That happened to Husband and me last night, as we flipped to TCM and watched the movie already playing, even though it was 30 minutes into it, because there was nothing else on to watch.
It Happened on 5th Avenue, released in 1947, was a comedy ensemble piece starring Victor Moor, Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, and Gale Storm that takes place in New York City in winter. Victor Moore is a "hobo" named McKeever that, along with dog Sam, has come up with a keen way to live in style: he cunningly finds ways into rich mansions that are vacant as the owners go elsewhere for the winter, and leaves again before they return, being careful to leave everything as he found it.
This time he has made his winter residence at the luxurious mansion of the O'Connor family. The O'Connor daughter, Trudy (Gale Storm), however, has run away from finishing school and decides to hide from her family in their vacant NYC home, not knowing that McKeever is squatting there. Upon running into him inside her home, instead of turning him in to the police, they become fast friends and she pretends to be a squatter also. The two end up opening the home to others in need of a place to sleep; the group forms a happy little family of sorts. Trudy falls in love with one of these, a veteran G.I. named Jim (Don DeFore) and tries to get him to fall in love with her, too. (Another one of these drifters is a young Alan Hale, Jr., better known as "the Skipper" on Gilligan's Island.)
When Trudy's father, the powerful wealthy business magnate Mr. O'Connor (Charles Ruggles), comes to NYC to look for his daughter, she convinces him to help her win Jim over by pretending to also be a hobo who has come to the home in need of a place to stay; Trudy wants Jim to fall for her for real, not just for her father's money, so she wants their true identity concealed for as long as possible.
Well, Mr. O'Connor can only take so much of pretending to be a hobo in his own home and being made to wash dishes and be dog Sam's "valet", let alone being given orders and lessons in morality by McKeever (who has taken on the role of sage leader) so he quietly tries to thwart their efforts. Trudy catches on and enlists her mother's (Ann Harding) help, who flies in from Palm Beach and adds to the ruse by becoming their "cook."
In the end it all comes to a happy close with the O'Connor's true identity being revealed and the lot of them learning some good life lessons along the way: that money doesn't buy happiness, and no man is truly rich without family and friends and love and laughter: two themes that have appeared in movies repeatedly but never get old because of their truth (and our seemingly inability to remember it).
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, and wish I'd gotten in at the beginning of it in time to record it. But, now I have another movie on my list of ones to watch for as they cycle around again and will catch it next time!
In looking up information online about this movie, we were interested to learn that it had originally been optioned for director Frank Capra to do, but for reasons unknown he declined it and chose another project instead: It's A Wonderful Life. I wonder if he'd gone ahead and chosen this movie, if it would have become the beloved Christmas classic in place of "IAWL."
So that was my hidden gem of the week....what movies have you accidentally discovered that became a favorite?