Thursday, December 17, 2020

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) Warner Archives 12/22/2020

Directed By: Roy Del Ruth 

Starring: Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Victor Moore, Charles Ruggles, Alan Hale Jr

Disclaimer: Warner Archives has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   In the annals of Holiday films, It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) is sadly forgotten by all but hardcore TCM fans. It's a charming film that thankfully will find a new audience thanks to this re-release! A homeless man stays in an old mansion every winter when the rich occupant is away. Misunderstandings and hilarity ensues when a veteran named Jim (Don DeFore) comes to stay with man. Legend has it that Frank Capra was attached to direct this film, but passed to do a little known project called It's A Wonderful Life (1946) instead. I don't know if this is true or not but, I only mention it because this movies screenplay by Everett Freeman certainly feels like a Capra film. And, by that I mean it has a lot of heart along with themes that Capra liked to inject in his films like: the everyman, class divide, selflessness and of course family, both by blood and found. Let me get this out of the way up-front. I call this a Christmas movie but, its more of a silly rom-com that intersects with the holidays towards the end. It's still in my opinion a great film to watch this time of year. Freeman's script plays up the time honored tradition of a comedy-of-errors, misunderstandings and deception. This really lends itself to some funny set-pieces and, one racy joke that I am kind of shocked made it past censors. I won't spoil it for you but, it's a cheeky misunderstanding about sex before marriage (in a ice box no less). What really ties this film together, even some of it's weaker plotting is it has a lot of heart. Roy Del Ruth straddles a nice line between providing a nice emotional through line without going over-board into the sappy or overtly sentimental. I think we tend to take it for granted but this is a tricky to pull off well. Also, I love how this movie is so wildly absurd but the filmmakers really do their best to make things feel pretty plausible despite, this screw-ball comedy genre often getting ridiculous at times. Again, it further highlights the whip smart screenplay that is filled with great snappy dialogue, memorable characters and wonderful set-up's and pay offs. This movie is very much of it's time and talks about the concerns of the limited housing situation WWII vets faced. In the film Jim being evicted and this set up perfectly dominos throughout the film until a very satisfying finale. It's also worth noting this movie is very parotitic but also, sort of anti-capitalistic? It clearly plays like a movie post-WWII but also sticks it to the ultra-rich, but sort of back-tracks that a bit. This backpaddling is maybe where the script could have used some work. 

    Don DeFore best remembered for the Noir Too Late for Tears (1949) and later the television show Hazel (1961-65) heads up a stellar cast. DeFore was someone that despite having the looks, talent and charm never really hit it big like say Cary Grant or Clark Gable. Still, he is so charismatic and so effortlessly invested in his role that it's hard not to be spellbound by him.  And of course you have the great Charles Ruggles For those not ultra-obsessed with old movies, Ruggles was a character actor that often played supporting roles such as butlers and other such characters. Here is a rare time when he really gets to shine. He is pitch-perfect as a stuffy but ultimately endearing self-made millionaire. But, it's Victor Morris as the lovable tramp that truly steals the show. Morris shows off a nice range here, showcasing his comedic chops as well as his dramatic skills. Gale Storm, Ann Harding and a pre-Gilligan's Island Alan Hale Jr also dazzle in the supporting cast. 

It Happened On Fifth Avenue is a movie that probably isn't in your stack of seasonal movies but it really should be. With pin-point direction, a razor sharp witted screenplay, and a top-notch cast this movie is a gem. 

Picture: Stunning. That's the only word that I could grapple with when I watched this film in it's brand new 4k transfer. The film retails a lot of detail in clothing, textures and locations. Grain is kept to a minimum and there are no scratches or artifacts to be found. Black and white contrast is also incredibly well handled. 

Sound: Fifth Ave has a nice 2.0 track. Dialogue come through nicely and no unwanted background noise that I could detect. 

Extras:  Extras include a original radio program The Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (57mins) 

No comments:

Post a Comment