I cherish childhood memories of watching movies on television. They must have aired on Saturday afternoons, and of course they were all in black and white. One of my all time favorites was O. Henry’s Full House. I didn’t know that was the name at the time. I would have referred to it as “that movie with 'The Gift of the Magi' or 'Ransom of Red Chief'.” Made in 1952, the movie dramatizes five O. Henry stories, and includes an introduction by John Steinbeck.
I am married to a devout John Steinbeck fan, and mainly for this reason I have been trying to unearth this movie. I didn’t have the name of the movie, and my search was limited to 'O. Henry.’ I wasn’t getting anywhere. I called my mother and asked her if she remembered the movie. She said she had a limited memory of it. She remembered that the actress Jeanne Crain was in it. I asked her to inquire of my father if he could remember any of the actors’ names. She shouted, “Hey, Milton, do you remember that O. Henry movie?” I could hear him answer back, “No. Never heard of it.”
I checked a biography of John Steinbeck, which gave me the director’s name. I thought it odd that the book discusses Steinbeck’s role in the movie, yet it never named the movie! It turned out to be all I needed, however, for the Internet web site I used asked for two names associated with a movie, and I had two names! As soon as I typed them in, up sprang O. Henry’s Full House, complete with a synopsis of the film. I read that five stories had been dramatized. I only remembered three. I think my young mind could not make sense of the other two, so I only remembered the ones that grabbed my imagination. I read the comments on the web site and educated myself on the other story lines.
I called my parents to report my findings. My father answered the phone, a rare event due to his aversion to the thing. He asked, “What’s new?” and I reported my finding the title, O. Henry’s Full House. He said, “I never heard of the movie.” I replied that I thought he must have watched it with me, for I remember seeing it more than once. Trying to prime the pump of his memory, I told him they were the dramatizations of O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf," "The Ransom of Red Chief" and "The Gift of the Magi." Dad said, “I know I read those stories, but I sure do not remember the movie.” I said, “I just read about the movie on the Internet. They used five stories, with five different directors.” What my father said next took me by surprise. “Which story is the one where they all froze to death?” I did not remember that story, but since I had just read about it on the web site, I knew that Dad was on the mark. I said, “I don’t remember the title, but Marilyn Monroe was the prostitute in it.” Dad said, “Yes, there was a prostitute, and a gambler,” and he rattled off a few more characters. His pump had been primed and was spouting forth memory.
Copyright © 2003 Christine (Minerd) Smith. Published with permission.