Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 1, Episode 12

   Don Weiss
   Marian Cockrell (teleplay); Margaret Cousins (story)
   Barry Fitzgerald, Virginia Gregg
   18 December 1955
   24:42 (total) • 21:39 (film) • 1:33 (Hitchcock)

Santa Claus And The Tenth Avenue Kid
Petty thief Harold Sears (BARRY FITZGERALD) has just been released from prison again and is taken by his parole officer to a rehabilitation program. Though he is reminded that his parole can be revoked at any time, the job recruiter clerk Miss Webster (VIRGINIA GREGG) offers Harold a temporary job in Sampson and Coles toy store, working as a Santa Claus for the Christmas period at $10 per day and with free lunch benefits. Harold isn't keen on the idea but reluctantly accepts.
On his first day on the job Harold is greeted by the store owner Mr. Shaw (JUSTICE WATSON) who, despite discovering Harold's tendencies to stuff items from the store up his suit to steal, praises him for looking the part. With the prospect of this becoming a regular gig for Harold if he does well Mr. Shaw instructs him on how to deal with the kids who visit him inside the store. Harold asks if there is anything in particular that Mr. Shaw would like "pushed". Shaw tells Harold that the store could do well to sell some of the musical teddy bears they are over-stocked on.
A bell rings and the kids start flocking in - some of them even have their parents with them (!) The first girl in the line is asked what she wants for Christmas. After reeling off a long list of what she wants Santa reasons with the girl that he will see what he can do before dismissing her with a couple of sweets. He thinks to himself, "This is terrible; I'd rather being doing time!" (which admittedly made me laugh out loud). Next up is a young boy who desires a toy aeroplane which is on prominent display in the store, but his father signals his disapproval. But when the boy voices his annoyance Santa gets annoyed himself and tells the kid to go.
Kid number three (the titled "Tenth Avenue Kid") is next, but he is immediately irritated by the notion of Santa pandering to young children, even going as far as calling him a fake when Santa won't grant him the same model aeroplane the previous boy wanted. The shocked look on the girls' faces in queue speak volumes. At the end of the shift Harold is greeted by Miss Webster who drives him home and tries to encourage him to stick the job out even if he doesn't like it.
It's Christmas Eve and Harold is on his last day on the job. After dealing with several children he breaks for lunch where he receives his wages and a note from Miss Webster. She tells him she has gone to the trouble of opening up a bank account for him and praises his efforts in resisting all temptations to slip back into his old ways during the Christmas period. His reaction is priceless.
Just before Harold leaves he sees the boy from earlier who was bugging him about the model aeroplane. After a heated exchange of words between the two of them Santa relents and tells the kid he will get the toy. Astonished, the boy offers up his address immediately. That night Santa breaks into the boy's house and delivers the model. A gesture which isn't looked kindly upon by the police or the parole officer. But at the last moment Miss Webster saves Harold by offering him an unexpected alibi.

•The second outing in the series for Virginia Gregg.
•The store owner tells Harold he has to take the kids and put them on his lap. Remember this was the 1950s when that sort of thing was completely innocent.
•When Santa breaks for lunch on his final day every father in the store is wearing a hat. I guess that was a 1950s thing too!
•After Santa serves his last customer the bell rings and he announces that the store is now closed. There is a lovely little moment where a young girl accepts it gracefully even though she was next in line and she simply smiles, waves and turns around to walk out. It must have been how kids were in the 1950s. Okay, I'll stop now with the 1950s....
•When Santa steals the toy aeroplane and runs towards the door you can see some taped markings on the floor where the actors (probably the children) were meant to stand during the shooting of their scenes.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 4 secs):
[Hitch is bricking up a fireside, whilst a 'Merry Christmas' banner hangs above it] "Oh good evening. I thought I might as well brick this up. I don't suppose I'll be using this fireplace anymore. I expect the chimney to be closed very soon. I've uh, loosened the bricks so they'll fall in if anyone should brush against them on the way down. Santa Claus is always bringing surprises to others. I thought it would be interesting if someone surprised him for a change. I'm rather tired of his tracking soot in here every year. [places another brick in the wall] There. Let him ho-ho-ho himself out of that. At the risk of overburdening our program with the spirit of the season, we have arranged to dramatize a very appropriate story for tonight's divertissement. It is called "Santa Claus And The Tenth Avenue Kid". It follows this brief curtain raiser."

"The foregoing was based on an actual case. Only the names of the characters, their ages, occupations, physical likeness, speech and actions have been changed. This was done to protect the innocent, you." [commercial break]
[the sound of crashing coming from behind the fireplace as Hitch looks on with a smile] "You know, he ain't such a bad chap after all. Perhaps his taste in ties has improved. I think I'll give him one more chance. [Hitch removes a couple of bricks from the fireplace] Rest ye merry, we'll have you out of there in a jiffy. And rest ye merry too. Good night."

'Santa' steals the model and gives it to the brat kid even at the expense of losing his job and breaking his parole. But it does have a happy ending when Miss Webster shows some holiday spirit and offers Harold an alibi, which gets him off the hook. A feel-good ending.

A touching and humorous episode in more ways than one. Right from the get-go Hitchcock is up to his pre-episode antics, bricking up a fireplace at Christmas! Barry Fitzgerald is absolutely gold in this episode. His performance is just so brilliant and perfect as the ex-con turned toy-store Santa, with his witty thoughts and the way he talks down to the children who supposedly look up to him. Virginia Gregg puts in a half-decent performance too with one particular touching scene where she is driving Harold home in the car. But it's really Fitzgerald who outshines everybody in this. A gem of an episode, delivered with all the anti-Christmas joy you could ever ask for.
My personal feeling about Christmas is that it's something to be endured, so I watched this episode to get it out of the way. With that awful title, I'd braced myself for something appallingly sentimental, a pocket ripoff of "Miracle on 34th Street", but this episode was quite tangy. Barry Fitzgerald doesn't help, a cornball one-note Oirish actor with about as much twinkle in his eyes as a shark. He's resistable, but not quite as gruesome as those mid-50s American child actors, particularly the tough "Tenth Avenue Kid". What Fitzgerald should have done was plant the toy aircraft on the little sod and then grass him up to the manager, thus getting him locked up and stopping his one-brat crime wave in its tracks. What he actually did was steal it himself and give it to the kid, who was probably too hard and cynical (certainly way too old) to believe in Santa anyway - and he got away with it. And the kid probably carried on being a shoplifter. So what's the Christmas message ? Crime does pay ? Having said all that, it was well-made - just unnecessary. No murders !

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Harold 'Stretch' Sears / Santa Claus... BARRY FITZGERALD
Miss Clementine Webster... VIRGINIA GREGG
The 10th Avenue kid... BOBBY CLARK
Mr. Chambers... ARTHUR SPACE
Desk officer... NORMAN WILLIS
Mac, store detective... TYLER McVEY
Payroll clerk... HARRISON LEWIS
Police sergeant... ALAN REYNOLDS
Young girl... MIMI GIBSON
Young boy... GARY HUNLEY
Young boy... BUTCH BERNARD

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The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book) [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 20 February 2021