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Holiday Movie Marathon - It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

Christmas movies are a pretty big blind spot for me, so here’s to a whole month of getting smothered with the Christmas spirit with some of the best in the genre.

I would have to do a lot more research than I’m really willing to, but I think this combination of the Great Depression and the post World War II era really influenced the formula of Christmas-themed movies that are present even today. So many of the modern conventions of Christmas even worldwide have their origins in America that it makes sense to think of Christmas as one of the many avenues of soft power that America still had a strong grasp on. It seems in these early movies that Christmas movies sought to address the ills of society (namely poverty and economic inequality) in a non-threatening way that addressed both the rich and the poor. It Happened on Fifth Avenue is played mostly for laughs but there’s a lot more desperation than I was expecting in a Christmas movie. Over the course of the movie, the rich O’Connor’s house plays host to not only to charming vagrant Aloysius T. McKeever, played by Victor Moore, but to several army veterans and their families as well as the actual family themselves, posing as homeless people themselves to see who exactly has invaded their house. Not to put too modern a spin on it, but it’s a little like if Parasite was less a thriller and more of a holiday fable with the rich actually learning a thing or two about the poor people. It is interesting to see just how far Christmas movies have strayed from this particular model and seem to have become mostly about privileged people suffering First World problems (again, need to actually research but I don’t think I’m totally off the mark), but I feel something truly drastic needs to change about society to make this type of holiday movie appear again.

Holiday Spirit Quotient: 10 out of 10 angels we have heard on high. I think that a true Christmas movie needs to underline the need to invite everyone into the fold of warmth, comfort and privilege, even if it’s ultimately a token gesture, and I think It Happened on Fifth Avenue has this spirit in spades.


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