It Happened on 5th Avenue
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) is a motion picture comedy, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Victor Moore, Ann Harding, Don DeFore, Charles Ruggles and Gale Storm. Herbert Clyde Lewis and Frederick Stephani were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Story, losing to Valentine Davies for another Christmas-themed story, Miracle on 34th Street.
|It Happened on 5th Avenue|
|Directed by||Roy Del Ruth|
|Produced by||Roy Del Ruth|
Joe Kaufmann (associate)
|Screenplay by||Everett Freeman|
Vick Knight (additional dialogue)
Ben Markson (contributor to dialogue and special sequence) (uncredited)
|Story by||Herbert Clyde Lewis|
|Music by||Edward Ward|
|Edited by||Richard V. Heermance|
Roy Del Ruth Productions
|Distributed by||Allied Artists|
|Budget||$1.2 million or $1.3 million|
|Box office||$1.8 million (estimated)|
Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore), a hobo, makes his home in a seasonally boarded-up Fifth Avenue mansion, each time its owner—Michael J. O'Connor (Charles Ruggles), the second richest man in the world—winters at his Virginia estate. McKeever winds up taking in ex-G.I. Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), who has been evicted from an apartment building O'Connor is tearing down for a new skyscraper, and later 18-year-old Trudy "Smith" (Gale Storm), who is actually O'Connor's runaway daughter. Jim soon invites war buddies Whitey (Alan Hale, Jr.), Hank (Edward Ryan) and their families to share the vast mansion when they are unable to find homes of their own.
When Trudy encounters her father, she tells him she is in love with Jim. She has not told Jim who she really is because she wants to win his love without her wealth. She then persuades her father to pretend to be a homeless man named "Mike". McKeever reluctantly takes Mike in, but treats him like a servant. When Mike becomes fed up, he gives Trudy 24 hours to get the squatters out. Trudy calls Palm Beach and seeks help from her mother Mary (Ann Harding), who is divorced from Michael. Mary comes to New York and pretends to be another homeless person to join the other squatters. McKeever, sensing Mary and Mike have feelings for each other, nudges them together. Eventually, Mike tells Mary he is a changed man and proposes. Mary accepts.
Jim comes up with an idea to convert unused post-war Army barracks into much-needed housing. McKeever persuades him to bid for an Army camp on the outskirts of New York City. Jim and his friends raise money from hundreds of other ex-G.I.'s in the same predicament. O'Connor also wants the property, and a bidding war ensues before O'Connor finds out who his competitor is. To try to get rid of his daughter's suitor, he sees to it that the construction company Jim approaches about his conversion plan rejects it and instead offers him a well-paying job in Bolivia, on the condition that he be single.
Celebrating Christmas Eve together, the residents are caught by two patrolmen, but McKeever convinces them to let the families stay until after the New Year. Jim then reveals that the camp has been sold to O'Connor, and he is considering the job offer in Bolivia, resulting in Trudy breaking up with him. When Mary and Trudy find out how Mike has manipulated the situation, Mary thinks he has not changed after all, and that she and Trudy will leave for Florida. Ashamed, Mike arranges a meeting with "O'Connor" for Jim and his partners, who are dubious but accept. At the meeting, Mike reveals his true identity and transfers ownership of the camp to them, provided that they not reveal his identity to McKeever.
That night, everyone shares a New Year's dinner before restoring the house just as they found it. Mike, Mary, Trudy and Jim bid farewell to McKeever as he heads off to O'Connor's estate in Virginia, still unaware of the truth. Mike tells Mary to remind him to nail up the board in the back fence through which McKeever gets onto his property, intending to have McKeever come through the front door next winter.
- Don DeFore as Jim Bullock
- Gale Storm as Trudy O'Connor
- Victor Moore as Aloyisius T. McKeever
- Charles Ruggles as Michael J. "Mike" O'Connor
- Ann Harding as Mary O'Connor
- Grant Mitchell as Farrow
- Edward Brophy as Patrolman Cecil Felton
- Arthur Hohl as Patrolman Brady (uncredited)
- Alan Hale, Jr. as Whitey Temple
- Dorothea Kent as Margie Temple
- Edward Ryan as Hank
- Cathy Carter as Alice
- John Hamilton as Harper (uncredited)
- Charles Lane as Landlord (uncredited)
- Abe Reynolds as Finkelhoff the Tailor (uncredited)
Monogram Pictures was trying to shed its reputation for low-budget films by setting up a new division, Allied Artists Pictures. It Happened on Fifth Avenue was Allied Artists' first production. At a time when the average Hollywood picture cost about $800,000 (and the average Monogram picture cost about $90,000), Allied Artists' first release, the Christmas-themed comedy cost more than $1,200,000. It was rewarded with an estimated $1.8 million box office return.
The story was originally optioned by Liberty Films in 1945 for director Frank Capra (who decided to direct It's a Wonderful Life instead); later that year, producer-director Roy Del Ruth acquired the story.
The casting of Ann Harding and Victor Moore was announced in June 1946, Don DeFore and Gale Storm in July, and filming proceeded from August 5 to mid-October 1946. The production schedule and Christmastime climax of the story suggest the studio planned a Christmas release, but for an unknown reason, the movie's release was delayed until Easter 1947.
Among the four songs in the movie, "That's What Christmas Means to Me" was not the Varnick-Acquaviva minor hit for Eddie Fisher but another song written by Harry Revel. Also, Betty Jane Rhodes recorded "You're Everywhere" in 1947.
The Washington Post thought the celebrity endorsements (by Frank Capra, Orson Welles, Al Jolson, Constance Bennett and others) used in the movie's advertising to be "high-flown" and "Hollywoodesque"; instead, the movie was a "mild, pleasant little film which probably will find many admirers."
Time wrote: "Most plausible explanations for the picture's success are: 1) the presence of Victor Moore, past master of creaky charm and pathos; 2) a show as generally oldfashioned, in a harmless way, as a 1910 mail-order play for amateurs; 3) the fact that now, as in 1910, a producer cannot go wrong with a mass audience if he serves up a whiff of comedy and a whirlwind of hokum.
Bosley Crowther in The New York Times praised its "geniality and humor" and the "charming performance" by Moore. The New Republic disagreed, calling it "childish stuff" and Moore "too cute for words".
The screenplay was adapted for a radio version on Lux Radio Theater in May 1947, with DeFore, Ruggles, Moore, and Storm reprising their roles; and a live television production for Lux Video Theatre in 1957, with Ernest Truex, Leon Ames, Diane Jergens, and William Campbell.
It Happened on 5th Avenue was part of a package of 49 Monogram and Allied Artists features from the late 1940s and early 1950s that were licensed for television broadcast in 1954.
Around 1990, the film essentially disappeared from broadcast and retail availability. Despite an Academy Award nomination, a cult following through a dedicated fan website, and many requests to Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics to show the movie, it was not broadcast on American television for nearly 20 years. It aired on Turner Classic Movies in 2009 and beginning in 2014, it is broadcast frequently during the holiday season. Hallmark Movie Channel also broadcast the movie in 2014.
On November 11, 2008, Warner Home Video released the film on DVD. In 2014, the film was made available for streaming and download in the digital format. On December 22, 2020, it was released on Blu-Ray by Warner Archive Collection. It is also available to be streamed on HBO Max.
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- "It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1974)". American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
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- Print advertisement for It Happened on 5th Avenue. Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine
- Coe, Richard. “‘Fifth Avenue’ a Nice Little Film That's Been Gushed About Too Much”, The Washington Post, May 8, 1947, p. 2.
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