Miracle On 34th Street (1947)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1947.  .  Story by , Screenplay by George Seaton.  Cinematography by , .  Produced by . Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Although not as ubiquitously adored as It’s A Wonderful Life as classic Christmas movies go, this one has the advantage of being much sassier than Capra’s heartwarmer. is excellent as a Macy’s employee who is in serious trouble when the Santa Claus she has hired for the annual Christmas parade turns up drunk and unable to fulfill his duties.  A kindly older gentleman (Edmund Gwenn) shows up and insists he is right for the job, which he does so well that he is then hired as the store’s Santa for the holiday period, charming everyone around him with his sparkly personality and social ease.  Calling himself Kris Kringle and assuring everyone that he actually is the man from the North Pole, the impish senior gets in trouble when he tells children to go to other department stores to find toys that aren’t available at Macy’s, which nearly gets him fired until the store’s executives find a way to turn his tactic into something with which to promote their own confident good nature.  Meanwhile, O’Hara’s daughter (a young and already commanding Natalie Wood) doubts his claims that he is Santa Claus but slowly gives in to his appeal, all the while the store’s vengeful staff psychiatrist puts the old man’s claims to the test and gets him in trouble with the law.  Rife with message that question the morality of post-war capitalism, the film was made before this kind of healthy skepticism would raise Red Scare flags; seeing O’Hara and fall in love while rich old men find ways to succeed in business without really trying is a cinematic three course meal, a movie with a message that is also genuinely lovely and heartfelt.  Gwenn’s incredibly deft comedic turn steals the show, however, deservedly winning an Academy Award for a deep good cheer that is rooted in something much deeper than sentimental fluff (you’ll fall as much in love with him when he speaks to a little Dutch refugee as Wood does).  Remade in 1994 with Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson (and with a hearing-impaired girl in the film’s most endearing scene).

Academy Awards:  Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn); Best Motion Picture Story; Best Screenplay
Nomination:  Best Picture

Golden Globe Awards:  Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn); Best Screenplay

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