Sunday, October 13, 2013

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

Christmas classic?


The DVD package for It Happened on 5th Avenue suggested a Christmas film for the ages from director Roy Del Ruth (Why Must I Die?).

This family-friendly film is entertaining, but is nowhere near efforts such as It's a Wonderful Life that truly deserve the stamp of must-see viewing come the holidays.

The story is intriguing - old man Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor More) doesn't care much for work, so he squats in the homes of successful businessmen when they're living outside New York City. Me, even if I was incredibly wealthy, I think I'd wonder why my electricity bill was so high when I haven't lived at one of my estates for months. I'd also wonder why none of my neighbours didn't notice smoke from my fireplace when my place is boarded up for the winter.

McKeever, with only his pooch for regular company, begins to welcome others into the home of industrialist Michael O'Connor (Charles Ruggles).

Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) is a Second World War veteran who needs a place to live. He was tossed from his apartment because the building is being knocked down by O'Connor for another one of his mega-projects. O'Connor's daughter, Trudy (Gale Storm), shows up one day to grab some clothes from her room. McKeever and Bullock don't know she's the unhappy offspring of said businessman. She wants to stay there too. Next up are some army buddies of Bullock's, and their families, who also can't find a place to live in New York City's tight housing market.

Bullock has a plan to help servicemen who need a place of their own. He wants to buy an army base just outside the Big Apple and convert barracks into apartments for other veterans. Pops O'Connor has his own designs on the surplus government property. He gets wind of the idea when he agrees to live with McKeever and the rest of the trespassers in his own place. His former wife, Mary (Ann Harding), also enters the fray when Trudy's dad threatens to have the vagrants arrested.

Trudy, for reasons that eluded this viewer, falls heads over heels for Bullock. There's no chemistry between these characters. Future Gilligan's Island Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr.) and the other vets and their wives have little to do but fold laundry, care for the kids and make themselves at home in O'Connor's spacious digs.

There's some interesting use of physical comedy here and nice riffs on O'Connor being put to work as a labourer in his mansion. Trudy kept her true identity hidden from Bullock, but when was this matter dealt with? I don't know because there wasn't such a scene in this film. There's passing reference to tough times for veterans after the Second World War ended - including the lack of good paying jobs and places to live. But, unlike the tough times highlighted in It's a Wonderful World, there's nothing of real substance here. Everyone sure is happy though.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue is pleasant, but not essential viewing.

RATING: 6/10

FUN FACTS: Charles Lane (It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and Vera Lewis (The Roaring Twenties) have brief scenes.

Don DeFore was Thorny in television's The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

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