Combustible Celluloid
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With: Fred Allen, Anne Baxter, Jeanne Crain, Farley Granger, Charles Laughton, Oscar Levant, Marilyn Monroe, Jean Peters, Gregory Ratoff, Dale Robertson, David Wayne, Richard Widmark, John Steinbeck
Written by: Richard Breen, Walter Bullock, Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts, Lamar Trotti, based on stories by O. Henry
Directed by: Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, Henry King, Henry Koster, Jean Negulesco
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: English
Running Time: 118
Date: 08/07/1952

O. Henry's Full House (1952)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Short Circle

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Five directors adapted five short stories by O. Henry with varying results for this anthology film.

A blustery Charles Laughton is a high point in Henry Koster's "The Cop and the Anthem," playing a homeless man trying to get arrested so he can spend the cruel winter in jail. A young, vivid Marilyn Monroe also appears in a small role.

The writer's famous Christmas story, "The Gift of the Magi," is here too, but director Henry King allows it to get a bit maudlin.

The unquestionable pinnacle is Howard Hawks' energetic "The Ransom of Red Chief," about a pair of hapless kidnappers whose victim, a vicious, nasty kid, sabotages their plans. As seen in other adaptations, this story can get a bit prickly and hysterical, but Hawks' expert hand keeps the tone dry and funny.

The other two segments are Jean Negulesco's "The Last Leaf" and Henry Hathaway's "The Clarion Call."

Oddly enough, John Steinbeck appears as himself and introduces the five segments.

See also Raoul Walsh's excellent feature-length In Old Arizona (1929), an adaptation of O. Henry's "The Caballero's Way."

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