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Miracle on 34th Street is a wonderful classic that confronts the belief of Santa head on
What do you do when you have to prove to a court of law that, not only are you the person you claim to be, but that you exist in the first place? 1947's Miracle of 34th Street tackles this issue in a very charming film that, for a movie featuring Santa Claus, has very little magic in it. None at all really.
Now, I'll state right now that I never saw the 1994 version with Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson because I was in highschool when it came out and not particularly interested in a new Christmas movie. And I've always liked the original enough that I never felt the need to seek out the remake. I'm sure it's fine, but that's not the one I'm talking about here.
The story follows a young old man who calls himself Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) and claims to be the one and only Santa Claus. He takes up a job at Macy's department store, pretending to be a fake Santa Claus. He makes friends with a cute, disillusioned young girl named Susan (Natalie Wood), the daughter of Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), the woman at Macy's who hired him. She's told her daughter the "truth" regarding Santa Claus and insists on raising a sensible, rational girl who doesn't even know how to pretend to be a monkey.
People who know him begin to worry that Kris' delusion about being Santa Claus may cause problems and eventually he ends up in court (it's a hearing, not a trial) defending himself and his right to lawfully sneak into other people's houses in the middle of the night and eat their cookies.
It's charming and Natalie Wood (later to star as Maria in West Side Story) is very good for a child actor.
The movie forces you to analyze the wisdom of telling your kids there either is or isn't a Santa Claus. I don't mean to use this hub as a soapbox to tell others how to raise their own kids, but personally, I have no issue with telling them the truth: That Santa Claus exists.
I don't know about you, but I don't know of any specific moment when I came to the earth-shattering realization that he didn't. I simply gradually grew out of the belief. But I remember fondly the wonder that I had growing up and I think children deserve to have their imaginations fueled.
Now, you can tell your kids that Santa is ... shal we say 'less real'? And if you do, that doesn't mean you're teaching your kids not to have any imagination. I understand not setting up your kids for a fall. But that fall isn't necessarily all that bad.
Personally, I like the way Orson Scott Card deals with that question. He tells his kids that there is a Santa, but he's not the main focus of the gift giving. They only get their stocking stuffers and one present from Santa. The rest are from their parents and family members. That keeps the kids from idolizing the jolly old fraud so much as to crush their minds when they stop believing.
But to each their own.
Now, I have to wonder how much the legal antics of Kris Kringle's lawyer, Fred Gailey (John Payne), would actually work in a real court of law. But as presented here, this one is delightful and fun.
For me, this one gets an 8 / 10.
Miracle on 34thStreet is unrated and has nothing at all to worry a parent who wants to show this one to their kids.
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Christmas is coming. Which means a whole new batch of movies to tell you how to celebrate it. But what about all those Christmas movies that are already out? What made them Christmasy in the first place.