Xmas: 'Miracle On 34th Street' (1947) Dir. George Seaton
The original classic that was remade numerous time for new generations of audiences retains a quiet, black and white charm that captures real warmth from a strong cast...
When cheery and well-spirited Kris Kringle (Gwenn) accepts a job as Santa in Macy’s flagship New York City store, he becomes well-loved among colleagues and the shoppers for decent Christmas spirit.
Director Doris Walker (O’Hara) also warm to Kris, but daughter Susan (Wood) is sceptical of Christmas as a whole and harder to sway. Even their neighbour and attorney Fred Gailey (Payne), can’t convince Susan that Santa is real.
But as Kris stands by the fact he IS the real Santa more and more, a mean-spirited psychologist, Granville Sawyer (Hall) fixes Kris up to be declared mentally insane.
Doris and Fred can’t let Kris succumb to lies, and so set out to prove in a court of law that Kris is the real Santa with as much evidence and good faith as they have…
Spawning 3 remakes (2 film and 1 TV movie), the original here stands the test of time as one of the first and best Christmas films embodying all that relates to the season; good-will to all men, festive cheer and the gift of believing in Christmas magic. And it does it all without the current run of slapstick farce and pulse-pounding soundtracks.
As is the way from this golden era of film-making, it’s all very simple in design and style, made more nostalgic by the black and white colouring, and focuses on character relationships over anything else. Edmund Gwenn is a fine Santa Claus here, brimming with a fluffy white beard and a wide-eyed warmth (worthy of the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award), and his co-stars Maureen O’Hara and John Payne are those well-spoken, clean cut and pretty middle-class folk who are just one of many who can’t deny the appeal of Christmas and the joy it brings when you stop trying to fight the “what ifs”.
Young Natalie Wood is on fine form as Susan, and her time with Gwenn is really sweet, as are most of Gwenn’s scenes either promoting his identity of Santa or taking part in the well shot Macy’s NYC parade. It's no surprise to learn that Gwenn won an Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actor' thanks to a real humane, warm portrayal of Santa Claus that goes beyond the suit and shiny belt.
With a nefarious plot to bring down Kris Kringle and the belief in Santa, it paves the way for a nice courtroom drama to end things, and it’s another example of family friendly film-making that doesn’t need silly violence, crude comedy or swearing. Just an outcome that is uplifting and heartwarming in good measure for this time of year.
It’s a film with very simple morals and a very simple message that is equally simple in production, but with lots of festive cheer and heart for audiences to settle in with.
'Miracle On 34th Street' is a 20th Century Fox production