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It's Christmas Eve. Henry Corwin, a down-and-out ne'er-do-well, wearing a worn-out Santa Claus suit, has just spent his last few dollars on 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 rude mother who pushed her ill-behaved son 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 unable to fulfill his desired role as Santa. He declares that if he had just one wish granted him on Christmas Eve- "I'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, overfull with packages, which seems to have the ability to produce any item that's asked of it. Suffused with the spirit of Christmas, Corwin proceeds to hand out gift-wrapped presents to passersby and then, entering Sister Florence's "Delancey Street Mission House", to derelict men attending the Christmas Eve service. Outraged at this interruption, 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 all he manages to pull out are a couple of empty cans and a meowing stray cat! Corwin tries to explain that the bag "doesn't know whether to give out gifts or garbage". Realizing he can't hold anyone possessing "garbage", Flaherty tells Corwin, over Dundee's objections, that he can leave.
As Flaherty tries to convince Dundee "we're dealing with the supernatural here", Corwin reaches into the bag and gives Dundee the Christmas present that he sarcastically challenged Corwin to produce, a bottle of cherry brandy, vintage 1903. Leaving the precinct, he continues to hand out gifts for the remainder of the evening, until the bag is empty. Burt, an elderly derelict, points out that Corwin has taken "not a thing" for himself. Corwin replies that his only wish is to do this every year. Returning to the alley where he found the bag, he encounters a young female elf, 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 and an elf, ascend into the night sky on Christmas Eve. Dundee invites Flaherty home to share some hot coffee and some more brandy, adding, "...and we'll thank God for miracles, Flaherty..."
Breaking somewhat with show tradition, Rod Serling's closing narration only invokes the spirit of the season and quotes partially from the Bibilcal verse about the meek inheriting the Earth. He does not mention the show's title, even in passing. An edit differs from the original broadcast in syndication, cutting away Serling wishing all a Merry Christmas.
- Art Carney as Henry Corwin
- John Fiedler as Mr. Dundee
- Robert P. Lieb as Flaherty
- Val Avery as Bartender
- Meg Wyllie as Sister Florence
- Kay Cousins as Irate Mother
- Burt Mustin as Old Man
This episode was remade in 1985, three days shy of the 25th anniversary to the date of the original airing, as part of a new Twilight Zone anthology series that premiered on December 20th of that year. Serling's script was rewritten by Rockne S. O'Bannon and directed by Martha Coolidge. Richard Mulligan, of Empty Nest fame played Art Carney's Henry Corwin role.
Radio Play Version
An audio "radio play" version was released on CD in 2007, with Chris McDonald in the title role.
- The Night of the Meek (1960 version) at the Internet Movie Database
- Night of the Meek (1985 version, including "But Can She Type?" and "The Star") at the Internet Movie Database
content from Wikipedia (view authors).