Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Overlooked Movies: O. Henry's Full House

O. Henry's Full House Poster.jpg
I went to see this movie with my father when I was a kid.  I have no idea why he and I went and left the rest of the family behind, but I think it might have been because he wanted to see Marilyn Monroe, who has a small role in it.  I'm pretty sure that when this movie was released (1952), Monroe was just beginning to make a splash in Hollywood.  For some reason I even remember (or think I do; memory is a tricky thing) where we sat in the theater.  

Another memorable thing about the movie is that it's the first anthology movie I ever saw.  It has five O. Henry stories, each one directed by a different director.

And a third memorable thing, though you wouldn't know it from the poster, is that John Steinbeck introduces the film and does a little narration.  Even as a kid I was impressed by writers, and this was the first time I'd ever seen one in a movie.

For me, the two most memorable segments of the film are "The Last Leaf" (I can still remember the final scene in that one) and "The Gift of the Magi."  Since I hadn't read anything by O. Henry at the time I saw the movie, the surprise endings really surprised me.  I also got a kick out of "The Ransom of Red Chief."  Later on in my life, I read "The Cop and the Anthem" in high school and a few years later found myself teaching it to my own classes, but I remember that one only vaguely.  I don't remember the fifth story, "The Clarion Call," at all.  

This is a very old-fashioned movie, with sentimentality and humor of a kind you don't see these days.  You can see the various parts on YouTube if you're so inclined.  Watch one when you're in a nostalgic mood.

18 comments:

  1. I've never seen FULL HOUSE, but now I do!

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  2. I've seen Gift of The Magi and Ransom of Red Chief, but don't remember the others. O. Henry was best at the twist in the end.

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  3. The films my father and I saw without the rest of the family, and my mother and I, have been odd sets, too. My mother and I caught AIRPORT '75; her sitting with me through the opening moments of my first vampire film in a cinema to make sure I could handle it (it was probably an Amicus or Tigon or Hammer item, never have been able to narrow it down) wasn't quite the same. My father and saw THE FRENCH CONNECTION II (not a film for needle-phobes, as I was then and to some extent remain) and, much later, a THE SHINING and SILENT PARTNER drive-in double feature together. (The last was better than the Kubrick/King item.) Films I've seen with only my brother have averaged a bit better, but that average was pulled down hard by seeing the typical Oliver Stone pile NIXON. "I'm never going to see another Oliver Stone film," my brother said forcefully as we left. I think I enjoyed the absurdity of Henry Kissinger musing aloud about his boss in front of Mao Zedong's entourage, "Think of vut he could've achieved if only he had been luvved" more than Eric did. Not enough more, mind you.

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  4. I can remember going to only one movie with my mom. Maybe I'll write about that one next week.

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  5. Anonymous9:34 AM

    It's been a long, long time since I've seen this one. I still remember the "Ransom of Red Chief" and "Gift of the Magi" sections, but then they've been done many times since, including Westlake's JIMMY THE KID in the Dortmunder series, a very funny book (especially if you've read his Parker series). The less said about the Gary Coleman movie the better.

    Jeff

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  6. Anonymous9:40 AM

    My mother was the movie fanatic. In fact I can't remember my father ever going to the movies when we were kids. I remember my mother and grandmother taking me to Radio City Music Hall to see A MAJORITY OF ONE (of all things).

    And then there was the famous occasion she took me and my brother to see WEST SIDE STORY. In those days she didn't pay attention to things like starting times, so we walked in after the rumble! We just stayed until we reached the place where we'd come in and then left.

    Maybe that's why I am as anal as Woody Allen in ANNIE HALL about being there before the movie starts.

    Jeff

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  7. I never cared much about when a movie started until I went to college. Until then, we just went to movies whenever we had a chance and walked in at any point without caring. We'd watch whatever was left of it, sit through the previews and cartoon and newsreel, and then see the beginning. It never bothered me at all. It was what nearly everybody did. This must have been the origin of the old saying, "This is where I came in."

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  8. Come to think of it, it might be that AIRPORT sequel and THE CHINA SYNDROME were the only complete films I've seen in a theater with my mother.

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  9. (As opposed to with both my parents or my whole family.)

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  10. I did go to the movies with my mom, but only occasionally. I still remember watching BAMBI with her when I was a little kid. I didn't enjoy going to the movies so much with my dad since he tended to comment (louder as he got older) and I had to make him promise not to speak during the movie before I would deign to attend. :) He tried his best.

    I do remember, Bill, to this day, THE LAST LEAF segment of this O'Henry movie and since we had read O'Henry in school it was something I'd probably looked forward to seeing.

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  11. The final scene in "The Last Leaf" has really stuck with me, and I'm not sure why. Maybe the surprise, maybe not. Maybe it was the sentimentality of the story. I've always been a sucker for that kind of thing.

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  12. There were a couple of Somerset Maugham omnibus movies--all with those twist endings, all introduced by Maugham--made in the late forties/early fifties. Great stuff!

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  13. Haven't seen those. They sound like something I'd like.

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  14. Actually, there were three (thank you, IMDB): Quartet in 1948, Trio in 1950, and Encore in 1951. They feature some of the greats of British stage & screen, like Trevor Howard, Glynis John's, and Wilfrid Hyde-White. I think all of them are based on Maugham stories; my favorite being Mr. Know-It-All, in which a rather odious man saves the honor of a married woman who can't explain to her husband how she came into possession if a valuable pearl necklace. They are worth seeking out.

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  15. Clearly not the kind of thing that would ever have played in my hometown!

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  16. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I saw at least one of the Maugham movies Deb mentioned, QUARTET, but it's been so long I don't remember the details.

    Jeff

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  17. And Maugham was adapted to non-exclusively Maugham anthologies, such as my old favorite THREE CASES OF MURDER, which leads off with an excellent original horror drama, continues through a not-bad (but that's about all) Brett Halliday suspense story adaptation, and winds up with the fine "Lord Montdrago" based on a Maugham ghost story and featuring a cheerful and effective Orson Welles performance as the eponymous character.

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  18. Sorry, "Lord Mountdrago"...

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