Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas is coming again

Now that we're in December, it's once again time for TV channels to pull out all the old Christmas specials and run them for the 98470819854th time. TCM is no different, with the minor exception that they're showing Christmas-themed movies instead of specials. They kick off tonight with a story you know: the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol at 8:00 PM. That's followed by a story you might not know: It Happened on Fifth Avenue at 10:00 PM.

Victor Moore plays Aloysius McKeever, a high-class hobo. He's been following the life of magnate Michael O'Connor (Charlie Ruggles) long enough to know that O'Connor vacates his Manhattan mansion on a certain date every fall to go to his southern getaway, and returns on a certain specific date every year in the spring. This allows Aloysius to break in to the mansion unmolested every autumn, and live there in relative warmth until the spring. This winter, however, things change when he meets three GIs just home from the war. There's a housing crunch going on, and they need a place to stay -- especially because one of them is losing his old home due to a development funded by O'Connor. As a result, they wind up staying with Aloysius, at least until they can get on their feet.

The game is about to be up, though: O'Connor's daughter Trudy (Gale Storm) has decided to run away from finishing school and head for home in Manhattan to get away from her father, who she knows will not be there. When she gets home, she finds all these people using her and her father's mansion. But, because she's trying to run away, she disguises her identity from them, claiming to be a down on her luck singer who needs a place to stay. Likewise, when each of her divorced parents comes looking for her, they find more and more madness going on at the mansion; however, they too decide to go incognito for their own reasons.

This being a Christmas movie, you can figure that what ultimately happens is Aloysius teaching everybody a lesson about Christmas and the spirit of giving, especially hard-hearted businessman O'Connor. The ending isn't what's important here since we already know more or less what that will be; instead it's the story, and this is a really fun one. The actors are almost entirely character actors whom we've seen in dozens of other movies, but they're all a delight together. Sure, we've seen the story and the outcome before, but this is one of those movies you watch once a year at Christmastime -- and it's a good one to watch.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue has also gotten a DVD release, although it's part of a boxset with the aforementioned version of A Christmas Carol; Christmas in Connecticut; and The Shop Around the Corner.

Edit: I can't believe I got the schedule wrong. A Christmas Carol isn't airing until 9:00 AM ET tomorrow. Tonight's first Christmas movie, at 8:00 PM, is Fitzwilly.

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