Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On the Avenue

Well, this is probably going to wrap up 2014 blogging. We watched a lesser holiday movie, It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947). Although we're not big Christmas movie fans (bah, humbug), we are big fans of the good old black and white stuff. This is not exactly a classic, but it has its charms.

It takes place guess where. Victor Moore, a genial bum with a cute dog sneaks into the boarded-up mansion of the second-richest man in the world and sets up housekeeping while the homeowners are absent for the winter. Into this solitary paradise, he invites a jobless, homeless WWII vet, Don Defore. When the daughter of the family (Gale Storm) runs away from school and stops by the mansion for some clothes, they take her for another housebreaker. But they are too kind-hearted to throw her out, and she decides to play along.

Here is the first place the story starts to strain credibility. Why do the squatters assume a sophisticated lady is a thief? Why aren't they worried that they have been discovered? Some clever writing, a misunderstood action or something could have made this work - suppose she had gotten her dress dirty, or been in disguise as a poor girl? But no, you've just got to go along with it.

Of course, Storm has to fall in love with Defore, which is another strain. He's kind of a Robert Montgomery type (or do I mean Robert Young?), and extremely obnoxious. He looks like he should be a sit-com husband, and he wound up that way, on Hazel. There is also a distinct lack of chemistry between them.

As the movie goes on (for almost 2 hours), more squatters take up residence, including the man who owns the place and his estranged wife. They go along with the gag, pretending to be homeless, for reasons that are very flimsy - again, just go with it.

Of course, since the rich man is played by Charles Ruggles, it's not hard to give the movie some benefit of a doubt. He plays a hard tycoon, without the usual flustered vagueness, but is great nonetheless. But the best part is the bum, Aloysius T. McKeever, played by Victor Moore. Moore is a character actor you'll recognize, although you may not be able to put a name to his face. He is a cherubic, soft-spoken, rather diffident man, with a certain quiet dignity. He makes the whole thing worth it.

It is an interesting look at the post-war housing shortage and employment situation. But mostly that allows the movie to be sympathetic to the homeless without being Capraesque commies. So I can't really even recommend it for the social commentary. I can recommend it for Victor Moore, though.

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