Today, December 23, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1960 premiere of "The Night of the Meek."
The wonderful Art Carney stars as Henry Corwin, a down-on-his-luck store Santa who gets fired by his manager (John Fiedler) for showing up drunk. Corwin staggers into the street and soon stumbles upon a large bag of surprising gifts, which he shares with the poor, homeless, and orphaned.
This charming holiday episode shows off the soft emotional side of Rod Serling. It's common knowledge that It's a Wonderful Life was Rod's favorite film – and "The Night of the Meek" is his contribution to the inspirational Christmas story genre. This was one of the six videotaped second-season episodes (thanks to James Aubrey's budget-cutting edict), and although the quality is nothing like the filmed episodes, the emotion shines through, thanks to a terrific performance from the always-dependable Carney.
It's also fun to see John Fiedler, who excelled at playing gentle, sweet characters, playing the outraged, incensed store manager. Also look for Burt Mustin as one of the homeless who benefit from Henry Corwin's bounty – he would return in "Kick the Can." Leave It to Beaver fans will remember him as Gus the Fireman in multiple episodes with Jerry Mathers.
Val Avery, the bartender, had just filmed The Magnificent Seven, in which he appeared at the beginning of the film as the traveling corset salesman who demands that Whit Bissell bury Joe the Indian.
So let's raise a good-sized glass of eggnog to the spirit of Christmas, so well embodied in "The Night of the Meek" and forever ensconced in The Twilight Zone.