsequently transferred to 16-millimeter film for TV transmission and future syndicated rebroadcasts. Total savings on editing and cinematography costs amounted to only about $30,000 for all six entries — not enough to justify the loss of depth of visual perspective, which gave those shows an appearance akin to that of stagebound live TV dramas, or even soap operas. The experiment, which is considered extremely rare, if not unique, for episodes of filmed series, was therefore deemed a failure and never attempted again.
Even though the six episodes were recorded in a row, through November and into mid-December, their broadcast dates were out of order and varied widely, with this, the fourth one, shown on December 23, 1960 as second season episode 11. The first, "The Lateness of the Hour", was seen on December 2, 1960 as episode 8; The second, "Static", was shown on March 10, 1961 as episode 20; the third, "The Whole Truth", appeared on January 20, 1961 as episode 14; the fifth, "Twenty Two", came on February 10, 1961 as episode 17; and the last one, "Long Distance Call", was transmitted on March 3, 1961 as episode 22.
Personnel and cast with multiple Twilight Zone credits
- Jack Smight (1925–2003), a director of numerous TV episodes, made-for-TV movies and theatrical films, helmed four Twilight Zone episodes, including three of the six videotaped ones, the other two being "The Lateness of the Hour" and "Twenty Two". His initial assignment was "The Lonely" which, shown as the seventh episode of the first season, was the first regularly filmed installment after the pilot episode.
- A character star, Art Carney (1918–2003) later appeared as Santa Claus in CBS' December 1970 hour-long Muppet special, The Great Santa Claus Switch, and in ABC's December 1984 television film, The Night They Saved Christmas. Best remembered by TV viewers in 1960 as Jackie Gleason's sidekick on Gleason's various 1950s comedy/variety shows, including The Honeymooners' "Ed Norton", it was Carney who received the honors — six Emmies and a Best Actor Oscar (for 1974's Harry and Tonto) — to Gleason's none. This was Carney's only Twilight Zone appearance but, nearly two years earlier, on January 22, 1959, he starred in Rod Serling's semi-autobiographical story, "The Velvet Alley", the eighth of ten Serling teleplays featured on Playhouse 90, the most prestigious of the many live drama anthology series from the Golden Age of Television. Carney's role, that of an aspiring writer who sells his first teleplay to a major TV drama series, paralleled Serling's own career. As in Serling's 1963 screenplay for the political thriller, Seven Days in May, in which a highly moral minor character is named Art Corwin, the appellation of Carney's "Night of the Meek" character, Henry Corwin, was a tribute to Serling's idol, legendary television, film and, most memorably for Serling, radio writer Norman Corwin whose lengthy career, in contrast to Serling's relatively brief 50-year lifetime, has spanned over seven decades. On May 3, 2011, Corwin celebrated his 101st birthday.
- Busy character actor John Fiedler (1925–2005) played usually bald and bespectacled officious types in hundreds of radio shows, TV episodes and movies starting in the 1940s. Appearing on TV from its earliest days, he was one of the cadets in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet from 1951 to 1954, had regular roles in three series between 1973 and 1984 and did countless cartoon voices, including that of Piglet for Disney. His other Twilight Zone part, as a bureaucratic angel (without spectacles), was in third season's penultimate episode, "Cavender Is Coming", a failed sitcom pilot replete with a laugh track.
- A unique character, Burt Mustin (1884–1977) was a retired car salesman who began acting in films and television in 1951, at the age of 67, and continued as a performer for the next twenty-six years, dying eleven days short of his ninety-third birthday. Here, he's an elderly denizen of skid row, whom Corwin addresses as "Burt" and presents with a pipe and, as a follow-up, with a smoking jacket, while, in his other Twilight Zone appearance, he's again typecast, playing one of the residents of the old-age home in third season's "Kick the Can".
- Child actress Andrea Margolis (born 1952) appeared in over a dozen TV episodes starting unbilled with this, her first role, and, billed as Andrea Darvi (from 1962 onward), continued for six years, until her last performance in a 1966 installment of I Spy. She subsequently became a journalist as well as a social worker and discusses "The Night of the Meek" at length in her partially autobiographical book about child actors, Pretty Babies, published in 1983 by McGraw-Hill. Her other Twilight Zone appearance was in the next episode, "Dust", in which she plays Estrelita, a little Mexican girl, helping her father to plead for the life of her condemned brother.
- Attractive blonde Nan Peterson (born 1939) played mainly decorative parts in some twenty TV shows and four films during a five-year period between 1959 and 1964. She was the title character in the poverty-budgeted 1959 independent Louisiana Hussy and is remembered by specialized genre fans as one of the two female leads in two other small-scale productions, 1959's The Hideous Sun Demon and 1963's Ed Wood-scripted Shotgun Wedding. Her four Twilight Zone appearances, in which she barely utters a couple of words, are spread between the beginning and the end of her brief career. Here, she is little more than an extra, sitting at the bar in Jack's Place, next to a drunk whose sleeping face is in foreground, turned towards the camera. Her debut performance, as the mother who calls out to her merry-go-round-riding child, can be seen in first season's memorable fifth episode "Walking Distance", and her second, the most prominent of the four, in the episode videotaped immediately before this one, "The Whole Truth", where she and Jack Ging play a newly married couple considering the purchase of one of the substandard vehicles in the lot of used-car dealer Jack Carson. Her final acting role, a bit part as a secretary, was three years later, in February 1964's fifth season installment, "From Agnes—With Love", in which, as here, she is unbilled.
- List of The Twilight Zone episodes
- Night of the Meek (1986) (The Twilight Zone) - remake in the 1985 revival of the series
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090
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