For anyone, young or old, who ever doubted the existence of Santa Claus, those doubts were summarily laid to rest in the immortal 1947 holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street. Only the most jaded scrooge could have a heart impervious to the charm that has made this a tradition holiday favorite ever since its original release.
It’s the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City and the person chosen to portray Saint Nick is just a little too jolly. In fact, he is intoxicated. This greatly displeases a man named Kris Kringle who complains to the event’s director, Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara). Noticing a remarkable resemblance to
Santa, she hires him to play the role instead, which soon lands him a job at Macy’s as the store Santa. The public soon falls in love with the big guy but Doris is a bit unnerved by his claims that he really is Santa.
When neighbor and lawyer, Fred Gailey (John Payne) is babysitting Susan one day, he takes her to see Santa, an act that greatly displeases Doris, who doesn’t want her daughter’s head filled with silly fantasy. When she asks Santa to tell Susan the truth, he insists that he is the real deal and soon, the man’s mental health is called into question. She can’t get him fired because the public adores him and Mr. Macy himself loves the sales that Kris is generating. Eventually, the whole thing leads to the courtroom, with Mr. Gailey representing the red-suited fellow. Together they must find a way to prove that he is who he says he is amidst a world of skeptics.
In what would prove to be a brilliant casting move, Edmund Gwenn was given the role of jolly old Kris Kringle. With his grandfatherly voice and kindly cherubic face, it didn’t even matter that he didn’t possess the necessary gut to fill out the suit. For millions of kids who have watched the film over the years, his portrayal left them with little doubt that he was who he claimed. Gwenn would eventually win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role.
And to this day, Miracle on 34th Street remains one of the most beloved Christmas films ever produced. It has been remade numerous times, as recently as 1994, but none have ever quite managed to capture the sweet charm of the original. Luckily, the original still gets plenty of airtime each holiday season, and serves to persuade kids of all ages that maybe their cynical friends have the Santa thing all wrong.
Is this film a part of your must-see list each holiday season? As a kid, did it reinforce your belief in the big jolly guy? Share your memories of watching Miracle on 34th Street with all of us in our comments section as we tip our hats to this timeless classic.