Christmas Movies

It Happened on Fifth Avenue

The year 1947 is remembered in Christmas film history as the year Miracle on 34th Street came out. But in April of that year another yuletide movie came out that did pretty well at the box office – a movie called It Happened on Fifth Avenue.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue is the convoluted tale of Aloysius T. McKeever, a goldened-hearted drifter who has made it his winter routine to take up his residence in the home of the second richest man in the world, who bails from New York to Virginia as soon as the snow flies.

McKeever hooks up with other individuals who are likewise down on their luck and, curiously, all are connected in odd ways to the Michael O’Connor, owner of the empty mansion.

One such individual he connects with is O’Connor’s runaway daughter, Trudy. She is in love with one of the other characters in the film but does not want to win his love through her father’s wealth. So she plays the part of being young and poor while convincing her father to crash the scene by pretending to be a bum.

So, what we have is a drifter playing a rich man while the rich man plays a drifter. (Following all this?) This comedy takes a variety of comedic and smaltzy turns typical of the 1940s with Christmas as a backdrop.

All of these characters find themselves together on Christmas Eve in this ritzy home as things come to a head:

This clip features one of four songs from the film. Titled That’s What Christmas Means to Me, it should not be confused by similar songs from artists Eddie Fisher or Stevie Wonder. The song is both patriotic and Christmasy, something you would be hard pressed to find in any film today.

The movie was originally intended to fall under the direction of Frank Capra, who instead involved himself in It’s a Wonderful Life in 1946. Capra passed the story on to producer-director Roy Del Ruth and Allied Artists.

Capra did promote the film, along with a list of Hollywood’s biggest names. The film did well at the box office, too.

The movie would get regular airplay on television until about 1990 when it inexplicably disappeared. It resurfaced in 2009 on Turner Classic Movies and it has since then become a cult classic the likes of Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue

It Happened on Fifth Avenue stars Victor Moore, star of Broadway and film (both silent and sound movies). Co-starring is Don DeFore, who is better remembered for his later television work in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Charles Ruggles, a familiar face in American film and television, plays the eccentric billionaire Michael J. O’Connor who owns the home on Fifth Avenue where most of the movie is set.

Interestingly, Alan Hale Jr. plays a supporting role in It Happened on Fifth Avenue. He’s better known as the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island of television fame.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue was nominated for an Oscar for Best Story. It lost out to Miracle on 34th Street.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue is a joyous film with plenty of positive messaging. Given the movie audiences of 1947 it is plain to see how a holiday-set feel-good comedy was popular and accepted.

For today’s movie watchers It Happened on Fifth Avenue is both escapism from the modern Christmas and entertainment on the skirts of Christmas past that should be more appreciated and certainly more viewed.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue has been released on DVD in several different editions, including a TCM collection of Christmas movies and a different Christmas collection. It also had a release on VHS.

The movie can be rented for streaming from Amazon.

For the past several years It Happened on Fifth Avenue has been a December staple on Turner Classic Movies.

 

 

Father of 7, Grandfather of 7, husband of 1. Freelance writer, Major League baseball geek, aspiring Family Historian.

MerryCarey

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Sidelight on Victor Moore: He was instrumental in organizing Christmas in July in the early 1900s (perhaps the original Christmas in July) for vaudevillians who were on the road entertaining---and often doing extra shows---on Christmas Day. With his help, the LIGHTS (Long Island Good-Hearted Thespian Society) organized an annual Christmas in July on Long Island. Entertainers would often arrive in winter garb to celebrate around a big Christmas tree---and Moore often played Santa himself.
 
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Jeff Westover

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Sidelight on Victor Moore: He was instrumental in organizing Christmas in July in the early 1900s (perhaps the original Christmas in July) for vaudevillians who were on the road entertaining---and often doing extra shows---on Christmas Day. With his help, the LIGHTS (Long Island Good-Hearted Thespian Society) organized an annual Christmas in July on Long Island. Entertainers would often arrive in winter garb to celebrate around a big Christmas tree---and Moore often played Santa himself.
How did I know YOU were going to speak up on this one? You're money in the bank.
 
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MerryCarey

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How did I know YOU were going to speak up on this one? You're money in the bank.
Vic Moore should have been in more Christmas movies! He would have been so good as Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or Mr. Bogardus in “The Bells of St. Mary’s” … I’d love to go back in time and see him play Santa for the LIGHTS.
 

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Vic Moore should have been in more Christmas movies! He would have been so good as Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or Mr. Bogardus in “The Bells of St. Mary’s” … I’d love to go back in time and see him play Santa for the LIGHTS.
I'd love to go back in time and see him in a lot of things. His filmography is impressive, especially since he spanned the eras, so to speak. I enjoyed him in this and thought he was ideally cast.
 

DixieBelle

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I can't believe I totally forgot about this movie! I haven't seen it since I was a little kid. I hope TCM airs it this year. I'd love it even more if I could get it on DVD. I just don't go for all that streaming stuff, lol. TCM just "refreshed" on September 1, so I don't know what to expect from them this season. They are playing more and more recent movies - even from the 2010's! Oh, how I will be looking for this one! Thanks for the awesome reminder of an old favorite, Jeff!

+h
 
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ChristmasTimeintheCity

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I love any Christmas film that shines a light on NYC. This one is no exception. It's an unrated classic and has had a place in our Holiday movie viewing for awhile! Great write up!
 
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MerryCarey

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I can't believe I totally forgot about this movie! I haven't seen it since I was a little kid. I hope TCM airs it this year. I'd love it even more if I could get it on DVD. I just don't go for all that streaming stuff, lol. TCM just "refreshed" on September 1, so I don't know what to expect from them this season. They are playing more and more recent movies - even from the 2010's! Oh, how I will be looking for this one! Thanks for the awesome reminder of an old favorite, Jeff!

+h
The movie is available on DVD and Blu-ray---I hope you can get ahold of a copy!
 

MerryCarey

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I love any Christmas film that shines a light on NYC. This one is no exception. It's an unrated classic and has had a place in our Holiday movie viewing for awhile! Great right up!
You need to see "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" (1984) starring Scott Grimes and Mickey Rooney. It's all about a retired police detective (Rooney) who wants to show his Californian grandson what Christmas in New York is like---only the city is missing it's annual Christmas cheer, and the angel who was supposed to spread the Christmas cheer is missing somewhere in the city. The former detective and his grandson set out to find the missing angel and restore Christmas cheer to New York City before it's too late. Plenty of location shooting!

It was made for TV in 1984, later issued on VHS, but never issued on DVD, for some reason. It's a charming film. I was lucky enough to score one of the VHS copies, and Mr. actually found a 16mm broadcast film print.
 
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ChristmasTimeintheCity

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You need to see "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" (1984) starring Scott Grimes and Mickey Rooney. It's all about a retired police detective (Rooney) who wants to show his Californian grandson what Christmas in New York is like---only the city is missing it's annual Christmas cheer, and the angel who was supposed to spread the Christmas cheer is missing somewhere in the city. The former detective and his grandson set out to find the missing angel and restore Christmas cheer to New York City before it's too late. Plenty of location shooting!

It was made for TV in 1984, later issued on VHS, but never issued on DVD, for some reason. It's a charming film. I was lucky enough to score one of the VHS copies, and Mr. actually found a 16mm broadcast film print.
I'll have to look for it. Thanks for the recommendation!!
 
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Dickens' Ghost

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It's funny that I ran into this article tonight because I literally finished watching this movie for the first time not more than an hour ago. I had never even heard of it but ran across it on HBO Max and decided to give it a look. I thought it was surprisingly good, with an excellent cast and performances.

It is both interesting and strange to me that they released the film in April. Seems like it would obviously be either a November or December release.

That's interesting about Frank Capra being handed the movie but passing it off to another director. As I was watching the film I thought there were vague thematic similarities to It's a Wonderful Life. It would be interesting to see what Capra's version would've looked like, but I think that Ruth did an excellent job.
 

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Exciting! A new Christmas movie (new to me) to watch!!
If you haven't seen it and want to see another classic that is at least sort of related to Christmas--the holiday doesn't play a big role but the story does culminate on Christmas Eve--then go watch The Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. I watched it a few nights ago for the first time and thought it was excellent.
 

MerryCarey

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It's funny that I ran into this article tonight because I literally finished watching this movie for the first time not more than an hour ago. I had never even heard of it but ran across it on HBO Max and decided to give it a look. I thought it was surprisingly good, with an excellent cast and performances.

It is both interesting and strange to me that they released the film in April. Seems like it would obviously be either a November or December release.

That's interesting about Frank Capra being handed the movie but passing it off to another director. As I was watching the film I thought there were vague thematic similarities to It's a Wonderful Life. It would be interesting to see what Capra's version would've looked like, but I think that Ruth did an excellent job.
I have a partial answer to that ... spring and summer were the seasons that saw the heaviest movie attendance, so studios often released their biggest productions during that time for maximum box-office return. For example, "Miracle on 34th Street" was released in the summer (you'll notice that the posters and other publicity hid the Christmas setting). By the time the films reached the "neighborhood houses," it was closer to Christmas.
 

MerryCarey

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If you haven't seen it and want to see another classic that is at least sort of related to Christmas--the holiday doesn't play a big role but the story does culminate on Christmas Eve--then go watch The Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. I watched it a few nights ago for the first time and thought it was excellent.
Yes! This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Actually, the last two or three reels take place during the Christmas season. A Blu-ray with a beautiful new transfer came out last year, replacing the DVD transfer that had at least one slightly rickety reel.

Nothing beats the scene where Frank Morgan (as the store owner, Mr. Matuschek) is hinting to his employees as they leave for an invitation to Christmas dinner. He winds up taking the delivery boy, who he discovers is living away from his family and alone in the city, out to dinner. A really heartwarming scene.
 

Dickens' Ghost

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I have a partial answer to that ... spring and summer were the seasons that saw the heaviest movie attendance, so studios often released their biggest productions during that time for maximum box-office return. For example, "Miracle on 34th Street" was released in the summer (you'll notice that the posters and other publicity hid the Christmas setting). By the time the films reached the "neighborhood houses," it was closer to Christmas.
Thanks for the info. That's interesting. It seemed that I had heard something before about movies set during Christmas being released out-of-season.

Today if a studio released a Christmas film in the middle of the summer it would be viewed as distinctly odd and I have no doubt that the box office would suffer for it.

Yes! This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Actually, the last two or three reels take place during the Christmas season. A Blu-ray with a beautiful new transfer came out last year, replacing the DVD transfer that had at least one slightly rickety reel.

Nothing beats the scene where Frank Morgan (as the store owner, Mr. Matuschek) is hinting to his employees as they leave for an invitation to Christmas dinner. He winds up taking the delivery boy, who he discovers is living away from his family and alone in the city, out to dinner. A really heartwarming scene.
Glad to find someone else who appreciates this film! I just ran across it randomly the other night in HBO Max's holiday section and was like, "Oh, Jimmy Stewart. . . Guess I'll check it out." I had never heard of it before, but I enjoyed it immensely and then recommended it to my dad and rewatched it with a friend of mine.

I had also never heard of Margaret Sullavan. I looked her up on IMDB and her filmography, especially in comparison with her contemporaries, is quite bare. Not sure if it's because she just wasn't offered the roles or if she didn't enjoy working that much. I thought she was good in this film, though. In fact, the whole cast is great.

And yes, that scene with Matuschek and the and the new delivery boy is a good scene. Matuschek was actually a great character who was brought to life masterfully by Morgan.
 
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