Tenth Avenue Angel
Cast & Crew
In 1936, during the Great Depression, Flavia Mills, a sprightly eight-year-old girl nicknamed the "Tenth Avenue Angel," lives with her mother Helen, father Joseph and her aunt, Susan Bratten, in a tenement apartment in Manhattan. Flavia skates around her neighborhood on only one roller-skate, and although her father is unemployed and her family has little money, she hopes that someday she will be able to buy a new pair. One of Flavia's closest friends is Blind Mac, a blind newspaper vendor who knows the streets and often shares his wisdom with Flavia. When Flavia learns that Steve Abutt, Susan's sweetheart, is returning to New York after an absence of more than a year, she can hardly contain her excitement. Flavia adores Steve but has been kept ignorant of the fact that he has been serving time in jail for his brief association with gangsters. Instead, Flavia has been told that Steve has been traveling the world. Susan reaffirms her love for Steve, and Flavia begins pressuring Susan and Steve to finally get married. However, Steve is hesitant because he knows that as an ex-convict on parole he will have a difficult time reestablishing himself and that he may not get his old job back as a taxi driver. Hoping to make a fresh start in a new city, Steve makes plans to leave town as soon as his six-month probation expires. Upset at her failure to prompt Steve and Susan's engagement, and worried that Steve will leave town, Flavia goes to Mac for advice. Mac tells her that the best way to keep Steve from leaving is to keep him happy. Although Steve is barred from driving while he is on probation, his boss, Al Parker, gives him a job washing taxicabs. The same day that he rehires Steve, Al tells him that he is in love with Susan, and that he has asked her to marry him. Determined to keep Steve happy and prevent him from leaving New York, Flavia, meanwhile, decides to save up enough money to buy Steve his own taxicab. Soon after Helen tells Flavia a fable about mice bringing good luck and money, Flavia captures a mouse in her apartment, hides it in a cigar box placed inside a wall and waits for it to turn into money. A few days later, during a Fourth of July block party, two delinquent boys from the neighborhood steal Blind Mac's money box and hide their loot in the same wall in which Flavia hid her mouse. They throw out Flavia's mouse box and put Mac's money box in its place. After giving a patriotic speech at the block party, Flavia goes to retrieve her cigar box and finds money. She takes the cigar box home, only to be accused by Steve of possessing the money stolen from Mac. Flavia pleads her innocence and reminds her family that Helen told her that all mice turn to money. When Steve tells Flavia that Helen's story is just a fable, Flavia becomes disillusioned and thinks that her whole family believes that she stole the money. Helen, meanwhile, discovers that she is pregnant and may be at risk for complications in childbirth. Months pass, and Steve helps the still unemployed Joe and Helen prepare for their coming baby by giving them some money. After buying Flavia a new pair of roller-skates, Steve is then broke and desperately in need of a loan. When Daniel Oliver Madson, Steve's former gangster associate, offers to pay Steve to steal a truck out of his garage, Steve is unable to refuse the offer. Flavia, meanwhile, becomes further disillusioned and distrustful of adults when she overhears Steve talking to his parole officer about his prison sentence. A short time later, on Christmas Eve, Helen goes into labor and nearly dies from complications. When Flavia realizes that only a miracle can save Helen, she remembers that her mother once told her at midnight on Christmas Eve that she could pray to a kneeling cow for a miracle. Flavia suspends her disbelief long enough to search for the nearest cow and, in so doing, happens upon Steve in the middle of his rendezvous with the gangsters. Steve abandons his obligations to the mobsters to help Flavia, and the two of them find a cow just before midnight. At the stroke of midnight, the cow kneels and Flavia says a prayer for her mother. To everyone's delight, Helen revives. When Joe announces that he has found a job, and Steve decides to stay in New York to marry Susan, Flavia is finally convinced that happiness has been restored to her home.
Robert E. O'connor
Mary Eleanor Donahue
William R. Edmondson
Rudolph G. Kopp
Edwin B. Willis
Ralph E. Winters
Tenth Avenue Angel
Tenth Avenue Angel (1948) was one of O'Brien's most trouble-plagued films. Begun in 1946, this story of a New York tenement child who learns some hard truths about her family and friends took 18 months to reach theaters. It went through script and cast changes, retakes and cutting, and was not released until after The Unfinished Dance (1947), which O'Brien made after Tenth Avenue Angel. O'Brien was getting to the awkward age, no longer the adorable moppet, but she turns in a fine performance in a demanding role.
O'Brien was not the only underrated actress in the cast of Tenth Avenue Angel. By the age of 20, Angela Lansbury had received supporting actress Oscar nominations for her first film, Gaslight (1944), and for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). But Lansbury wasn't a conventionally glamorous leading lady, and MGM didn't quite know what to do with her. She was often cast as wicked women much older than herself. In Tenth Avenue Angel, she got to play the "good girl" for a change. As O'Brien's aunt, who is engaged to marry ex-con George Murphy, she even shares some touching moments with O'Brien.
Margaret O'Brien's last big hit would be the remake of Little Women (1949), in which she plays the doomed sister Beth. When O'Brien refused to go to Disney that same year for a planned live-action version of Alice in Wonderland, MGM suspended her. And in 1951, O'Brien retired from the screen at the age of 14. Later efforts at comebacks were largely unsuccessful, although she worked in dinner theater, and made some notable guest appearances on television, including one on the series Marcus Welby, M.D., starring her old MGM co-star Robert Young.
As for Lansbury, she would get her revenge on Hollywood, and find the stardom that eluded her in films on Broadway and on television. After leaving MGM in 1951, Lansbury gravitated toward the theater, at first in summer stock, and eventually in New York. In 1966, she triumphed in Mame, the stage musical version of Auntie Mame (1958). She not only won a Tony Award for the role, she went on to become the queen of the Broadway musical, scoring hits with a revival of Gypsy (1973), and Sweeney Todd (1979). But it was television that finally made Angela Lansbury a household name. In 1984, she began a long run as a Miss Marple-like sleuth, Jessica Fletcher, in the series Murder, She Wrote. The role was not much of a challenge, but Lansbury played it charmingly, and over the years, she and her producer husband gained more control over the show. In fact, Murder, She Wrote became a family affair in more ways than one. As executive producer, Lansbury had a say in casting, and often cast her old MGM friends and co-stars in guest roles. Among those who guest-starred on the show was...Margaret O'Brien.
Producer: Ralph Wheelwright
Director: Roy Rowland
Screenplay: Harry Ruskin, Eleanore Griffin, based on a story by Angna Enters and a sketch by Craig Rice
Editor: Ralph E. Winters, George Boemler
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Wade Rubottom
Music: Rudolph G. Kopp
Principal Cast: Margaret O'Brien (Flavia Mills), Angela Lansbury (Susan Bratten), George Murphy (Steve Abbott), Phyllis Thaxter (Helen Mills), Warner Anderson (Joseph Mills), Rhys Williams (Blind Mac), Barry Nelson (Al Parker).
by Margarita Landazuri
Tenth Avenue Angel
According to information contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, this production underwent several cast and script changes, as well as extensive retakes. While contemporary news items and production charts indicate that principal shooting on the film began on March 11, 1946 and ended on May 15, 1946, revisions to the CBCS indicate that filming was not completed until April 1947. The original SAB, dated February 28, 1947, attributed the screenplay to Eleanore Griffin, Ethel Hill and Dorothy Yost. A second SAB credited the screenplay to Griffin, Harry Ruskin and Robert Nathan. The final SAB credited Ruskin and Griffin only, as onscreen. The extent of the contributions of Hill, Yost and Nathan to the final film has not been determined.
An August 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Sharon McManus was set for the role played by Margaret O'Brien. Contemporary news items in M-G-M News noted that Larry Simms, Gloria Grahame and Moyna MacGill (the real life mother of Angela Lansbury) were set for roles, but they did not appear in the released film. A revised CBCS list, dated May 12, 1947, indicates that the characters played by Barry Nelson, Richard Lane and Claire Dubrey were added to the story in later filming. Actors listed in the original June 12, 1946 CBCS who were cut from the final film before its release include: Audrey Totter, Marissa O'Brien, Cameron Mitchell, Barbara Billingsley, Margaret Bert and Edna May Wonacott. Other actors who were listed in the original CBCS, but whose appearance in the final film has not been confirmed are: Della Clark, Charles Bates, Gary Gray, Nolan Leary, Charles Wagenheim, Larry Wheat, Angi O. Poulos, Andy Pomeroy, Ben Moselle, Lee Phelps, George Magrill, Mike P. Donovan, Lane Chandler, Jane Green, Ruth Cherrington, George Travell, Monte M. Singer, Henry Sylvester, John Webb Dillon, Howard Mitchell, Heinie Conklin, Jesse Arnold, Bruce Fernald and John Gilbreath.