Red’s holiday offering for 1955 was a loose adaptation of O. Henry’s short story “The Cop and the Anthem”. This one’s divided up into acts, too, but never fear, Red and his writers didn’t stiff us on the comedy this time.
Freddie the Freeloader’s got it all figured out, as he tells his pal who’s figuring on hopping a freight to Florida. Freddie’s plan for the winter centers around a 90 day sentence, a warm jail cell, and three square meals a day on the penal system. There’s just one small hole in his scheme: Freddie can’t seem to get himself arrested.
And yes, this time Freddie talks. Go figure.
We've got the premise, so let’s go down the list: The fancy restaurant doesn’t want to deal with having somebody locked up on Christmas.
He said he was an eccentric millionaire, but he got it half right.
The shop owner whose window he just broke doesn’t believe a vandal would just stand around and wait to be arrested.
And when he tries to annoy some woman in the park to get done up on a “masher” charge? Well…
She seems pretty comfortable with the idea. And suddenly, he isn't.
(highlight for spoilers, assuming you haven’t read a hundred year-old short story) In keeping with the O. Henry “what a twist” aesthetic on which M. Night Shyamalans are built, it’s not until Freddy has a change of heart and a desire to go on the straight and narrow that an officer decides to run him in on the one law he was breaking all along: vagrancy.
After that sinking feeling that I got from the “Yuletide Doll” show, my reaction to “The Cop and the Anthem” was sweet relief. The main beats of the original story are wrapped around the type of comedy that Red did very, very well, especially at this point in his career. Any sentimentality in the last act is earned through the hard work put in by the rest of the show. If you have to go with just one of the Red Skelton selections, this is the one to see.
But Don’t Take My Word For It: Of course, if you’re a web video scrounger, the choice has already been made for you. So there.
Next: The Doctor! No really, that’s what it says on the sleeve…