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October 4, 2015

Festivus Retro Squad: Miracle on 34th Street

by Bob Sassone, posted Dec 7th 2006 9:24AM
Miracle on 34th StreetWhat does it say about me that my two favorite movies of all-time - not just Christmas movies, but all movies - are It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. I only watch them during the month of December, maybe once in November, and they are both Christmas-oriented, but they are my two favorite flicks. I'll review It's A Wonderful Life a little bit later, but since AMC is running Miracle on 34th Street a lot this month (I think it's on a couple of times every day or something), let's take a closer look at this classic.

Miracle is one of those movies, like It's A Wonderful Life, that you just have to stop and watch if you're channel surfing and come across it. We all know the plot: Macy's in NYC hires a new Santa (whosays his name is "Kris Kringle") for their Thanksgiving Day Parade after the other Santa is too drunk. He's so well-received that he's hired by the store full-time for the holiday season. But problems occur when he insists he isn't just "playing" Santa, he really is Santa. This leads to a trial where his lawyer attempts to prove that he is indeed the only and only Santa Claus.

This is one of those feel-good family movies that also happens to be whip-smart and clever. And really well cast. Natalie Wood is incredible as the little girl who doesn't believe in Santa and has been raised to be very logical and practical by her mom (Maureen O'Hara) who is an exec at Macy's (cool that Macy's let them use the name and the store, eh? They refused that when the movie was remade in the 90s). She starts to crack when a lawyer (John Payne) moves in next door and falls in love with her mom and decides to take Kris Kringle's case.

All of the leads and all of the supporting cast are first-rate. You also get a real sense of what New York City was like in 1947, and on-location filming helps immensely.

If you've never seen the movie (though that's hard to believe), I won't give away the ending and whether or not the judge declares that Kringle is Santa or just crazy. Though the solution is reached with the help of the United States Post Office.

This is truly a great, film, one that's even heartwarming, though I always cringe when I use that word, because a lot of people think that heartwarming can't also mean intelligent and well done and maybe even a bit cynical. Don't watch the colorized version though. That's just wrong.

Some trivia:

  • The movie was released in May!
  • John Payne was almost James Bond. He bought the option on Moonraker in the 50s, paying $1000 a month, but dropped the plans when he found out he couldn't buy the rights to all of Ian Fleming's books.
  • Maureen O'Hara didn't want to do the movie at first, but changed her mind when she saw the script.
  • Wood was filming another movie at the same time (can't remember if it was The Ghost and Mrs. Muir or The Bride Wore Boots) and went from set to set.
  • That's Jack Albertson from Chico and the Man as the postal employee who comes up with the idea about the Santa letters.
  • There have been four other versions of Miracle on 34th Street: two TV versions in the 50s, a TV version in the 70s, and a big screen version in 1994 with Dylan McDermott and Elizabeth Perkins (not as good as this one by any means but it's enjoyable).
  • Wood later married Robert Wagner and drowned after falling off of a boat that had on board Wagner and Christopher Walken.

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Bob, if you love those 2 movies, please check out Scrooge. It is a musical version (but not an obnoxious musical) of Dicken's Christmas Carol that stars Albert Finney. Finney plays the best Ebeneezer I have seen to date. It is my all time favorite with 34th and Life coming in behind it.

December 11 2006 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Five other versions. There was a Broadway musical called "Here's Love," with a score by Meredith Willson ("The Music Man," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"). It was less than a hit.

December 07 2006 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tess Capra

How could you not throw props to twinkly Edmund Gwenn as Santa, who won an Oscar for the role (it won for screenplay as well). Natalie Wood listed him among her favorite actors in *The Book of Lists* so they had to have had a great working relationship.

Of course, the best scene is when Santa speaks Dutch to the little war refugee. Sniff. I tear up every single time.

December 07 2006 at 12:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this movie and best scene in black and white! No colorized versions for me. I have it on VHS and I pull it out every yea to watch while I'm wrapping Chritmas presents.

December 07 2006 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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