Monday, August 2, 2021

The Ransom of Red Chief

"The Ransom of Red Chief" is a short story by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter, 1862 – 1910) first published in the July 6, 1907 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. It follows two men who kidnap, and demand a ransom for, a wealthy Alabamian's son. Eventually, the men are driven crazy by the boy's spoiled and hyperactive behavior, and they pay the boy's father to take him back.

O. Henry


Here's the plot:

" Two small-time criminals, Bill and Sam, kidnap Johnny, the 10-year-old red-haired son of Ebenezer Dorset, an important citizen, and hold him for ransom. But the moment that they arrive at their hideout with the boy, the plan begins to unravel, as the boy actually starts to enjoy his kidnappers. Calling himself "Red Chief", the boy proceeds to drive his captors to distraction with his unrelenting chatter, malicious pranks, and demands that they play wearying games with him, such as riding 90 miles on Bill's back pretending to be an Indian scout. The criminals write a ransom letter to the boy's father, lowering the ransom from $2,000 to $1,500, believing that the father won't pay much money for his return. The father, who knows his son well and realizes how intolerable he will be to his captors and how eager they will soon be to rid themselves of the delinquent child, rejects their demand and offers to take the boy off their hands if they pay him $250. The men hand over the money and the howling boy – who had actually been happier being away from his strict father – and flee while the father restrains his son from following them. The ironic situation is where the kidnappers have to pay the father to get his son back (or in truth, to actually agree to even accept him back) instead of the father's paying the kidnappers for the return of his son."

First appearance in The Saturday Evening Post.  


 "The Ransom of Red Chief" has been adapted many times, directly and indirectly, with films and telefilm episodes. Two of the films include the 1952 The Ransom of Red Chief starring Fred Allen and Oscar Levant and Le Grand Chef, a French direct adaptation made in 1959 by Henri Verneuil, with Fernandel and Gino Cervi.


Here you can read the short story.  


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