Holiday Classics: “It Happened on 5th Avenue” (1947)

Some movies just make you happy, and “It Happened on 5th Avenue” is one of those. The comedy was the first film produced by Allied Artists Pictures, and was directed by Roy Del Ruth. Many viewers will likely notice, however, how Capra-esque the story is. Frank Capra actually did option the story to direct, but ended up directing another, more well-known Christmas classic—“It’s a Wonderful Life”—instead.

Victor Moore as Aloysius T. McKeever in “It Happened on 5th Avenue”

In fact, “It Happened on 5th Avenue” seems to have been shoved behind numerous other Christmas films over the years. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story, but lost to “Miracle on 34th Street”. But it’s a marvelous little movie that fortunately, thanks to avid fans demanding over many years that the movie be shown on TV and released on DVD, is finally reaching a larger audience. The film stars Victor Moore as Aloysius T. McKeever, a homeless man who shacks up in millionaire Michael J. O’Connor’s (Charles Ruggles) New York City mansion when he goes to his Southern home in the winter. McKeever ends up taking in more tenants at the mansion, including homeless ex-solider Jim (Don DeFore) and his war buddies (played by Edward Ryan and Alan Hale, Jr., later to play the Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island), and a young woman named Trudy (Gale Storm), who is actually O’Connor’s daughter. When Jim and Trudy fall in love, O’Connor decides to come back to New York and pretend to be a homeless man too, so he can take up residence at the mansion and observe Jim for himself. Naturally hilarity ensues, but so does a sweet bit of character development, as O’Connor learns to change his selfish ways.

“It Happened on 5th Avenue” (1947)

“It Happened on 5th Avenue” also has a lovely soundtrack. Among the songs written by Harry Revel is a holiday tune titled “That’s What Christmas Means to Me”. No, it’s not the Stevie Wonder song you all know; this song, rather, is difficult to find, and you’ll likely never hear it outside of this movie. With the film’s climax being set on Christmas Eve, “It Happened on 5th Avenue” can certainly be considered a holiday movie, but its heart-warming story is fun to watch year-round.

“It Happened on 5th Avenue” has been released on Blu-ray for the first time this holiday season by the Warner Archive, and it is available on DVD as well as for rental or purchase on all digital platforms. The film will also be airing on Turner Classic Movies on the following dates this holiday season:

Saturday, December 5th at 5:45 PM EST

Sunday, December 20th at 8 PM EST

Thursday, December 24th at 11:45 AM EST

Runtime: 116 minutes.

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