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.

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40 Comments

Cougar90 5 months ago
The Night They Saved Christmas is forgotten?? Speak for yourself!!
dewayne6365 Cougar90 5 months ago
I remember it. It was a very good film.
Runeshaper 5 months ago
Great story and excellent insight into Art Carney's feelings about Christmas. Thanks, MeTV! (-:
LoveMETV22 5 months ago
" The beloved comedian and actor played Santa Claus in an episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Night of the Meek,":

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Sure there are episodes of the other two mentioned, perhaps streaming or broadcast/aired recently.
Just can't find any short YouTube clips.
Snickers 5 months ago
I know how he felt about Christmas. I was in a household of six brothers and sisters growing up and the holiday was always special. I remember fondly Christmas morning coming down to a special Christmas breakfast and then opening gifts. Dad and Mom worked hard to make sure there were presents under the tree for the kids and you could see the joy in their eyes that the family was all together during the holidays.
Jaxter14 5 months ago
Help me out here: There was a tv commercial with Art Carney playing a grandfather in NYC when he shows his grandson an acorn and plants it in the dirt and tells the boy they’ll come back and see how it’s grown which they do and it’s the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree 🎄 to the boys amazement. Great commercial but no idea what the product was.
LoveMETV22 Jaxter14 5 months ago
Not sure but is this the commercial you were thinking of ?
Jaxter14 LoveMETV22 5 months ago
Yes that’s it, so it was a Coke commercial. Thanks. The boy looks like Andy from Family Ties.
George58 5 months ago
The Twilight Zone episode, "Night Of The Meek" was great. Rod Serling did a remake of it in the 1985 series. Richard Mulligan played Santa in that remake.
HerbF 18 months ago
Art also recorded a swing version of "The Night Before Christmas" done in the 1950's Hip-Cat Style!
dmarkwind HerbF 17 months ago
Wonder if that's the same one I remember. Sometime in the 70's, we had a Christmas albums featuring segments by a variety of famous people. The only piece I remember was Art Carney doing 'The Night Before Christmas," and he sounded like he was drunk.
SparkleMotion dmarkwind 5 months ago
I found it on YT. It's not my thing, but I like Art Carney so much, not only from The Honeymooners (but that's where I 'know' him from). He's a great actor and seems like he was a very nice man.
MichaelFields 18 months ago
The Twilight Zone one, still holds a place in my heart, it was very touching
Zip MichaelFields 5 months ago
Yes. I remember a few years ago, watching some Christmas themed episodes, and that Twilight Zone episode came on. It is a very nice episode.
scp 18 months ago
I think the headline writers refer to things as "forgotten" just to get everyone to respond, "Hey, I remember that!"

And yes, I remember that movie. I think it was on just last year on one of the cable channels.
15inchBlackandWhite 18 months ago
The Night They Saved Christmas isn't a forgotten film. It's available on home video and has a cadre of loyal fans (including some in my own family).
It was just on television this week!
JH21 18 months ago
I've never forgotten The Night They Saved Christmas! It's one of my favorites.
Pacificsun 18 months ago
An incredible talent; his performances memorable, pleasing and often poignant. While he could melt into any role he was playing, still his own personality came through.

For those who haven't read more about him, it's summarized nicely in this wiki link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Carney
snoopyboy53 18 months ago
Why. The honeymooners it’s only once a week. While other boring show are every day. That’s a shame
Pacificsun snoopyboy53 18 months ago
Because there aren't enough episodes to carry it through the month. Unlike the Series which are currently being shown nightly. It's just that each Honeymooner episode is so memorable and funny!!

But sometimes it's nice not to wear out the specialty of a Series. Makes us look forward to them even more! 🎁
Barry22 18 months ago
Night of the Meek was a really good TZ episode.
Runeshaper 18 months ago
Art Carney had to make a wonderful Santa Claus. I can totally relate to this: "It was indescribable - the happiness and joy we felt." That is truly an AMAZING feeling (-:
FrankensteinLover 18 months ago
Art was Hilarious and Originally funny. Stop by his Grave every Chance I get.
Andybandit 18 months ago
Art Carney was so funny in the Honeymooners. I love the Honeymooners. I wish it was on longer than.
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 18 months ago
I loved "The Night They Saved Christmas"! Art Carney's Santa had scientific explanations for everything, like a "time decelarator" that would slow down time so he could make all his deliveries the same night, and the sleigh had been "self-propelled" for years, but the reindeer weren't informed because it would hurt their feelings if they couldn't pull the sleigh on Christmas Eve. June Lockhart was Mrs. Santa Claus, and Paul Williams was the chief elf. Other stars included Mason Adams, Kate Jackson, and Paul LeMat.
It wasn't Kate Jackson. It was Jaclyn Smith. And the older son was played by Scott Grimes, who was also in another of my favorite, yet seldom aired Christmas move, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear with Mickey Rooney.
Michael 18 months ago
I thought I saw him some other Christmas movie. Wait, I'm thinking of him reciting The Night Before Christmas on a jazz album.

I think Ed Asner beats everyone, playing Santa Claus (or someone playing Santa Claus) more than anyone else.
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Pacificsun LoveMETV22 18 months ago
Actually, they've done this Quiz before in 2016. I was trying to use Contact Us to suggest they rerun it, but I can't get through. I'll try later.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 18 months ago
Are you referring to this Quiz from 2016?
https://www.metv.com/quiz/which-tv-shows-featured-these-16-santa-clauses
Looks like they've done a few Santa Quizzes, but always good to have something new or fresh. 🎅🎅
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 18 months ago
Yes, glad I checked because that was a neat one. So I finally got through Contact Us. Thanked them for all their Holiday stories and the wonderful Very Merry programming. Sent them the link and encouraged them to run it again. It was tough trying to get a list of TV episodes in which Santa appeared. Because the query kept pulling up the Specials instead.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 18 months ago
I'm glad you were able to get through the Contact link. The site was acting up earlier
( it happens occasionally ). It will be interesting to see if they run it again. Sorry the query wouldn't cooperate for you.
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