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Film Review of O. Henrys Full House, Episode 5 The Gift of The Magi: Loving One Another Means Buying Something The Other Loves by Giving Up Something Beloved

An impoverished husband and pregnant wife are in love. They imagine ideal Christmas gifts for each other. But will both give up prized possessions for the other to have the perfect gift in Episode five “The Gift of the Magi” in “O. Henry’s Full House”?

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original film poster (Fair Use, via Wikimedia Commons)

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“The Gift of the Magi” is the fifth episode in the anthology film O. Henry’s Full House by screenwriter Walter Bullock; producer André Hakim; and director Henry King. Responsibility for cinematography, editing, and music is handled respectively by Joe MacDonald, Barbara McLean, and Alfred Newman. The filming location is in the Los Angeles, California studios of 20th Century Fox, the film’s production studio and distributor. Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Steinbeck (1902-1968) is the presenter and narrator for each of the film’s five episodes.  

The film’s five episodes are based upon short stories by American writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910). The film lasts 117 minutes, with each episode averaging 19+ minutes. It was premiered in Greensboro, North Carolina on August 7, 1952. It was released in Los Angeles on September 18, 1952 and in New York City on October 16, 1952.  

Episode 5, “The Gift of the Magi”, begins with Jim and Della Young (played by Farley Granger and Jeanne Crain) looking forward to the birth of their first child. The husband and wife count their pennies. They do not have much money. They try to live as frugally but happily as possible in rundown housing, on limited resources, and with no prospects.  

It is the Christmas season. Jim and Della make the most of their dreary environment. They regret not having any money with which to buy each other presents.  

Jim and Della go out for a walk. They look at the displays in shops windows. They pretend that they are gift-shopping.  

Della admires three silver combs. She has a beautiful head of hair. Hairdressers in fact will pay a fine price for healthy, luxuriant locks.  

Jim admires a platinum watch fob. He has an heirloom pocket watch. But he lacks the money to mount or protect it.  

Unbeknownst to Jim, Della contacts the hairdresser. Maurice (Fritz Feld) cuts Della’s mane. Della departs with her cropped hairstyle making her look tomboyish. She fears what Jim will think of a face unframed by masses of tendrils. She has no idea that Jim is in the process of parting from his beloved watch.  

Episode 5 ends with Della and Jim exchanging presents. Della has three silver combs, but no long, thick tresses to show them off. Jim has a platinum watch fob, but no pocket watch for mounting.  

“The Gift of the Magi” is a classic tribute to love. It translates as memorably on the screen as it reads in print.

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Copyright:  Wednesday, August 15, 2012 by Derdriu

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6 Comments
  1. Posted August 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Well written. Thank you.

  2. Posted August 16, 2012 at 4:29 am

    very interesting

  3. Posted August 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Martin, The story upon which this episode is based is one of my favorites by O. Henry.
    Respectfully, and with many thanks for sharing, Derdriu

  4. Posted August 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Shawn Lyrics, Thank you for visiting and liking what you find here!
    Respectfully, Derdriu

  5. Posted August 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Derdriu, I’ve never forgotten this story, both in print and in film. It’s quite amazing. You’ve beautifully presented it.
    Appreciatively, Stessily

  6. Posted September 7, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Stessily, The interaction between the actors catches so well the spirit in which the story originally was written by the irony master, O. Henry!
    Respectfully, and with many thanks for the visit, Derdriu

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