Miracle on 34th Street
Release year: 1947
Director: George Seaton
Screenwriter(s): George Seaton, Valentine Davies
Starring: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, Gene Lockhart, Porter Hall, William Frawley, Jerome Cowan, Philip Tonge
Rating: 3 oscars: Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn), Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Story. 1 Oscar Nomination: Best Picture.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #26, week 49 2014
A nice old man claiming to be Santa Claus is hired at Macy’s department store, but when his sanity is put in question, his friend and laywer Fred Gailey must defend his case.
Miracle on 34th Street one of those classic movies that are essential come Christmas time. Although it’s 1994 remake is probably more familiar, the Oscar winning 1947 original is not as sugar sweet as 1990’s family films sometimes are and most likely more to everyone’s taste. If you love It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street certainly isn’t one to miss. British actor Edmund Gwenn portrays Santa Claus with such sincerity that you end up wishing he was the real deal and his effort bagged him an Oscar. The movie starts off at the Thanksgiving Day parade, overseen by Maureen O’Hara’s logical and no-nonsense Doris, who bumps into Mr. Kris Kringle and decides to hire him as Macy’s new Santa Claus. This is an opportunity Mr. Kringle gladly takes as he is increasingly troubled by the commercialisation of Christmas and wants to remind people that Christmas spirit is a state of mind and not something you buy. When he meets aforementioned Doris and her daughter Susan, brought up not to believe in myths and fairy tales by her once brokenhearted mother. Kringle immediately makes it his business to make them believe again. Their neighbour, and Doris’s on/off love interest, Fred Gailey (John Payne), is much more idealistic and strongly believe that it is the things we cannot logically explain that makes life worth living. Naturally, he takes on Kringle’s case when it is brough before the court. Payne is wonderfully charming as Gailey, and while he and O’Hara’s character seem to clash valuewise, their attraction to each other never seems out of place. This is a Christmas movie without any Santa Claus maigc such as elfs and flying reindeer and as such is recommendable even to the more cynical among us. What it doesn’t lack is Christmas spirit and this is bound to put you in the right mood of the Christmas holidays!
According to Natalie Wood’s biographer, the young actress believed Edmund Gween to be the real Santa Claus and she didn’t relaise he wasn’t until she saw him out of costume at the wrap party. Edmund Gwenn was reported to be very good-natured on set and his beard was genuine, so her mistake was understandable.
The film was release on 4th June 1947 because the studio head believed that more people went to the cinema during the Summer.
Picture copyright: SF Film