It Happened on Fifth Avenue is a 1947 feature film comedy that tells the story of a wily New York City hobo who winters in a boarded-up Fifth Avenue mansion while the owner is in Florida, and who in turn helps some homeless former GI's to realize their dreams. When the true owners get in on the act and play along to help out, true love and goodwill win out. The film features three or more Christmas songs, is set at that time of year, and one of its climactic scenes is set on Christmas Eve. It featured character actor Victor Moore, singer/actress Gale Storm, and future Gilligan's Island alumnus Alan Hale Jr., among many others.
Directed by Roy Del Ruth for Allied Artists Pictures, the film's script had originally been optioned for Liberty Films to be directed by Frank Capra, who instead chose 1947's much better-known Christmas film, It's a Wonderful Life.
Aloysius T. McKeever, a New York City hobo, makes his home in a seasonally boarded-up Fifth Avenue mansion, entering and exiting through a secluded utility manhole, while its owner, multi-millionaire ("the second richest man in the world") Michael J. O'Connor, winters in the South. McKeever winds up taking in homeless ex-G.I. Jim Bullock, who has been evicted from an apartment building O'Connor is tearing down for a new skyscraper, and runaway 18-year-old Trudy "Smith" who is actually O'Connor's daughter. Soon Jim invites war buddies Whitey, Hank and their families to share the vast mansion while they seek permanent homes of their own.
Trudy falls in love with Jim, and when her father demands to meet him, convinces O'Connor to also take up residence, pretending to be the panhandler "Mike". She wants to win Jim's love without the temptation of her wealth. McKeever "allows" Mike to move in, but treats him as a servant. When Mike warns Trudy that he intends to have them all arrested for criminal trespass, she persuades her mother Mary to fly up from Florida and pretend to be the 11th interloper, a cook. Determined to derail the budding romance, Mike has one of his construction companies offer Jim a great job in Bolivia, but Jim turns it down to pursue his dream.
The ex-GIs have an idea to buy a former Army camp and convert its barracks into inexpensive family housing. Unbeknownst to either side, Mike and Jim get into a bidding war for the camp, which Mike wants for an air cargo terminal. In the meantime, Mike and Mary reconcile when she believes he has changed. All are celebrating Christmas Eve together, forgetting to hide as usual from the patrolmen who check the house every night, but the patrolmen agree to let the families stay until after the New Year. Jim reveals that he and his partners have lost the camp to Michael J. O'Connor, and when Mike later defends his business dealings to Mary, she tells him he has not changed after all.
His dream shattered, Jim takes the job offer in Bolivia. Mary and Trudy angrily tell Mike they are leaving for Florida the next day because of the way he has manipulated Jim. Mike spins a tale that he has arranged a meeting with O'Connor for Jim and his partners, who are dubious but accept. At the meeting, they see what to the boys appears to be Mike the panhandler and put him in a nearby closet so that `O'Connor' doesn't find him at the desk when he comes in. Once his assistant lets him out of the closet, the boys are astounded to learn that Mike is in fact Michael J. O'Connor who then transfers the camp to the boys on the express condition that they never reveal his true identity to McKeever. That night, everyone shares a celebratory dinner before putting the house back "just the way we found it." They see the still-unaware McKeever off as he heads to the O'Connors' mansion in Virginia, and Mike tells Mary remind him to nail up the board in the back fence because next winter McKeever will be coming in through the front door.
Home Media release
Warner Home Video released the film on DVD for the first time on November 11, 2008.
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