Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Top 25 Christmas Movies List: #20 Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

     Miracle on 34th Street is a well-known film and Christmas favorite. Set in New York City, the event director for Macy's, Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) is forced to replace the current Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa when she discovers that he is intoxicated. She persuades a man that goes by the name of Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) to take his place. This new Santa is a hit with the crowd and so he is hired to become the new store Santa for the Macy's on New York's 34th Street.

    Upon meeting Doris' daughter Susan (Natalie Wood), Kris insists that he is the actual Santa Claus. Doris asks him to tell Susan that he isn't but he refuses. She then fires him, worried that his delusions might harm someone or affect her job but H. R. Macy himself arrives to commend her and is delighted with the publicity this new Santa has brought.

   So they decide to keep Kris employed with them but he will first have to undergo a psychological evaluation. He fails and is recommended for permanent commitment at Bellevue Mental Hospital.

   In order to have him released, he must be subject to a formal hearing with a judge from the New York Supreme Court. Represented by District Attorney Fred Gailey (John Payne), whom is also Doris' love interest, they plead his case that Kris is in fact The Santa Claus. The opposing lawyer wishes the judge to declare that Santa does not exist, which would jeopardize his chance at reelection. After several significant pieces of evidence and a few tricks up Fred's sleeve, the judge dismisses the case against Kris Kringle.

   While Fred celebrates his victory in court, little Susan is saddened by the fact that the one thing she asked Santa for never came about. But as Fred, Doris and Susan travel home, they are directed by Kris to follow a different route to avoid traffic, which eventually leads them across the path of Susan's dream house. It matches the drawing she gave Kris earlier and has a For Sale sign in the front yard. Fred is thrilled to see Doris' change of heart and how she now encourages her daughter to believe so he proposes they marry and purchase the house. In the end, Fred notices a cane leaning against the fireplace, one that looks suspiciously like the cane that Kris Kringle always carried. Hmmmm...

   This is one of the great Christmas stories that has become a beloved holiday classic. There are several versions and remakes but this 1947 version is the one that is most commonly thought of when it comes to film favorites.


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