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Anything Can Happen (1952) is a charming comedy about the 20th century immigrant experience, based on a best-selling autobiographical novel. Jos Ferrer plays Giorgi Papashvily, who arrives in New York from Georgia, then part of Russia. He finds work, makes friends with other immigrants, and falls in love with Helen Watson (Kim Hunter), a court transcriber who bonds with him over their mutual love for his native folk music. Eventually, Giorgi and his friends and relatives follow Helen to California, and have adventures on the way. Along with the Puerto Rican Ferrer, the film features a melting pot of Eastern European actors, including Viennese-born Kurt Kasznar (who plays a Turk), Russian Eugenie Leontovich, Hungarian Oscar Beregi, and George Voskovec, known as the "Czech Charlie Chaplin." The latter two made their American film debuts in Anything Can Happen. The film even won a Golden Globe Award as the Best Film Promoting International Understanding. But the optimistic message of Anything Can Happen is in stark contrast to the fear and paranoia of the era in which it was made. The political upheaval that was the Hollywood witch hunt affected the lives of its two stars, and may have tainted the film's reception.
By the time production began on Anything Can Happen in mid-1951, Jos Ferrer had already distinguished himself as a stage actor and director and had won several Tony Awards. He had also appeared in films, including the film version of his stage hit Cyrano de Bergerac (1950). In early 1951, a few weeks after he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar® for that performance, Ferrer was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, the congressional group that was investigating communism in the entertainment industry. Ferrer, who had been supportive of progressive causes but was not a Communist, won the Oscar® anyway. In May he testified before the Committee and declared himself a patriotic American, but refused to name names. The following month, production began on Anything Can Happen.
Kim Hunter was having one of the best years of her career. Following her Broadway triumph as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), she had just reprised the role in the film version, to great acclaim. Like Ferrer, Hunter had also been active in liberal causes. But unlike him, she was not called to testify before HUAC. Instead, her name appeared in a pamphlet called "Red Channels," which listed suspected Communist sympathizers. Even though she won an Oscar® as Best Supporting Actress for Streetcar the following year, she was blacklisted, and did not work again in film or television for five years. Anything Can Happen was her final film appearance until 1956.
Anything Can Happen was screened for delegates to a United Nations conference in New York. According to a New York Times article, a Paramount spokesman said that "the picture, by showing assimilation to the American way of life and the opportunities available to all Americans, illustrates what UNESCO is trying to accomplish." The Los Angeles Examiner, in its review, agreed with that assessment. "I'm sure that Messrs. William Perlberg and George Seaton, its producer-director-writer combination, didn't intend it to be American propaganda -- but it is that, so completely and thoroughly, that I wish it could be shown in every city, town and hamlet behind the iron curtain." Most reviews were equally favorable, though Bosley Crowther's New York Times review called it "superficial," and perhaps alluding to the current political climate, added, "the cozy picture Mr. Seaton presents of a band of genial eccentrics singing songs and having feasts in old-country style, as of the present, is in the realm of pure myth."
Rabid anti-communists weren't buying it either. Members of an American Legion post picketed a theater in Baltimore that was showing Anything Can Happen because Ferrer had been summoned by HUAC, even though the committee had cleared him. Ferrer had another, more important film released in late 1952, Moulin Rouge, with Ferrer giving a spectacular performance as the tortured artist Toulouse-Lautrec. He earned another Oscar® nomination as Best Actor for his portrayal. Once again, the American Legion picketed the film. At Oscar® time, columnist Hedda Hopper, who two years earlier supposedly had threatened to stand up and unfurl an American flag if Ferrer won (he did, she didn't), wrote in her column that she would resign from the Academy if Ferrer won. He lost, but his career did not suffer as Hunter's did. He continued to act and direct on stage, appeared in dozens of features and television films, and also directed six feature films. He died in 1992, at the age of 80.
Director: George Seaton
Producer: William Perlberg
Screenplay: George Seaton, George Oppenheimer, based on the book By Giorgi and Helen Papashvily
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Editor: Alma Mcrorie
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, A. Earl Hedrick
Music: Victor Young
Cast: Jos Ferrer (Giorgi Papashvily), Kim Hunter (Helen Watson), Kurt Kasznar (Nuri Bey), Eugenie Leontovich (Anna Godiedze), Oscar Karlweis (Uncle Besso), Oscar Beregi (Uncle John), Mikhail Rasumny (Tariel Godiedze), Nick Dennis (Chancho), Gloria Marlowe (Luba Godiedze), George Voskovec (Pavli).
by Margarita Landazuri