Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The year after It’s A Wonderful Life, the cinema was graced with another classic that some would think is a complete commercial for Macy’s upon first glance. Luckily, Miracle on 34th Street challenges our belief in a supernatural being and something beyond our reality. Thanks, possibly crazy guy who thinks he is Santa.
On Thanksgiving Day, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is walking around New York and stumbled upon a drunk Santa who is expected to be in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He speaks to the parade manager Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) about the inebriated Claus and takes up the position of being the replacement. This chain of events leads him to be the Macy’s store Santa. Of course, no one believes he is Father Christmas with the main one being Doris’ daughter of no imagination, Susie (Natalie Wood). They even go as far to have a court case after a scuffle with the store’s psychiatrist Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall) to prove if he is the real deal. With the help of faithful family friend Fred Gailey (John Payne), they succeed in the court case and Christmas is saved.
Miracle on 34th Street is an interesting film that takes it’s subject matter very seriously with some subtle moments of humor. The actors are believable in their disbelief of this man who is too good to be true. Gwenn plays this role to a tee. He oozes the essence of Ol’ Saint Nick with charisma and charm. All he wants is to do great things, ensure hope remains in tact and give back the children and families of the world. Gwenn even pulls now punches when Kringle has to smack Sawyer in the head with an umbrella. This scene proved that though Santa may be a kind being, but he does not have time for dishonest people’s bull. His relationship with Susie is grand as a young Natalie Wood acts gracefully and with intelligence. O’Hara also gives great work as a skeptical mother who avoids being close to the realm of fantasy.
The standout of the film is the plot itself. It takes the task of trying to make this magical being real ad determines what is fantasy or reality. Could this man actually be Santa or is it a man that is quite delusional and associates himself with the character? There’s a substantial amount of evidence that he is the genuine article. The skeptics are unsure and afraid of what he can do. It is close to God descending from the heavens as someone among the people. If he says his god and acts like our ideal version of God, does that truly makes him God? Who knows, no one really does. The conclusion of Kris winning his case with Christmas cards to the North Pole asking him for parents is the only viable evidence that, yes, this man does exist. Heck, even the audiences watching might wonder “Is he?” It’s interesting and even I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it.
Miracle on 34th Street is a classic in the purest form and will continue to dazzle and challenge beliefs for years to come.
Next time, we get out of the 40’s and enter briefly into the 50’s and embrace ourselves in a little song and dance in the white Christmas snow.