Art Carney played Santa Claus three times, including in a forgotten 1984 TV film
The comedian starred as Santa in an episode of 'The Twilight Zone,' in a Muppets holiday special, and in the film, 'The Night They Saved Christmas'.
It's not uncommon to see classic television actors star in holiday films. For some actors, it's a heartfelt accomplishment to be a part of a seasonal production that brings joy to viewers worldwide.
Art Carney, known as Ed Norton on The Honeymooners, got the chance to become fully engulfed in the holiday spirit not once, but three times. The beloved comedian and actor played Santa Claus in an episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Night of the Meek," an Ed Sullivan holiday special, and in a forgotten TV film, The Night They Saved Christmas.
In an interview with the Asbury Park Press in 1984, the Oscar winner revealed the differences between the Santas he played and what the season of joy meant to him and his family.
"I was the last kid on the block to believe in Santa Claus," he said to Press television writer Wally Patrick. "The first time I played [Claus] was a good number of years ago. I did a department store Santa Claus for Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone."
While Carney was filming for The Night They Saved Christmas, during a fitting in his hotel room, a rerun of the episode came on that made him think about how much the two roles differed.
"On The Twilight Zone, I played a derelict alcoholic, a very sad looking Santa Claus," he added. "This character is warm and very human, the head of the household. He's today's man."
In the television film, Santa's village becomes the target for an oil company seeking two arctic sites for oil. Santa fears that his home is in danger after a blast occurs due to the oil company. He enlists a woman and her husband that works for the company to help him prevent a second blast. While trying to protect his home, Santa reveals his gift-giving secrets.
The film brought joy to Carney, but Christmas was his favorite holiday because of his wife. "I've got three kids and six grandchildren, and my wife really goes all out as far as the shopping goes," he said. "She doesn't forget anybody. It's a big deal with her."
When the actor was younger, he had many Christmas memories that he said were an indescribable feeling of joy. "I can remember it just like it was yesterday," Carney added. "I was the youngest of six boys. The first thing in the morning, my father would go downstairs. Then he'd turn on the Christmas tree lights, holler upstairs and we'd all come running down. It was indescribable - the happiness and joy we felt."
A holly, jolly Christmas isn't complete without seeing Art Carney as the leader of the North Pole.