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"The Night of the Meek" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.
"This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in the uniquely popular American institution, that of the department-store Santa Claus in a road-company version of 'The Night Before Christmas'. But in just a moment Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found... in 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 a sandwich and 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 had, moments earlier, pushed her reluctant son, "Percival", 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 incapable of fulfilling his desired role as Santa. He declares that if he had just "one wish" granted him on Christmas Eve, he'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, overfilled with packages, which seems to have the ability to produce any item that's asked of it. Overjoyed at his sudden, inexplicable ability to fulfill a lifelong dream, Corwin proceeds to hand out gift-wrapped presents to passersby and then, upon entering Sister Florence's "Delancey Street Mission House", to derelict men attending Christmas Eve service. Irritated by the disruption, 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, as he pulls out a couple of empty cans, and a cat emitting a meow emerges from the bag onto the precinct counter, Corwin interjects, "this bag doesn't know whether to give out gifts or garbage". Seeing what just happened, 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 then challenges Corwin to produce a bottle of cherry brandy, vintage 1903 and, as he turns to Flaherty and continues to berate him ("...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 an elf (in the persona of an adolescent girl), with a 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", ascending 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..."
"A word to the wise to all the children of the twentieth century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There's a wondrous magic to Christmas and there's a special power reserved for little people. In short, there's nothing mightier than the meek. And a Merry Christmas, to each and all."
Preview for Next Week's Story
A traditional, if somewhat stark and tragic piece of Americana known as the gallows. And next week on The Twilight Zone, we'll watch a young man mount its steps and then wait during that eternity that lies between life and sudden death, for the trapdoor to spring, his neck to break and the elements of his body to rejoin the vast darkness of whatever lies beyond. Our program is called "Dust". Thank you and good night.
- Cayuga Productions
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (in association with)
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)
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 kinescoped 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 daytime soap operas which, at the time, were quickly and cheaply produced live on one or two sets. 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 31, 1961 as episode 22.
- "What's your name?" "Percival Smithers" "What do you want for Christmas, Percival?" "A new front name."
- You know another reason why I drink, Mr. Dundee? So that when I walk down the tenements, I can really think it's the North Pole and the children are elves and that I'm really Santa Claus bringing them a bag of wondrous gifts for all of them. I just wish, Mr. Dundee, on one Christmas, only one, that I could see some of the hopeless ones and the dreamless ones, just on one Christmas, I'd like to see the meek inherit the Earth. That's why I drink, Mr. Dundee, and that's why I weep.
- "Going home, Officer Flaherty?" "Going home, Mr. Dundee. And you?" "Going home, Officer Flaherty. This is the most remarkable Christmas Eve I've ever had. Flaherty, I could have sworn that I...did you see it?" "I thought I did." "Well, what did you see?" "I don't think I ought to tell you, Mr. Dundee. You might report me for drinking on duty." "No, no, go ahead. What did you see?" "It was Corwin, Mr. Dundee, big as life in a sleigh with reindeer, sitting next to an elf and riding up toward the sky. That's about the size of it. Ain't it, Mr. Dundee?" "Flaherty, you better come home with me and we'll pour out some hot coffee and we'll pour some brandy in it and we'll ...and we'll thank God for miracles, Flaherty."