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Film / O. Henry's Full House

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O. Henry's Full House is a 1952 anthology film, consisting of five separate shorts adapted from stories by O. Henry. The five films are:

  • "The Cop and the Anthem," directed by Henry Koster: A vagrant named Soapy (Charles Laughton) feels a chill in the air as winter is coming, and resolves to commit a crime so he can get three months in jail, where it's warm and there's plenty of food. Marilyn Monroe appears briefly as a prostitute.

  • "The Clarion Call," directed by Henry Hathaway: Barney (Dale Robertson), a reformed hoodlum turned cop, realizes his old friend Johnny (Richard Widmark) has committed a murder. But Barney feels like he can't arrest Johnny, because years ago Johnny bailed him out with $1000 when Barney was in debt to gamblers.

  • "The Last Leaf," directed by Jean Negulesco: A young woman named Joanna (Anne Baxter), grief-stricken after her lover dumps her, falls ill with pneumonia. As fall transitions into winter a bedridden Joanna becomes fixated on the ivy she sees across the street. She becomes convinced that when the last leaf falls from the ivy, she will die.

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  • "The Ransom of Red Chief," directed by Howard Hawks: Sam (Fred Allen) and Bill (Oscar Levant) are two con-artists who hit on the idea of kidnapping a boy to raise some capital for their next con. They get much more than they bargained for when they kidnap J.B., a demon child who proceeds to turn the tables on his kidnappers.

  • "The Gift of the Magi," directed by Henry King: Jim (Farley Granger) and Della (Jeanne Crain) are a young married couple struggling to get by. It's Christmas time, and each wants to buy the other a present, but they don't have any money. Jim and Della each make a rash decision.

None other than Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck appears as a narrator introducing each story.



  • The Alleged Car: The car that Sam and Bill drive is a Model T that backfires constantly and emits a billowing cloud of smoke wherever it goes.
  • Anthology Film: Five O. Henry short stories.
  • Banana Peel: Soapy's effort to get arrested by kicking a cop in the butt fails when he slips on one of these.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In "The Last Leaf" Behrman the old artist has a heart attack and dies in the snow outside, but his painting of the leaf succeeds in giving Joanna the will to live.
  • Call-Forward: The art dealer takes a look at Behrman's abstract impressionistic painting of a bowl of fruit and suggests that "maybe in 1950" stuff like that will sell, but in 1905, not so much.
  • The Cameo: Marilyn Monroe, then just hitting it big in movies, is onscreen for barely a minute as the hooker that Soapy briefly chats with.
  • Dutch Angle: Used for the entire opening sequence of "The Last Leaf," when Joanna leaves her ex-boyfriend in despair, only to collapse in the snow outside her rooming house.
  • The Faceless: In the opening John Steinbeck narrative sequence, O. Henry is shown in a prison cell scribbling notes, in shadow so we can't see his face.
  • Flashback: A flashback shows how Barney got into Johnny's debt; Johnny gave Barney $1000 when Barney wrote a check that was going to bounce after losing at cards.
  • Giggling Villain: Johnny's giggles and laughter are only occasionally interrupted by moments of terrifying rage. Richard Widmark's performance is very reminiscent of his performance as the Trope Codifier for Giggling Villain in Kiss of Death.
  • Gift of the Magi Plot: "The Gift of the Magi" is an adaptation of the Trope Maker and Trope Namer. Della sells her hair to a wigmaker to buy Jim a fancy watch fob, and Jim sells his watch to buy Della a set of fancy combs.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: When Soapy resolves to get arrested by ordering a fancy meal and not paying, he says he's going to go all out, explaining that "One can't afford to be niggardly." "Niggardly" of course means "stingy."
  • High-Class Glass: Soapy the tramp still uses the monocle that he had from back when he had a higher station in life.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Johnny's gun doesn't fire when he tries to kill Barney. Barney then reveals that he destroyed the firing pin when he was in Johnny's room.
  • Narrator: John Steinbeck appears in linking segments, talking about O. Henry and his legacy and introducing each story.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: "The Ransom of Red Chief" ends with Sam and Bill lurching off into the distance in their sputtering jalopy, having had to pay $250 to J.B.'s parents for the privilege of giving him back.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: "The Ransom of Red Chief" is an adaptation of the Trope Maker. Sam and Bill are so terrorized by J.B. the hellspawn that they eventually pay to give him back.
  • Streetwalker: Marilyn Monroe's character, who is stylishly dressed and encourages Soapy to buy her a drink, is credited only as "Streetwalker."
  • Sweater Girl: Jeanne Crain wears some very snug blouses.
  • Take That!: When his buddy suggests that Soapy travel to Florida to beat the winter, Soapy sniffs that Florida is "fit only for millionaires and reluctant witnesses."
  • Trail Of Breadcrumbs: J.B. lures a bear to the campsite and directly to Bill's face by leaving a trail of chunks of bread.
  • The Tramp: Soapy is a tramp in the Charlie Chaplin mode, wearing a shabby suit and using a monocle to read. He briefly alludes to having once had a lot more money.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Della weeps as the wigmaker cuts her hair. It doesn't get better when she comes home and finds that the wigmaker just hacked it all off.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: J.B.'s parents really aren't all that troubled when they see J.B. kidnapped from the front yard, partly because they know the kidnappers will regret it and probably also because they're glad to get rid of him for a while.
    Mom: (bored) Now they're putting a sack over J.B's head.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Johnny slaps his moll when she doesn't get out of the room fast enough.