Directed By: George Seaton Released: June 11, 1947
Tis the season, and I have been on a Christmas high. All month I’ve been pouring over Christmas or holiday films and trying to find “the one.” Growing up I had a very specific set of films that I would watch every year, which after talking with many of friends was how they grew up as well. Means I never got to experience some of the classics, and now that I’m older and here with my very own, shiny review site, I wanted to view as many as I could and see if, without nostalgia, they were any good to begin with. Well, I think I found it. “The One.” The film to make me feel that holiday cheer. Miracle on 34th St.
Some eagle eyed readers may have noticed something. This is not a review. I felt it was unnecessary to “review” such a film because, well, it inspires such joy. Critiquing it feels wrong. When really it only gives me joy on viewing. After watching Miracle on 34th St, I think I finally understand the meaning of Christmas. I’ve seen a little bit of everything, and while most films can at least give an insight as to what Christmas means, I don’t think anything else quite captures the same message of Miracle.
Kris Kringle is walking around New York one fine Thanksgiving day when he sees the Macy’s Day Parade getting ready to take its annual trip around the square. While trying to help the Santa for the float, he notices something…this man is drunk! That can not be, the children will be so disappointed. In the spirit of helping out, ol’ Kris Kringle agrees to assist for the float, and in extension the job itself. Now he needs to help everyone involved and slowly but surely spread good will and holiday cheer to the world, even if it is just a job.
Edmund Gween is the only person in film history to win an Oscar (1948 Best Supporting Actor) for portraying Santa, and for good reason. This man may actually be the real Santa. He constantly radiates kindness on screen, a jolly smile on his face and with a real beard to top it all off. According to the cast (thanks, trivia page on IMDB) the little girl who played Susie (Natalie Wood) really believed Gween was the real Santa while filming. I don’t blame her, he really gives off an air of pureness I haven’t seen before on screen.
The film also did something extremely unique that I think needs to be pointed out. Santa gets hired to be the Santa in the Macy’s Day Parade. Well, that isn’t just some stunt. That is the real, 1947 Macy’s Day Parade. They had to set up camera all around the block and inside apartments overlooking the parade to get the opening scenes, and with the nature of the shoot they had to be fast and needed to be perfect on the first take. In the world of film, that’s insane. But it worked out beautifully, the authenticity involved and the very concept of having one of the largest retailers in the world be used as a backdrop of the film is incredible. It adds to the magic. I was absorbed throughout.
It’s been one paragraph since I talked about how great Gween is, I think that’s enough time. I love the direction they went with the character, it’s so different than any other version of Santa in film. He isn’t there on a mission, to see if people still believe in him, to find some meaning of the holidays. No, he’s just around town and just so happens to get a job as Santa for a parade. Every action he does in Miracle on 34th St is only motivated by his innate desire to help people. This spreads to everyone, as even giant corporations change their views on how to do business just because this one Santa is so kind. That’s what I think sets this movie apart, just how kind and realistic Santa is portrayed.
I do have to mention that the rest of the cast is just as great at setting up Santa. One aspect that “shocked” audiences back in 48′ is that our main heroine, Doris Walker (played by the lovely Maureen O’Hara) is a divorced woman who is just trying to raise her daughter right. By that I mean she’s going to learn how the world works the hard way. It’s difficult to wrap her mind around the idea that Santa may be real, and that her daughter shouldn’t get her hopes up. Beside her, and trying his best to be a friend…maybe something more, is Fred (the equally talented John Payne) and he steps up quickly to help Santa and is the first to truly believe that maybe this old man may actually be the real deal. The core cast is all incredible, giving so much weight to every scene.
Some of you may already be in love with Miracle on 34th St and to that I say “lucky.” I wish I had seen this so much sooner. I loved every second of it. Before I go, I want to tell you my favorite scene of this fine film. Kringle need to complete his duties as this years Macy’s Santa, so he goes to sit down with the kids. They sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. He is directing the parents to any store that has the toy in question, which is against policy but that’s not the important part. A mother comes up and tells Santa that her daughter is an orphan from Poland, and doesn’t speak English but insisted on meeting him. Without hesitation, ol’ Kris Kringle starts speaking perfect Dutch and pulls the little girl onto his lap. To anyone not fluent in the language, you won’t know what they are saying. I have the internet to help me out. He asks her what she would want for Christmas. The little girls tells Santa, “nothing, I already got it when I was adopted by my new mother.” That melted this poor critics heart. I felt that Christmas spirit right then and there.
Well, that’s just one holiday film that I’ve seen this month. Have you seen any? Sat down, got some hot cocoa and spent time with family? Tell me about them below. And as always, you can read more reviews and what not here on his website. Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas to all!