Film Review: Miracle on 34th Street
In 1947, George Seaton released Miracle on 34th Street, based on a story by Valentine Davies. Starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, Porter Hall, and Gene Lockhart, it grossed $3.15 million at the box office.
The New York City Macys hires a charming old man to be their mall Santa, who even has the name Kris Kringle. However, he sees himself as more than just a seasonal employee. He tells customers where to find better prices or even where toys can be found, even if it means sending them to the competition. The customers might like him, but the company psychologist wants to get him committed for claiming he’s the real Santa Claus.
Well-made and and enjoyable Miracle on 34th Street has aged very gracefully and still holds up after all these years. One reason for it continuing to be so well-loved are the themes present throughout the story. The biggest being the importance of childlike wonder, faith and belief. For most of the characters that Kris crosses paths with, they admit that they do believe he is who he say she is, whether they really want to or not. It starts with Susan, who’s been raised to not believe in “silly” things like fairy tales or fantasies, but simply meeting Kris causes her to wonder about having faith in someone like Santa and culminates in writing him a letter telling Kris she believes in him. Kris’ adamancy and Susan’s contagious belief even goes so far as to touch Susan’s mother, Doris. She decided to raise Susan the way she did so her daughter could avoid foolishness, but seeing Susan so dead set on believing in Kris, she realizes there is room for what she tried to stamp out. When Susan writes a letter, Doris adds that she believes in him as well.
As stated above, many of the characters eventually admit that they do believe Santa is real. What’s interesting is that many of them do so because they’re initially just plain cynical and are looking out for themselves. The judge wants Kris to be found sane primarily because he’s up for re-election and presiding over the case that declares Santa to not be real would mean no one would vote for him. Further, the post office just want to be rid of all those letters to Santa, so the natural course of action would be to send all those letters to the courthouse, which is the final straw to end the case. The prosecutor is also just doing his job, which he states to be hating more and more. He doesn’t want to declare that Santa doesn’t exist because his son is watching and the newspapers are making him look bad. So he, too, concedes in Santa’s existence. Mr. Macy doesn’t want bad press either, which will come alongside a huge loss of shoppers if he admits that his Santa isn’t real. It takes him thinking of his customers and the children that have left happy to admit he believes Kris is real.
Fred, Kris’ attorney, believes that he’s being truthful, leading him to throwing away the normal courtroom rules and deciding to do what’s right to get Kris out of there. He’s professional, but he’ll guilt trip and manipulate using Christmas sentimentality, like using the prosecutor’s son, to legitimize his case. Since the judge really didn’t want the fallout of what would happen if Kris was found insane, he gave Fred as much room as he could to do so.
Though Kris is found sane, the question stands still stands if he actually was the real Santa Claus. The film doesn’t give an explicit answer and the viewer is left to decide. Yet, somehow Kris’ cane appears in a house he’s never been in and shouldn’t have been able to get in in the first place.
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- Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmund Gwenn)
- Best Writing, Original Story
- Best Writing, Screenplay
Golden Globe Awards
- Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn(
- Best Screenplay
Locarno International Film Festival Awards
- Best Screenplay, Adapted
National Film Preservation Board
- National Film Registry
Online Film & Television Association
- OFTA Film Hall of Fame - Motion Picture
- Best Picture