Classic Christmas Movie Review #1 – Miracle On 34th Street
For all those who were expecting this sooner, I ask your forgiveness. My schedule didn’t work out like I hoped it would. But hopefully I will be able to be more consistent with the rest of the reviews.
My Synopsis (warning, full synopsis includes spoilers):
Directed by George Seaton in 1947, Miracle On 34th Street is a movie about a woman, Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), who has been disillusioned by the world due to past circumstances, and teaches her daughter that she should only believe in what she can see. Fairytales are not allowed and least of all Santa.
When Kris Kringle becomes an employee at Macy’s where she works, Doris has to come to terms with her beliefs and how helpful to life they really are.
In the apartment next to her and her daughter lives a lawyer by the name of Fred Gaily, (John Payne), who thinks a child should be able to believe in fairytales and Santa and have an imagination. At first Doris and Fred disagree but they soon become good friends, despite their difference in opinion.
Meanwhile, during his employment at Macy’s, Kris, in the spirit of Christmas, wants to help people and does so by directing them to the nearest place they might find what they are looking when they do not have it, which happens to be Gimbles, Macy’s competition. At first Doris and her fellow employee are shocked, but when Mr. Macy himself declares that it is a swell idea, they act more carefully.
Eager to see Susan, Doris’ daughter played by Natalie Wood, act like a normal child, Fred takes her to see Santa at Macy’s. Kris tells her that he really is Santa but Susie tells him her mother is the lady that hired him. Kris sees her skepticism, as well as her mother’s, and plots with Fred to bring them around.
Unfortunately for Kris, Doris and her fellow employee view Kris’ belief that he is Santa as potentially dangerous, being told by the staff psychiatrist Kris has “latent maniacal tendencies”. To prevent any such thing happening, they decide to have Kris stay with someone during the time he is not working at Macy’s. So Fred steps in and offers to share his apartment, hoping more time near Kris will change Doris’ mind.
While working at Macy’s, Kris makes friends with a boy who loves playing Santa for the kids. Upon hearing the boy was told by the psychiatrist, Sawyer, his love for playing Santa is the result of a guilt complex, Kris goes to visit Sawyer. The psychiatrist is completely unreasonable, angering Kris to the point of causing him to bop the man on the head. Sawyer, angry at Kris anyway, sees the situation as a means of removing him to an insane asylum.
They trick him into a ride and take him to Bellevue, leaving Kris to believe Doris was in on it all. In light of that fact, Kris intentionally fails his intelligence test and has commitment papers drawn up against him.
Fred arrives too late to save Kris, but he instead pledges to be his lawyer in the case.
To everyone’s surprise, Fred tells the court that he is not only going to prove Kris’ sanity but also that he is Santa Clause. The worlds eyes are on the New York County Courthouse as Santa Clause is on trial.
At first Fred endeavors to use the personal opinion of important people as proof, but his opponent challenges him to bring more sound proof, proof from a respected authority.
Distressed at the turn of events, Doris, having become very fond of Kris and what he stood for, encourages Susie to believe in him and not give up hope.
She tells her that faith is believing in what you can’t see. Sadly, Susie can’t simply believe having been taught for years that the opposite is true.
Fred comes to the point of almost giving up when he gets a message regarding the postal service.
Sacks and sacks of letters to Santa addressed to the courthouse are poured out in front of the judge (Gene Lockhart) who has to recognize the evidence as proof that a branch of the goverment believes Kris to be the real Santa.
Kris is now free, on the eve of Christmas and just in time too.
On Christmas morning, Fred, Doris, and Susie join Kris and many others for a celebration, but Susie is disappointed. Previously, she had told Kris that the thing she wanted most was a home in the country. When she doesn’t find anything under the tree related to that, she tells her mother that she was right all along, Kris really was “just a nice old man with whiskers”.
But Kris isn’t finished.
On the way home, Fred is driving through a subdivision after taking directions from Kris to keep them out of traffic. Susie suddenly calls for him to stop. She runs from the vehicle, Doris and Fred hot on her heels, and straight into a deserted house, the house pictured in the magazine clip she had shown to Kris.
Fred proposes Doris marry him and they can all live in the house together. He is stopped short upon seeing something familiar in the corner. Fred realizes that his amazing feat of proving Kris was Santa wasn’t so amazing after all.
Miracle on 34th Street has been a classic in my family for as long as I could remember. Definitely among the top six (which I labelled in the last post). The culture presented is utterly delightful. Or to put it more plainly, I love movies from the 40’s and 50’s. The clothing of the era are one of the things that attracts me the most. But not only that, I like the way of life. Naturally, people at that time were just as imperfect as we are today and people were a hundred years before. And yet there seems to be more of an ease to life compared to the way we are now. There are pros and cons to every era, but I digress.
Maureen O’Hara is one of my favourite actresses. Her temper, red hair, and Irish descent are all notable aspects of her character. She has played many good movies, almost all of which we have seen. Please don’t ask me to pick my favourite. I don’t think I could. Though The Spanish Main is at the top of the list. (I love Paul Henreid in that. The epitomy of a good pirate/buccaneer who has been wronged and wants revenge.)
John Payne, though never one of my top favourite male actors of the time, has played a lot of good movies and done a swell job of it too. Another movie with Maureen O’Hara and him is the wartime drama/comedy To The Shores Of Tripoli. O’Hara plays the strong tempered, hard to impress army nurse while Payne is a cocky marine who thinks because of his fathers good military reputation he should have the world. Its a good one.
Natalie Wood plays the little child Susie and does an excellent job of it, but other than The Searchers and The Great Race, I haven’t seen anything else with her. Her acting, when she got older, was too risque. Not my type of movies.
Edmund Gwenn is best known to me for two parts he played, other than this one, his role as Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1940) and the assassin in Foreign Correspondent (1940). Very different parts all together. Though as far as I know he never had a leading role, he was a supporting actor in many of the movies I’ve grown up watching. Even so, in my opinion his best role is the role of Kris in Miracle On 34th Street.
The movie was originally shot in black and white but as with so many of the classics, it has been restored and colorized. The restoration team does their best to choose the colors most accurate to the time, and if at all possible, the actual colors they were. I must admit, I like seeing them in color but its kind of bittersweet. You still know that the colors you are seeing isn’t the original. But its nice anyway. When I do the review on Holiday Inn, I will speak more on this subject.
And this wraps up the first of my Classic Christmas Movie Reviews. Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear what you think of my writing so don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. Until next time…