Five directors and a dozen acclaimed actors bring five of O. Henry's short stories to the screen. An introduction to each of the stories is done by renowned writer John Steinbeck. Each of the stories is about average people doing average things, but told in an above average way.
The Cop and the Anthem:
Director: Henry Koster
A humourous story of a homeless man named Soapy (Charles Laughton – Spartacus, Witness for the Prosecution) realizing that winter is coming up and the idea of spending the long cold days in jail is appealing to him. Soapy tries, much to his fellow vagrant Horace's (David Wayne – The Apple Dumpling Gang, How to Marry a Millionaire) amazement, every trick in the book (stealing a man's umbrella, dining in an expensive restaurant and not paying) to get arrested but each time the victim does not want to press charges. (Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by Marilyn Monroe as a prostitute.)
The Clarion Call
Director: Henry Hathaway
Johnny Kernan (Richard Widmark – Coma, The Swarm) is a criminal who has done very well for himself. He runs into old friend Barney Woods (Dale Robertson – starred in episodes of Murder She Wrote and Dallas), who is now a policeman. Barney is working on a murder case in which Johnny is messed up with, but Johnny blackmails Barney over something that happened in the past.
The Last Leaf
Director: Jean Negulesco
A moving story about a sick young woman, Joanna (Anne Baxter – The Ten Commandments, All About Eve), who has contracted pneumonia after a breakup with her boyfriend. Joanna, who is bedridden, believes that she will die after the last leaf falls from the vine she sees from her bedroom window. Her sister, Susan (Jean Peters – Niagara, Vicki), is desperate to get her well so she turns to a struggling painter in their apartment building, Behrman (Gregory Ratoff – Exodus, I'm No Angel), for help. Behrman tries to do what he can to lift the spirits of Joanna.
The Ransom of Red Chief:
Director: Howard Hawks
Two hoods, Sam (Fred Allen – We're Not Married!) and Bill (Oscar Levant – An American in Paris), decide that they are going to kidnap and hold for a ransom a child from a small town in Alabama. They decide on the 10-year-old son of the richest family in town. Soon they discover that J.B. (Lee Aaker – High Noon, The Greatest Show on Earth) is not a precious child that every parent would want back.
The Gift of the Maji
Director: Henry King
A married couple is short on cash during the holiday season and tries to find unique ways to afford the gifts they want to buy for each other. Della (Jeanne Crain – Cheaper By the Dozen, State Fair) and Jim (Farley Granger – Rope) sacrifice what they love most in order to be able to buy the gift their spouse wants for Christmas.
-Other O. Henry short stories on film
-The Life and Writing of O. Henry
-The O. Henry Museum
-Original Exhibitor's Campaign Book