|“||Fancy that! A grown-up man who believes in the Devil!||„|
|~ Mr. Smith mocks Douglas Winter for believing in the Devil, and in so doing tricking him into signing away his soul to him|
"'Mr. Smith"' is the main antagonist of The Twilight Zone episode "Printer's Devil".
He appears initially as a mysterious, affable and charming old man who offers to help the protagonist get his broken down newspaper business up and running again, but it turns out that he intends to get the man's soul in return for his "assistance", for Mr. Smith is in fact the Devil, and one of several manifestations of him in The Twilight Zone.
He was portrayed by the late Burgess Meredith, who also played The Penguin in the 1960s Batman TV series.
Mr. Smith first appears before the protagonist, Mr. Winter as the latter is contemplating suicide after seeing his entire newspaper business come apart at the seams. Smith notes that, if Mr. Winter intends to commit suicide, he may wish to choose a jump from someplace higher rather than into a shallow stream where he may just break his leg, and that if he isn't planning to jump, might he not accompany Mr. Smith to a nearby diner. Winters chooses the latter.
At the diner, Mr. Smith reveals that he came all the way into town to work for Mr. Winter's newspaper The Courier. When Mr. Winter dejectedly tells him that The Courier is finished, Mr. Smith offers to waive salary and financially support Mr. Winter until he's back on his feet. He reveals also that he is both a skilled journalist and a linotype operator. To prove it, he goes back to The Courier and demonstrates his skills at the linotype machine. When asked by a bewildered Mr. Winter why he would ever want to bother with a "hick paper like the Courier", Mr. Smith simply says: "Call it a challenge".
At first, things go well at The Courier; not only has Mr. Smith's financial support saved the newspaper from going under, but ever since he took to the linotype operator, exciting news begins to happen regularly, with Mr. Smith always making sure The Courier gets first scoop at a given story. However, as the "exciting news" becomes increasingly harmful and destructive, Mr. Winter's assistant (and would-be lover), Jackie suspects that something is wrong and that Mr. Smith is involved. For his part, Mr. Smith reveals to Mr. Winter that he is in fact the Devil, and that he asks that Mr. Winter sign over his soul to him...or else he will cease his assistance to The Courier. Mocking Mr. Winter for even believing in things like the Devil and the Soul, he gets Winter to sign the contract that signs his soul away.
Increasingly distraught over how Mr. Winter has come to care more about his newspaper's success than the implications of Mr. Smith's continued, unsavory assistance, Jackie decides to leave. Mr. Smith expresses an interest in her, and she slaps him in disgust. Mr. Smith vows vengeance, and later reveals to Mr. Winter (who has by now deduced that Mr. Smith really is the Devil and not just claiming to be), that he modified the Linotype Machine so that anything he types in it comes to pass...including Jackie's being in a car crash exactly a half-hour into the future. He tells Douglas Winter that, if he wishes to save Jackie (as Smith can write that she survived the car crash as much as he can write that she didn't), he is to kill himself, so that the Devil may have his soul immediately and then move on to other "clients". However, Douglas refuses the deal, and goes looking for Jackie. Mr. Smith finds her first, and agrees to leave town if she gives him a lift, and asks her to drive, setting up the planned accident.
Meanwhile, Douglas Winter uses the linotype machine to write a new story: that Mr. Smith left town at 11:29 (one minute before Jackie's destined car crash), and that his contract with Douglas Winter was declared void due to Dogulas not fully understanding the terms of the agreement. The linoptype machine Mr. Smith modified is then destroyed and hauled away, but the closing narration notes that Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness (Mr. Smith's true name), is not really gone for good. Rather, he's "gone for bad".
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