For Reel

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
December 24, 2015, 12:17 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Roy Del Ruth
2.5 Stars
It Happened on Fifth AvenueIt comes as no surprise that It Happened on Fifth Avenue was initially optioned for Frank Capra’s Liberty Films. Set in an empty mansion where a homeless man (Victor Moore) is squatting for the holidays, the film culminates with an inevitable sermon about where real riches are found (hint: not in dollars and cents). Yet even Capra rarely produced something so saccharine, this playing more like the toothless You Can’t Take It With You than It’s a Wonderful Life. Overlong and overwrought, the film indulges the occasional lightweight charms–a tangential setpiece involving a waiter and a wobbly table is an effectively performed slapstick routine–but it doesn’t quite earn its sentimentality. As the young couple, Gale Storm and Don DeFore are miscast. When DeFore helps Storm wield a shotgun and its accidental blast results in ecstasy, one wishes the scene involved actors more inclined to play up the sexuality of the situation. Ann Harding and Charles Ruggles, on the other hand, bring a satisfying heft and understatement to their respective roles–one sequence involves them witnessing a conversation about what happens to failed marriages, and they are both required to play out the drama of regret and self-loathing using only small gestures and facial ticks. In the end, however, director Roy Del Ruth doesn’t bring any sense of urgency to the screwball antics, and as such the inherent humor of the situation, much like the relationship between the young couple, just kind of lays there until it fizzles out.

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