Telephone Time (1956–1958)
Needs 5 Ratings

The Man Who Discovered O. Henry 

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(as William Thiele)

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
John Nesbitt ...
Himself - Host
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Nicky Blair
Mimi Doyle ...
Mrs. Porter
...
Orrin Henry
Harlan Warde
Ned Wever
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Storyline

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Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

3 February 1957 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Our Best Known Short Story Writer
14 October 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Because I did not see this I can't really give it a rating, but the story it tells is a rather interesting one - a unique one for American Literature, as far as I know. For that reason (like the Zenger trial episode) I'll give this a rating of "6". Please note too that this 1957 program had Dan Blocker in it, before he became famous as "Hoss Cartwright" on BONANZA. Unfortunately his role is not noted in the cast.

If you consider all the major American fiction writers, the one who is most clearly connected to the short story (and is usually consider the master of that form) is William Sydney Porter. He wrote over one hundred of these stories between 1895 and 1910 (when he died). He did try to work on a play towards the end of his life (a dramatization of one of his stories), and may have attempted a novel. Unfortunately the latter was never completed, and whatever he did with the novel is unknown. The key to recalling his stories is that Porter (like his near French contemporary Rene Guy de Maupasant) liked to make a surprise ending to his stories. But if that was all his fiction would have been forgotten years ago (instead of being still anthologized or republished today). He had a great sense of the different sections of the country, including New York City (the site of the stories in THE FOUR MILLION), the south - including an interesting slant on race relations - in the story "A Municipal Report", and tales about the west and mid-west as well.

Porter also had a secret, which he kept tightly under raps. Born in North Carolina, Porter was living in Texas in the 1890s, working in a bank as head cashier. Porter's wife was dying, and he may have been responsible for stealing money from the bank to help her. When the defalcations were found, Porter fled to Central America (which would give him background information for the stories in CABBAGES AND KINGS: "Shoes" and "Ships". But his wife's condition was worsening, so he returned to be with her at the end. Arrested, he was tried for bank embezzlement, and was sentenced to prison.

While in the prison, Porter's writing abilities came to the attention of a guard there named Orrin Henry (in this program the role is played by Robert Foulk). Henry encouraged him to concentrate on his writing abilities, and helped him get an early release from prison. Porter did precisely what the guard recommended. He also decided to honor the guard by co-opting his name for a pseudonym. Porter's stories are the tales written by "O.Henry".

It is a unique tale in our literature. I do not think that any other major figure in our literature had a prison record (unless one counts Thoreau's night in jail for civil disobedience for failing to pay a tax). Still, the public rightly recalls the artist of the short story - not the unfortunate embezzler caught in the twists of trying to save his wife and breaking the law.


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