Miracle on 34th Street
Dec 6, 2017 | by Jessika Loucks
Is Santa Claus real?
A Christmas movie release in July? Miracle on 34th Street has become a wonderful classic, and made its way into many homes during the Christmas season, but did you know that this holiday film was actually released in July? Now you might be asking yourself why would anyone want to release a Christmas film in the middle of Summer? The answer is simple: Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of the studio, was convinced that people go to the movies more during warmer weather.
With big names like Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn and John Payne I can only imagine the pressure this film had to be successful. Miracle on 34th Street did not disappoint as the film grossed more than four times its budget and won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmund Gwenn), Best Original Story and Best Screenplay.
As always, the question is: do you think this Christmas in July film can live up to everyone’s rave reviews? Let’s take a look…
“Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind…”-Kris Kringle
This film starts off with a man walking down the street, accompanied by a beautiful score, and you find yourself feeling excited to see what this movie (and this white whiskered man) is all about! Next we see commotion happening all around and soon discover that we are behind the scenes of the Macy’s Thanksgiving’s Day parade. In the middle of all the hustle and bustle we meet Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) who seems to be running the whole show.
The kindly, white whiskered man Kris (Edmund Gwenn ) from the beginning of the film quickly informs Doris that her “Santa Claus” who is set to end the parade is drunk and should not be allowed to go on as planned.
Now in a bind, Doris asks Kris to step in since he looks very much like Santa Claus. With a little bit of coaxing Kris agrees and the parade is saved.
Up in a second-floor apartment we meet Susan (Natalie Wood), a small no-nonsense girl who is much too smart for her own good. She has been enjoying the parade with her neighbor across the hall, Fred Gailey (John Payne), who has a wonderful zest for life and a crush on Susan’s mother. While watching the parade we find out that Susan does not believe in Santa Claus and has a very practical way of looking at everything. Fred, disturbed by the fact that Susan has no imagination, puts his plan into the works to help Susan and her mother turn up their Christmas cheer.
“Susan, I speak French, but that doesn’t make me Joan of Arc.” -Doris Walker
The next day Doris offers Kris a Job at Macy’s department store playing Santa Claus to all the kids. Fred takes Susan to see Santa even though she has no interest in the silliness of it all and she see him sing a song to a little girl in another language (my favorite scene). This melody makes Susan stop and wonder if Kris really is Santa Claus.
Kris takes his job very seriously and it is strongly implied that he thinks that he truly is Santa. Though leery of his mental health, but touched by his sweetness, Doris decides to keep him on and watch after him, feeling that there is no threat of him becoming violent. Through a few twists and turns Kris ends up in a mental hospital and in a court room to prove if he is truly the real Santa Claus. Fred, now Kris’ attorney, is convinced that he is Santa and won’t rest until he proves it. Not only so that Susan and Doris will believe, but for all the kids in the world.
Will Doris and Fred end up together? Will Susan finally believe in Santa and use her imagination? Will Kris go free? And will Frank prove that Kris is the real Santa Claus?
Let me start by saying the acting in this film is wonderful! It’s no wonder that Natalie Wood went on to be a star, she definitely steals the show with her sassy but sweet personality. Everyone plays their roles fantastically, never leaving you to feel that someone else could have done better.
The music is fun and light, adding to the whimsical feel of the film. In short you will laugh, you will cry, and you will leave feeling joyful.
“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”-Fred Gailey
As wonderful as this film is, at times it can be slow and may not keep the attention of a child. There are two instances with people drunk, but it is not seen in a positive light.
“I believe… I believe… It’s silly, but I believe.” – Susan
So does Miracle on 34th Street truly deserve to be considered a Christmas Classic? The answer is yes! The hope, love and wonder of Christmas is fully felt in this film and is a wonderful addition to any Christmas film collection!