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Anything Can Happen

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Anything Can Happen

For the Ellie Goulding song, see Anything Could Happen.
Anything Can Happen
Directed by George Seaton
Written by George Papashvily, George Seaton
Starring José Ferrer, Kim Hunter, Kurt Kasznar, Oscar Beregi, Sr.
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Daniel L. Fapp
Editing by Alma Macrorie
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) 1952
Running time 107 mins.
Country United States
Language English

Anything Can Happen is a 1952 film directed by George Seaton.

Jose Ferrer stars as Giorgi Papashvily, who immigrates from Georgia in the Soviet Union and becomes Americanized. Based on a 1945 best-selling biographical novel by Papashvily, the film also stars Kim Hunter, fresh from her Oscar-winning turn in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Plot

The film follows Papashvily from his arrival and initial interview on Ellis Island, through his early jobs on New York's bustling Lower East Side. His friend, Nuri (Kurt Kasznar), who had arrived in New York earlier and speaks English, leads the way, telling Giorgi that he'll help him get an outdoor job with plenty of fresh air. Instead, they find themselves carrying buckets and pouring hot tar on rooftops.

Giorgi, who didn't speak a word of English when he arrived, works diligently to learn the language, practicing troublesome consonants ("W" and "V") in the mirror. He also shares a house with fellow Georgians. Cited by the police with some of his fellow countrymen for picking flowers in Central Park, he refuses to pay the fine because he didn't pick the flowers (although he was present) and it would wrong to admit to a crime he did not commit.

Appearing before the Judge on principle, he explains what happened. The Judge, taken by his honesty and obvious character, finds him not guilty after the arresting police officer admits that he didn't actually see Giorgi pick any flowers. The Judge shakes Giorgi's hand, thanking him for brightening his courtroom.

Giorgi has also caught the eye of the pretty court reporter, Helen Watson (Kim Hunter), who is equally moved by Giorgi's simple but eloquent defense. She invites him over to her house because her hobby is recording folk music and she wants Giorgi to identify some music. It turns out that Giorgi has a pretty good voice as well. A fast but proper friendship develops between Helen and Giorgi.

Helen has also recorded another musician who turns out to be Georgi's "Uncle John" (Oscar Beregi, Sr.) a friend from the old country and now a chef in New York, who Giorgi has been looking for since his arrival. Giorgi moves into Uncle John's house which he shares with a colorful group of fellow Georgian emigres. Giorgi dreams of becoming a U.S. citizen and noticing the hints from Helen (she calls him "darling"), also dreams of marrying her. But he lacks a bit of self-confidence in the area of romance.

Meanwhile, a few comic scenes ensue, notably one about an expanding loaf of dough, which Nuri understandably mispronounces as "duff" (i.e. "enough," "rough") There are further scenes of immigrant life. Just when Giorgi is about to reveal his feelings for Helen, at the behest of Uncle John, she announces that she needs to go to California to look after a sick aunt who raised her. She promises to be back shortly. She leaves Giorgi with a plant to take care of for her.

Weeks turn into months and Uncle John encourages Giorgi to go out to California. When he hesitates, Uncle John quits his job at the restaurant and announces he is going to California and asks Giorgi if he would like to come. Soon the whole household picks up and decamps to Southern California. There, they connect with a reclusive fellow Georgian. Meanwhile, something appears to have changed with Helen, who has taken a job. Giorgi purchases a house and farm he can't afford and becomes an Orange tree farmer.

He still hasn't asked Helen to marry him. She confesses to her bedridden aunt that she doesn't feel a cold chill down her back with Giorgi and doesn't want to marry anyone until she is sure. The aunt discourages Helen's romanticism, telling her that she can get that chill from a cold shower. A past romance is discussed, which apparently didn't end well. A frost comes and threatens to ruin the orange crop. Helen rushes out to the farm and orders everyone to stop standing around and to light fires to keep the crop warm. Giorgi, deeply moved, asks Helen to marry him. She immediately says yes. Nuri and his friends arrive in a car from New York and Giorgi reveals the news. Uncle John becomes ill and a judge gives him a citizenship test and he becomes a citizen, dying shortly thereafter.

Reaction

A paen to immigrant energy, as well as the transformative and socially mobile American ideal, "Anything Can Happen" is a well intentioned and well acted comedy. Filled with fine character actors, it features strong and moving performances by Ferrer and Hunter. One tends to overlook the cliches and enjoy its feel good moments. All of the characters are happy to be in the United States where they can still maintain their cultural identity. There is practically nothing in the way of prejudice presented.

Based on a biographical novel by Giorgi Papashvily, the novel actually commences in California and has the main protagonists moving east to a farm in Pennsylvania. Undoubtedly, Hollywood chose to focus it in New York and California to capitalize on large immigrant populations.

A review in the New York Times by Bosley Crowther was negative. He found the sentimentality unattractive and the story unbelievable. He also criticized the performance by Ferrer as passive and that of Hunter as "disturbingly unreal." Coming as the film does in the midst of the McCarthy era, the Korean War, the Cold War and the aftermath of World War II, Crowther found the idea of a "youthful south Georgian emigrating to these shores as well nigh absurd." Looking at the film some sixty years later, these criticisms are certainly well taken, but the myth-making and idealism that Crowther found so jarringly unreal has a quaint appeal. In an era of hyper partisanship and with immigration such a hot button issue, the story provides a comforting view of a past when immigrant energy was both unstoppable and refreshing. Crowther is right in questioning how the film ever got made in the first place.

Ironically, the McCarthy era's excesses affected the careers of both Ferrer and Hunter. Hunter's last film for five years with "Anything Can Happen." Ferrer was called to testify before the House Un American's Committee. According to Turner Classic Movie's, the film won a Golden Globe as "Best Picture Promoting International Understanding." The film does not appear to be available on DVD.

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
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