The Night of the Meek
|"The Night of the Meek"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Jack Smight|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Produced by||Buck Houghton|
|Featured music||None credited|
|Original air date||December 23, 1960|
As snow begins to fall, a drunk 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, the camera pans to Rod Serling standing on the sidewalk, wearing a winter coat and scarf:
|“||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 bartender, throws him out after spotting Corwin reaching for the bottle.
Arriving an hour late for his seasonal job as a department store Santa, the drunk Corwin is fired by Mr. Dundee, the manager, acting on complaints from customers about his drunkenness. As Dundee orders him off the premises, Corwin says that he drinks because he lives 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. Stumbling into an alley, he hears sleigh bells and trips over a large burlap bag, filled with packages, which seems to have the ability to produce any item that's asked of it. Overjoyed at his sudden ability to fulfill dreams, Corwin proceeds to hand out gift-wrapped presents to passersby and then to derelict men attending Christmas Eve service at Sister Florence's "Delancey Street Mission House". Irritated by the disruption and outraged by Corwin's offer to gift her with a new dress, Sister Florence hurries outside to fetch Officer Flaherty, who arrests Corwin for apparently stealing merchandise from his former place of employment. Flaherty contacts Mr. Dundee, who arrives at the police station and reaches into the garbage bag to display some of the purported stolen goods, but instead pulls out a few empty cans and a cat. Dundee, angry at having his time wasted, throws accusations of incompetence at Flaherty and disbelief at Corwin's claim that the bag is supernatural. Dundee challenges him to produce a bottle of cherry brandy, vintage 1903. Corwin 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.
As he exits from one of the tenement buildings, elderly Burt, whose desired pipe and smoking jacket had come from Corwin's bag at Sister Florence's service, points out that Corwin himself has not yet gotten a gift. This prompts Corwin to remark that if he had his choice of any gift at all, "I think I'd wish I could do this every year". Returning to the alley where the gift-laden garbage bag had presented itself, he encounters an elf sitting in a large sleigh hitched to four reindeer waiting for him.
Emerging from the precinct, Flaherty and Dundee, now slightly tipsy from sampling Corwin's brandy, look upward upon hearing the tinkle of bells and see Corwin, in Flaherty's words, "big as life, in a sleigh with reindeer, sittin' next to an elf", ascending into the night sky. Dundee invites Flaherty to accompany him home and share some hot coffee, with brandy poured in it, 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.||”|
The original narration, on December 23, 1960, ended with the words, "and a Merry Christmas, to each and all", but that phrase was deleted in the 1980s and is now excluded from reruns, VHS releases and the five-DVD set The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition. The phrase is heard in the Blu-ray release of Season 2 as well as the version streamed by Netflix, but with noticeably different sound quality from the rest of Serling's narration.
- Directed by Jack Smight
- Written by Rod Serling
- Produced by Buck Houghton
- Art Carney as Henry Corwin
- John Fiedler as Mr. Dundee
- Robert P. Lieb as Flaherty
- Val Avery as the Bartender
- Meg Wyllie as Sister Florence
- Kay Cousins as Irate Mother
- Burt Mustin as Old Man (Burt)
- Trains by Lionel Corp.
- Reindeer Furnished by Santa's Village – Skyforest, California
Billed (in order of appearance)
- Andrea Margolis (Girl pleading for "a job for my daddy")
- Jimmy Garrett (Boy pleading for "a big turkey pot Christmas dinner")
- Nan Peterson (Blonde in the bar, sitting next to the sleeping drunk)
- Matthew McCue (Collins, one of the derelicts at the mission)
- Larrian Gillespie (Adolescent elf)
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 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.
- Jack Smight appears in three other Twilight Zone episodes: "The Lonely", "The Lateness of the Hour", and "Twenty Two"
- Art Carney later appears 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 (The name of Carney's "Night of the Meek" character, Henry Corwin, is a tribute to Serling's idol, Norman Corwin)
- John Fiedler played a bureaucratic angel in third season's penultimate episode, "Cavender Is Coming", a failed sitcom pilot replete with a laugh track
- Burt Mustin plays one of the residents of the old-age home in third season's "Kick the Can"
- Andrea Margolis' second appearance came in the following week, "Dust", in which she portrays Estrelita, a little Mexican girl
- Nan Peterson's three other appearances are in "Walking Distance", "The Whole Truth", and "From Agnes—With Love", in which, as here, she is unbilled
- This episode was remade into an episode of the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone called "Night of the Meek", which starred Richard Mulligan as Henry Corwin and William Atherton as Mr. Dundee
- There was a radio adaptation of The Twilight Zone episode "The Night of the Meek" which starred Christopher McDonald
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0