Ah, New York City. Is there a more wonderful place to be during Christmas? From the lights to the crowds to the snow, the answer to that question is probably no, especially if you’re living a plush existence on Fifth Avenue, “the richest avenue in the world.”
A tour bus is driving down the exclusive avenue one day when the announcer points out a boarded-up townhouse owned by one of the richest men in the world, Michael O’Connor (Charlie Ruggles), who leaves New York every year for the winter. Serendipitously, a drifter and his dog happen to be passing the same house. Upon hearing the announcer’s words, homeless Aloysious “Mac” McKeever (Victor Moore) and his adorable pup Sam sneak their way into the house to spend the night in comfort and warmth.
O’Connor may have boarded up his home for the winter, but his business in the city isn’t done quite yet. Before he heads south to escape New York City’s chilly temperatures, Michael evicts the tenants of one of his apartment buildings so he can tear it down and build an eighty-story building in its place.
Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), a discharged veteran, is refusing to leave O’Connor’s building. He’s forcibly thrown out, leaving him homeless. While attempting to get some rest on a park bench, Jim meets Mac, and Mac invites him to stay in O’Connor’s fancy townhouse.
As it turns out, Mac was no stranger to the property — he has stayed there for the past three winters, sneaking in every time O’Connor packs up and heads to Virginia for the snowy season! But Jim doesn’t know this, and at first assumes that Mac is the real Michael O’Connor.
The party of people squatting in the townhouse continues to grow as O’Connor’s daughter Trudy (Gale Storm), a couple of Jim’s old war buddies (Alan Hale Jr. and Edward Ryan Jr.) and their families all move in.
Roy Del Ruth directs 1947’s It Happened on 5th Avenue, a musical rom-com of rekindled love, family and getting all wrapped up in the Christmas spirit.
It Happened on 5th Avenue is a super cute film. Gale Storm and Don DeFore have wonderful chemistry, and Victor Moore is fun to watch, as is the rest of the cast.
DeFore gets to deliver quite a bit of witty dialogue, tossing out a number of great one-liners. In one scene he calls a snooty landlord a leftover of meat rationing rather than a man. (There are actually a couple of rationing jokes, which tie the film to its period — a wife of one of Jim’s war buddies says that her husband called her “Sugar” when they were dating because she was hard to get!)
The film is, in general, light and fun. Upon its release, The Washington Post called it “nice” and “mild,” which is a pretty perfect description. It isn’t too serious or too funny, but it’s a really pleasant film — perfect for a lazy, snowy day in December spent with a blanket, flannel pajamas and a big ol’ mug of hot cocoa.
Though billed as a musical rom-com this film isn’t packed with songs, and the songs that do appear don’t play a huge part in the story. The music is very nice, though. A score by Edward Ward is complemented by “It’s a Wonderful Wonderful Feeling,” “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” and “Speak — My Heart” by Harry Revel, as well as “You’re Everywhere” by Harry Revel and Paul Webster.
Top all of this off with beautiful black and white cinematography and you’ve got one great winter-y film. It Happened On 5th Avenue is definitely worthy of a spot on your viewing roster this holiday.