It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Writer: Everett Freeman, Vick Knight
Starring: Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore
Review By: Griff
So since we are coming up on the holidays I thought it would be fun to use this space to highlight some lesser known holiday movies. Sure we all know movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Miracle on 34th Street but there are lots of other holiday classics out there that never enjoyed the same amount of fanfare. We are starting out with a film that actually garnered an oscar nomination for best original screenplay, It Happened on Fifth Avenue.
Watching this movie, you will get a strong taste of the Capra Koolaid and it is not surprising. The movie was first optioned up as a vehicle for Frank Capra’s Liberty Films. In the end though, Roy Del Ruth took over the directing duties.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue is about a hobo named Mac (Victor Moore) who roams around living in rich peoples homes when they travel for the holidays. Every November he has been staying in the home of Michael O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) the second richest man in the world. When O’Connor leaves his mansion in New York City to spend the winter in Virginia, Mac moves right in. He wears O’Connors clothes and smokes his cigars and lives it up. Normally Mac lives alone but he stumbles across Jim (Don DeFore) sleeping in the park and decides to take him in. Jim is a war veteran who has recently been forcibly removed from his apartment and is trying to get on his feet. The two happily take up residence in the abandoned mansion.
O’Connor has a daughter named Trudy (Gale Storm) who has just run away from finishing school. She decides to go to her parents mansion in NY to grab some of her things and she runs into Mac and Jim living in the house. Mac and Jim don’t realize who Trudy is and they think she is trying to squat in the house just like them. Trudy decides to play along and lets the two men think she is a nobody. This opens the floodgates and before long there is a whole cast of characters living in the mansion. Things get complicated of course. Trudy falls for Jim, Mr. O’Connor comes back to town looking for his daughter, and on and on it goes. The plot has a lot of twists an turns but it’s a holiday film so you can be sure that everything leads to a predictably satisfying ending.
Don DeFore and Gale Storm were good in the lead roles. (Don would later go on to be a staple on the Ozzie and Harriet Show.) But the real stars of movie are veteran actors Ruggles and Moore. They steal every scene they are in and really make this movie and enjoyable watch. It’s a pretty crazy comedy with some genuinely funny scenes, most notably the dinner sequence with a frazzled waiter. It’s definitely worth checking out. So take a break from the 24 hour Christmas Story marathon this year and give this one a try.
I almost forgot there is an early appearance from Alan Hale Jr. in this movie who you will probably recognize as the “Skipper” from Gilligan’s Island. Enjoy!
Sorry I couldn’t find the trailer for this one but here is a clip…