Film Flick: Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street

Friday, December 21, 2012


Hello, Never Fully Dressed readers. With the holidays coming up, I've been running a special series sharing some of the holiday classics that have stood the test of time. Some might be new to you; some might be favorite films, but they're all sure to impart a sense of that holiday fun. Keep reading for the fourth- and final installment this year- of this series of holiday films! 




Do you believe in Sanata Claus? After seeing the Miracle on 34th Street, you just might.

When the Macy's Day Parade Santa Claus actor gets drunk moments before his float starts, the parade coordinator, Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), has to think on her feet to find a last-minute replacement. The man she finds is such a big success, the store hires him to be their 34th Street store's Sanata Claus (Edmund Gwen). Store managers are thinking twice about the decision when it turns out their Santa is recommending other stores to customers- and those doubts just continue to grow when it becomes clear the man really believes he's Kris Kringle himself! To Doris Walker and her young daughter Susan (Natalie Woods), who have trained themselves not to believe in any sort of fantasy,  it seems especially alarming. While Mrs. Walker is wondering if Macy's can really keep someone of uncertain sanity on the payroll, Mr. Kringle and Doris' beau Fred Galley (John Payne) are both wondering what it would take to make believers out of Susan and her mother. Things soon escalate out of control, and Kringle finds himself on trial, asking the courts- and the viewers- do you believe in Santa Claus?

According to her biographers, Natalie Woods certainly did believe.  It wasn't until seeing Edmund Gwen out of costume at the film's wrap party that she realized the man was not the real Sanata Claus. She wasn't alone either- thousands of children watching the 1946 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade watched Edmund Gwen, portraying the jolly old man himself,  making his way down the New York streets on Sanata's Sleigh to open the Macy Store for the Christmas shopping season as part of the parade. In fact, all of the parade scenes were shot live at the 1946 parade! With all the effort to make Santa so eminently believable  it might come as a surprise that this film wasn't released at Christmas time; it premiered in May. Studio Head Darryl Zanuck believed more people went to the movies in the summertime. The strange timing didn't seem to affect it's success though. Edmund Gwen won the Academy Award for best supporting actor (The only actor portraying Santa Claus to have ever done so), and the film also received the awards for best Original Story and Best Screenplay.


It has certainly held up well over the years, becoming a perennial favorite to generations of viewers, and it's not hard to see why. Miracle on 34th Street is surprisingly funny and briskly paced, never letting itself get bogged  down in sentimentality, even while having a clear message. The main cast is spectacular with Natalie Woods in particular being quite adorable as the overly serious Susan, but, for me, it was all the bit players that made the film. From the judge to Alvin the janitor, their concerns and antics jump off the screen.  So, when you're watching Miracle on 34th Street, perhaps you, too, will find yourself believing that Age of Miracles has not passed.

P.S. WANT MORE HOLIDAY CLASSIC FILMS? GET INTO THE SPIRIT WITH: HOLIDAY INN | WHITE CHRISTMAS | CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT |SHOP AROUND THE CORNER MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS | IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE | IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE | HOLIDAY | A CHRISTMAS CAROL |

12 comments

  1. I LOVE miracle on 34th street! Definitely one of my favorites.
    -Jessi
    haircutandgeneralattitude.blogspot.com

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  2. I just watched this last weekend! So adorable, I actually had never seen it the whole way through before, just glimpses of it on TV!

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    1. So glad you finally got to sit down and watch the whole thing. This was my first time watching it all the way through too (before I'd just seen bits and pieces on TV like you.)

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  3. I've actually never seen this one before! I really need to, it certainly is a classic film. I also didn't know it came out in May! I suppose it's nice to be reminded of Christmastime all year round :)

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    1. Well, the studio head also hadn't wanted to make the movie in the first place, so I'm sure that was part of it too.

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  4. I have to confess I prefer the newer version, but this one is undeniably a classic.

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    1. I actually watched the 1994 version after this one, and really enjoyed it too. It's a much more serious version, not a comedy, but some aspects I found much more fleshed out like the little girl and her mother. Plus, the courtroom scene had more impact.

      But I like the older version for Natalie Wood's charm and for the comedy of all the bit characters more :)

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  5. I can't believe I've never seen this one before and I'm almost ashamed to admit it. Every time I visit you blog I want to hole up under blankets and watch every classic you recommend! And thank you for your gift suggestions- i love love love the idea of getting his parents tickets to something we can all go to!

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    1. I'm glad the suggestions sparked some ideas at least! :)

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  6. We watched it this year too! It's such a short movie, but every moment is exactly right.

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