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 and another Christmas-themed story, Miracle on 34th Street.

It Happened on 5th Avenue
Directed byRoy Del Ruth
Produced byRoy Del Ruth
Joe Kaufmann (associate)
Written byStory: Frederick Stephani
Herbert Clyde Lewis
Screenplay byEverett Freeman
Vick Knight
Ben Markson
StarringDon DeFore
Ann Harding
Charles Ruggles
Victor Moore
Gale Storm
Music byEdward Ward
CinematographyHenry Sharp
Edited byRichard V. Heermance
Production
company
Roy Del Ruth Productions
Distributed byAllied Artists
Release date
  • April 19, 1947 (1947-04-19) (U.S.)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$1.2 million[1] or $1.3 million[2]

It was remade in Hindi twice in India: Pugree (1948) and Dil Daulat Duniya (1972).[3]

Plot

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 love with Jim. She has not told Jim who she really is because she wants to win his love for herself, not her wealth. She 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. She seeks help from her mother Mary (Ann Harding), who is divorced from Michael. Mary has an idea; she comes from Palm Beach and pretends to be another homeless person to join the other squatters. As time goes on, 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 and even designs the layout. McKeever persuades him to bid for an Army camp on the outskirts of New York City. They 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 strange 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. She tells him that she and Mary 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.

Cast

Production

Monogram Pictures was trying to shed its reputation for low-budget films by setting up a new division, Allied Artists Pictures. The film was Allied Artists' first production.

The story was originally optioned by Liberty Films in 1945 for director Frank Capra (who decided to direct It's a Wonderful Life instead);[4] later that year, producer-director Roy Del Ruth acquired the story.[5]

The casting of Ann Harding and Victor Moore was announced in June 1946,[6] Don DeFore and Gale Storm in July, and filming proceeded from August 5 to mid-October 1946.[7][8] 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.[9]

Critical reception

The Washington Post thought the celebrity endorsements (by Frank Capra, Orson Welles, Al Jolson, Constance Bennett and others)[10] 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."[11]

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.[12]

Bosley Crowther in The New York Times praised its "geniality and humor" and the "charming performance" by Moore.[13] The New Republic disagreed, calling it "childish stuff" and Moore "too cute for words".[14]

Adaptations

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.[15]

TV broadcast

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.[16]

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.

Home media

On November 11, 2008, Warner Home Video released the film on DVD, and it is available through most major DVD retailers and distributors. The film was made available for streaming and download in the digital format.

References

  1. Brady Vandamm, Thomas F. (September 8, 1946). "Out Hollywood Way". The New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  2. "Mono's $1.3 million pic worries pards". Variety. November 6, 1946. p. 9.
  3. "Dil Daulat Duniya (1972)". The Hindu. Chennai. August 28, 2014. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  4. "Mary Martin Gets Role at Warners". The New York Times. August 13, 1945. p. A22.
  5. "'Portrait in Black' To Become a Film". The New York Times. December 3, 1945. p. A28.
  6. "Michael Todd Set to Film 'Great Son'". The New York Times. June 4, 1946. p. A33.
  7. "News of the Screen". The New York Times. July 29, 1946. p. 25.
  8. "It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1974)". American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  9. "Record Reviews". Billboard. April 5, 1947. p. 28.
  10. Print advertisement for It Happened on 5th Avenue.
  11. Coe, Richard. “‘Fifth Avenue’ a Nice Little Film That's Been Gushed About Too Much”, The Washington Post, May 8, 1947, p. 2.
  12. The New Pictures, Time, June 16, 1947.
  13. Crowther, Bosley (June 11, 1947). "The Screen in Review". The New York Times. p. 33.
  14. The New Republic, April 1947, p. 35.
  15. Billips, Connie J.; Pierce, Arthur (April 1, 1995). Lux Presents Hollywood. McFarland & Co. p. 377. ISBN 978-0-89950-938-9.
  16. Lohman, Sidney (September 19, 1954). "News of TV and Radio". The New York Times. p. X15.
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