On New York City's Fifth Avenue, the "richest avenue in the world," a tour bus announcer points out the boarded-up townhouse of "industrial wizard" Michael O'Connor (Charles Ruggles), the world's second richest man. As the bus passes, a middle-aged drifter named Aloysious T. McKeever (Victor Moore) and his dog Sam enter the O'Connor house through a loose board in the fence and a manhole, and spend the night.

Meanwhile, O'Connor evicts the tenants of one of his city apartment houses in order to erect an eighty-story building. One of his tenants, Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), an out-of-work veteran, refuses to leave. He is eventually thrown out, and while sleeping on a park bench, meets the drifter, McKeever, or "Mac” as he is lovingly referred to. Mac invites Jim to stay with him at O'Connor's townhouse, which he has occupied for the last three winters while O'Connor resides in Virginia, and Jim assumes that Mac is O'Connor.

Currently, O'Connor is preparing to buy Camp Kilson, a deserted army camp outside Manhattan, in order to build a massive air cargo network. He receives word that his daughter Trudy (Gale Storm) has run away from her finishing school.

When Trudy arrives at the townhouse, Jim concludes that she is a thief, but lets her stay. Trudy quickly falls in love with Jim, and is determined to keep her identity a secret so that he won't love her for her money. When the night patrol arrives to check the house, Mac makes everyone hide in the walk-in freezer and finally confesses to Jim and Trudy that he is an interloper.

Later, Jim runs into two friends from the service, Hank (Edward Ryan) and Whitey (Alan Hale, Jr.), and their wives and children, who are living in a car due to the postwar housing shortage, and invites them to stay at the townhouse, too. With Mac's help, Jim, Whitey and Hank are inspired to design a model to renovate vacant army barracks into housing projects, and decide to bid on Camp Kilson.

Soon O'Connor arrives in New York and finds Trudy leaving for her new job at a music shop. Although he orders her back to school, she insists that she has spent her life being lonely and now wants Jim. O'Connor wants to meet Jim and reluctantly agrees to pose as a drifter, after which Trudy and Jim convince Mac to let O'Connor become another "guest" at the mansion.

It is not long before O'Connor is fed up with his houseguests and threatens to call the police. Trudy sends for her mother, Mary (Ann Harding), who years before reluctantly divorced O'Connor because business was his first priority. Mary and O'Connor rekindle their love for each other, and on Christmas Eve, Mac encourages them to marry, unaware of their true relationship.

When Mary finds out that O'Connor outbid Jim on Camp Kilson, and tried to give him a job in Bolivia, to take him away from Trudy, she is determined to leave him for good this time. After Trudy gets furious with her father, O'Connor lets Jim buy the camp.

On New Year's Eve, the houseguests all celebrate the contract, and prepare to leave the townhouse. As they say their goodbyes, Trudy and Jim and Mary and O'Connor offer Mac a room, he assures them he has a place to stay, at Bubbling Springs, which is O'Connor's house in Virginia. As Mac walks away, O'Connor tells Mary that he has to board up the hole in the fence, because next November, Mac will be coming through the front door.

Oscar
1 Nomination
0 Awards

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
“It Happened On Fifth Avenue” was easily the most ambitious movie made and marked the debut of Allied Artists Pictures, the higher-budget division of Monogram Pictures. Liberty Films originally optioned the story in 1945 for director Frank Capra who decided to direct “It's a Wonderful Life” instead. Later that year, producer-director Roy Del Ruth acquired the story. The production schedule and Christmastime climax of the story suggest a Christmas release was originally planned, but for whatever reason, the movie's release was delayed until Easter 1947.

If you analyze movies too much, then this movie really is quite silly and hard to believe. However, it works extremely well--mostly because of the marvelous direction. Roy Del Ruth and the others who helped him in making this film apparently went about it as though they were on a new tack. They took that dog-eared story of the hard-hearted millionaire given a lesson in human relations by a kindly disposed vagabond and they dressed it up in such trimmings as to make it look almost fresh. And they found themselves fortunately supported by a charming performance from Victor Moore. As a hobo who lets his winter sojourn in the empty mansion of a New York millionaire be complicated by a curious assortment of deserving but nonpaying guests, Mr. Moore gives a funny imitation of a tramp living like a king. Moore was a joy to behold and this is one of his best roles. Indeed, there is nothing about this picture more deserving of gratitude than Mr. Moore, Without him—or a reasonable facsimile—it would be just another hopeful try.
And as the granite-grained gent who owns the mansion and perchance joins the guests as a tramp himself, Charles Ruggles is excellent as the rather befuddled but ultimately likable mega-millionaire. Happy to say, the batch of authors has played off the two men artfully and has got some amusing social comment in the temporary reversal of their roles.

In the inevitable romantic department, Gale Storm is pretty and pert as the millionaire's willful daughter who falls in love with a jobless ex-GI and Don DeFore is popularly noble and bright-eyed as this lad. It was nice to see Ann Harding, who had virtually retired from films since being a star in the 1930s, as the mostly sentimental cast-off wife of Charles Ruggles.

One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when O’Connor and his daughter go to a second hand clothing store to outfit him in his hobo costume. Not only is the millionaire disgusted at wearing such rags, he cannot believe why Mr. Finklehoff (Abe Reynolds), the tailor won’t buy his brand new, custom made wool suit. Finklehoff proceeds to explain the downfalls of such a sale, which snowballs into divorce and ruin.

While the film could have been played for wacky laughs (and there are many opportunities for this), the director instead chose to emphasize the humanity of the characters as well as a fundamental sweetness to them. In many cases, the laughs take a back seat to allowing this goodness to slowly come out through the course of the film. In doing this, it avoids overt laughter, and instead makes it a very sentimental and nice film.

While nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay, it ultimately lost to the more Santa Clause themed “Miracle on 34th Street”. This is definitely a must see for lovers of great comedies with an old fashioned feel-good ending.