Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tonight's Movie: It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947) is one of a trio of wonderful Christmas movies just released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

The other two films, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) and HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949), will be reviewed here in the near future.

I first saw IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE in 2011. What a treat to revisit it thanks to Warner Archive's new Blu-ray!

The movie tells the story of "Mac" MacKeever (Victor Moore), a hobo who "winters" in a 5th Avenue mansion in New York while its owner spends the cold months further south.

Mac invites Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), an unemployed veteran, to spend the night in the mansion.  Jim only realizes that they're not "authorized" guests when Trudy (Gale Storm) shows up in the house.  Mac and Jim assume she's also looking for a warm place to stay, but she's actually the daughter of the mansion's owner, Mike O'Connor (Charlie Ruggles).

Trudy, who had fled finishing school, is attracted to Jim and decides to play along with the notion that she's poor to see if Jim will like her for herself and not her family's money.

Eventually the house is packed with more and more people, including additional veterans and Trudy's father and mother Mary (Ann Harding), both also incognito as members of the struggling lower class.  The group come together as a sort of ersatz extended family, helping and supporting each other as they deal with various challenges.

Under Mac's watchful eye, romance blooms, relationships are mended, and jobs are created.  I think the warm community depicted in the film hit an even stronger chord than it otherwise might have as we come to the end of this strange year, when so many of us have been cut off from spending time with others living outside our homes.

It's a delightful film which juggles rib-tickling humor with poignance, and when it got to Charlie Ruggles' last line, I cried this time around just like I did nearly a decade ago.  I won't wait another nine years before watching it again.

Everyone in the cast is pitch perfect, and that includes an actor I don't typically like, Victor Moore.  I was reminded today that the last time I saw this, one of our daughters likened the character to Mary Poppins, which I thought was apt -- the slightly mysterious Mac swoops in, sets things to rights, and then vanishes once more.

Ruggles is particularly amusing reacting to Mac bossing him around in his own home, and I love Storm and DeFore, who have excellent chemistry.

The strong supporting cast includes Alan Hale Jr., Dorothea Kent, Grant Mitchell, Edward Brophy, Edward Gargan, Edward Ryan, Charles Lane, and Cathy Carter.

The movie runs 116 minutes.  It was directed by Roy Del Ruth and filmed in black and white by Henry Sharp.  The lovely song "That's What Christmas Means to Me" was written by Harry Revel.  (And for those wondering, for some strange reason the director wouldn't let the talented Storm do her own singing.  I've never been able to unearth the name of the vocalist who dubbed her.)

A couple scenes near the end of the movie were slightly faded, but all in all this Allied Artists film looked lovely, with excellent sound.

There's a very nice extra on the disc, the 1947 Lux Radio Theater production with DeFore, Storm, Ruggles, and Moore repeating their film roles.

Both the film and the Blu-ray are very much recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold. 


Blogger Vienna said...

How have I never seen this. It sounds a delight. And a great cast.

1:23 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

The appealing cast goes a long way in creating my affection for this movie.

5:36 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Agreed with your overall assessment, but for me, the show belongs to Charlie Ruggles and Ann Harding. Vicgtorm Moore is so good you can almost smell him, but I disagree about the Defore and Storm characters and playing. Okay, but no cigar.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, I'd love to know what you think of it. So much fun.

Caftan Woman, I agree. A number of faces I really enjoy seeing on screen.

Barrylane, Ruggles and Harding are definitely terrific in this.

Best wishes,

6:21 PM  

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