Late last year a large collection of original network 16mm prints fell into my hands. I was contacted by a TV station manager that I work with who had been given 250 prints from the series. I offered to give him free transfers of each episode in exchange for the right to sell them elsewhere. In due course all 250 prints were shipped off via FedEx to Derek Myers, who received quite a shipment as you can see in all the boxes surrounding him.
How many episodes of THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE were made remains a mystery. The IMDB says 39 and we have 39. 39 is also a common number for a 1950s TV season, as in 39 episodes of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans."
Veteran character actor Thomas Mitchell stars in each episode as writer O. Henry himself. In stories that are period pieces like westerns, he discusses with his publisher where he got the idea for the story. But in stories of old New York, Mitchell/O. Henry interacts with the story and meets his characters as he supposedly discovers first hand the story he will later write. In some he tells the story to his publisher and meets up with the real characters at the end of the episode. This rather unique story telling method is made possible by the fame of the author himself and the audience's presumed desire to learn where each story came from, plus the professionalism of actor Thomas Mitchell who makes it all credible.
The film clip below is from "Two Renegades." First O. Henry visits Civil War vet and doctor John Carradine who is about to be executed 40 years after the end of the war. He then visits his publisher when soldier of fortune and yankee Charles Bronson shows up to say hello. O. Henry continues relating how Carradine saved Bronson's life when he had jungle fever in latin america and they become unlikely friends. When Bronson is arrested as an insurgent, Carradine bribes his captors with confederate money to get him released, but fails to leave the country before the deception is discovered, and is hence sentenced to death.
The 39 episodes of THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE are not yet for sale. I hope to sell the entire collection to a DVD company that will promote them the way they deserve, and make many sales to libraries, to the education market, to the O. Henry Museum in Austin, as well as to fans of vintage television. Since the stories are also in the public domain, a book collecting some of the stories that were made into TV shows could easily be included for added value. It is quite rare for a TV series unseen for close to 60 years to suddenly turn up. It will come as quite a surprise to the many O'Henry fans out there who at this moment are unaware that many of his classic stories were ever filmed.