If you haven't seen it:
Miracle on 34th Street is the story of a sweet old man with a white beard who gets a job as a department store Santa Claus in the run up to Christmas. Before long, he is causing controversy, by claiming that he is in fact the real Father Christmas.
This is a sentimental film that teaches us about love, faith, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas. However it does it with enough humor and style for it not to seem too cloying. It also features a fine Santa Claus in Edmund Gwenn, and, unusually for the day, a child star who could actually act (Natalie Wood).
Miracle on 34th Street was
successfully remade in the 1990s. I think most young people will prefer
the pace and humor of the remake, but there are definitely aspects of
the original that are better than the 1990s version, and for that reason
the original is still well worth watching.
If you have seen it:
Scroll down past the adverts and the trailer for more.
Click below to watch the trailer:
Santa Claus: (noun) Fat northerner who spies on your
children and breaks into your home once a year,
but in a good way.
Miracle on 34th Street begins with an old man who calls himself "Kris
Kringle" watching a thanksgiving parade in New York City. He notices
that the Santa Claus on one of the floats is drunk, and informs the
event director, Doris Walker (from Macy's Department Store on 34th
Street). At Doris's request, Kris replaces the inebriated actor on the
float, and he does such a good job he is offered the role of store Santa
at Macy's over the Christmas period.
Kris excels as store Santa, being a hit with children and parents alike, especially when it is revealed that his is multi-lingual and can talk to children who do not speak English. However, when he starts advising parents that certain toys which Macy's do not stock are available in other stores, Doris panics, and thinks she will have to fire him. Kris's refreshing honesty proves so popular with Macy's customers though, that the store's senior management decide to adopt it as their store policy, and it becomes a great sales gimmick.
"Next you'll be telling me you don't believe
in Mr Big Fat Star Man"
While working at Macy's, Kris lodges with Fred Gailey, a lawyer, who is
Doris's neighbor, and who is clearly trying to woo her. Kris also
spends some time with Doris's six-year-old daughter Susan. When Susan
tells Kris that she does not believe in Santa Claus, Kris informs her
that not only does Santa Claus exist, but that he is in fact the real
Santa Claus himself. When Kris repeats these claims directly to Doris,
she becomes worried about his sanity, and arranges for him to have a
psychiatric test. The test does not go well for Kris - he inadvertently
antagonizes the examiner, Granville Sawyer, who declares him unstable
and dangerous. However, Doris gets a second opinion from another doctor
who has known Kris for years, and this doctor says Kris is a sweet and
harmless old man.
However, Kris and Sawyer soon clash again; Kris accuses Sawyer of exploiting a naive young man at Macy's, and he hits Sawyer over the head with his walking stick. The angry Sawyer arranges for Kris to face a commitment hearing.
Fred volunteers to defend Kris at the hearing. The case attracts a lot of publicity, and it soon becomes clear to the judge that it would be a disaster for his own re-election campaign if he became known as the judge who ruled that Santa Claus does not exist (and even worse, his own grandchildren would fall out with him). All he needs is a plausible reason to rule in Kris's favour.
Somebody needs to adjust their spam filter.
Steve Sunday says:
Miracle on 34th Street was a big hit in its day, but now it has been rather eclipsed by the 1994 remake with Richard Attenborough. I do like the remake, and I think there are several things that it does better: I prefer Attenborough to Gwenn (despite Gwenn having the better beard), and I prefer the sign-language scene to the Dutch speaking scene. Also I was rather taken aback at seeing Santa in the original batter a man with a heavy stick, and I think it was right to remove that from the remake. However, for me, where the remake got it badly wrong, was in changing the ending to the commitment hearing. They took out the brilliant and iconic mailbags scene and replaced it with a toe-curlingly awful scene which made no sense. In the remake a little girl gives the judge a dollar - a reminder that "In God We Trust." This is supposed to suggest that if people can believe in God then why not believe in Santa Claus? Well, I really do not know where to start with that argument, so I will just say that if I had been the judge, I would have had everyone involved arrested for attempted bribery.
Maureen O'Hara as Doris Walker.
John Payne as Frederick M. Gailey
Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle
Natalie Wood as Susan
Written and directed by George Seaton