Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
176 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Sweet movie not without social comment
whitey5415 September 2004
This is certainly a lovely warmhearted movie, but since other reviewers have described the plot in detail, I'll move on to other topics.

I love movies like this for the insight they provide into the customs of a lost era. Watch the clothing - everybody is so dressed up! - women in dresses, gloves, and hats, men in hats and suits. Notice that when O'Hara enters a room filled with Macy's executives, even though they are the bosses and she is lower management, they all stand up instantly.

The social satire, most on display in the courtroom scenes, also is very 1940s. Apparently audiences of that era took a kind of genial corruption in the judicial system in stride. Business leaders, like "Mr. Macy" were expected to be sharp and profit-oriented, but also decent people like the rest of us. It's a much more nuanced view than the "businessman as criminal villain" so common in today's movies.

The character played by Maureen O'Hara probably needs explanation for modern viewers. Late 1940s audiences knew that the social and economic situation of a divorced working woman with a child was much more precarious than it is now. Divorce was still somewhat shocking - this is brought out neatly in the movie when her would-be lover does a double take when he learns from her daughter about the divorce - he probably had assumed she was a war widow. Divorced moms were still rare in the middle classes. Society universally agreed that women should stay home to raise their children. Economically, women in management positions were still very rare, couldn't expect promotion, and were last hired, first fired. I think O'Hara's performance brings out these qualities in a way that the audience of the 1940s would have understood easily. The character's stiffness, fear of losing control, and anxiety about her job make a great deal of sense. It would have been nice to see a few scenes showing her loosening up, perhaps at dinner with her boyfriend; no doubt those got left on the cutting room floor.

I really like the scene where Santa talks to the little Dutch orphan. First, this scene also must have resonated with the audience; in 1947 the western European countries had only started to recover from World War II, and probably many Americans were familiar with the idea of adopting a war orphan, just as many sent CARE packages. Second, by making Santa fluent in Dutch, the writer cleverly left the viewer thinking that hey, he might really be Santa Claus (isn't Santa Claus fluent in all languages)?

Some reviewers don't like the acting and think that modern actors are "better". I think the older actors aren't better or worse, just different. The audiences of the 1940s expected a certain style of acting, and the directors and actors gave that to them. Then as now, Hollywood paid top dollar and got very talented people, but like all of us they were shaped by their own time and place, more particularly the requirement to make movies that audiences would like. Move Maureen O'Hara to 2004, or Tom Cruise to 1947, and you'd see them acting in the style of that decade.
132 out of 134 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Santa is in New York!
ericglunneborg9 December 2003
The movie starts out in a festive atmosphere. It is Thanksgiving and the employees of Macy's department store are busy with preparations for the annual Thanksgiving day parade. Doris. Walker (Maureen O'Hare) is in charge of the parade. She anxiously hires Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) to replace the man she hired to play Santa Claus when she discovers the original Santa is too intoxicated to even get on the float. Kris does such a good job that Mrs. Walker asks him to stay on in the role and be the department store's Santa. She soon has serious doubts about her decision when she discovers that her new Santa really believes he is Santa Claus.

Mrs. Walker is working, single mother, who works for Macy's Department Store in New York City. Natalie Wood plays her daughter, Susan. As the result of a failed Marriage, Doris raises her daughter to accept reality. There is no room for fantasy or make believe in her life. Susan is a quiet, child who acts more like a grown up than a 6 year old. She has difficulty using her imagination, and has become just as skeptical as her mother.

Since Kris, believes that "the important thing is to make children happy," winning the affection of Susan and her mother is his main objective.

Whether or not Kris is the real Santa Claus, there is no doubt that he seem to have an influence on almost everyone he meets--except for Macy's staff psychologist .Mr. Sawyer believes that Kris is delusional, and has him committed to thrown into a mental institution. In order to get out, Kris must face a court hearing, where not only is his sanity questioned, but the state of New York will decide if there really is a Santa Claus. Fred Gailey (played by John Payne) a neighbor of Doris Susan Walker agrees to represent Kris. The predictable end to the story is that Fred and Doris become attracted to each other, and as Fred works hard to secure Kris' freedom, Doris finds herself not only believing in Kris, but also in believing in fantasy.

Maureen O'Hara portrays Doris Walker with poise and sophistication. Although the movie is over 55 years old, the idea of a single working mom trying to raise her daughter after a bitter divorce, tells a story that is relevant by today's standards. Natalie Wood does such a good job at playing as the bright six year old, Susan, that you can almost imagine her going straight from being a baby to being an adult. John Payne, as Fred Gailey, predictably plays the handsome attorney who falls in love with Mrs. Walker. Even though it seems a bit unbelievable, this movie is all about fantasy, so we'll allow a bit of romance. Finally, Edmund Gwenn's portrayal of Santa Claus is so believable, that you almost believe that truly is the jolly old elf himself!

This reviewer would give the movie a 5 out of 5 rating. It is a Christmas classic that will be remembered for years to come as one of the best Christmas movies ever filmed. The message of the movie is not about the real meaning of Christmas, nor is it about the commercialism that has overshadowed the holiday for years. The message of the movie is that make believe and fantasy play an important role in our live. Without them we would have no basis for our hopes and dreams
60 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
"You'd Better Watch Out, You'd Better Not Cry.................."
bkoganbing22 October 2007
...............Santa Claus has come to town. Or at least that's what a gentlemen appropriately named Kristopher Kringle played by Edmund Gwenn complete with full white beard is claiming. He makes his appearance at the Thanksgiving Day Parade as sponsored by R.H. Macy's Department Store and finds the Santa hired for the occasion, Percy Helton, full of a little too much Christmas cheer already. In charge of the parade is one of Macy's middle level executives, Maureen O'Hara, who fires Helton and hires Gwenn right then and there.

Gwenn's obvious sincerity makes him an ideal Santa Claus for Macy's and for us. He spreads the real meaning of Christmas around even has Macy's declaring a holiday truce with its rival Gimbel's. That's a part of Miracle on 34th Street that might be lost to viewers today. Gimbel's was Macy's big department store rival and it's flagship store in New York stood across 34th Street at the time. Gives a meaning to the title that is lost on today's audience.

But wiser and more sophisticated folks like the majority of us know there ain't no such thing as Santa Claus. Even Maureen O'Hara knows that and imparts it to her daughter Natalie Wood. Gwenn's just a kind old man in a white beard. But when his sanity is questioned, Gwenn's belief becomes a matter for the courts where Gwenn is ably defended by O'Hara's boyfriend, lawyer John Payne.

Like that other holiday classic It's A Wonderful Life, Christmas is never complete without seeing Miracle on 34th Street. Though New York has changed considerably since 1947 the year I made my earthly debut, the film has lost absolutely none of its charm.

Edmund Gwenn won the Best Supporting Actor of 1947 and in doing so, beat out his best friend, Finlay Currie, who was up that year for playing Magwitch in Great Expectations. The two had met in stock companies in their native Scotland and were friends right up to when Gwenn passed away in 1959. The Oscar was the high point of his career.

Maureen O'Hara in her memoirs says that Miracle on 34th Street holds a special place in her affections. In fact until Gwenn died, she had hopes of doing some kind of sequel. She bonded on stage with young Natalie Wood who later played her daughter in Father Was A Fullback also and kept in contact with her right up to her death in 1981.

Maureen also had a deep affection for John Payne who she made four films with and says was one of the nicest men in the world. One story she related was on the set of another film they made, Payne was served with divorce papers right on the set from his then wife, Anne Shirley. She said he broke down and cried like a baby. If it weren't for the fact she was married, she said she definitely could have gotten something going with Payne.

In the supporting cast note the presence of one grinch in the person of Porter Hall who played one of his patented nasty little meanies. His meddling and general misanthropy cause Gwenn to have that trial in the first place. Look for a bit role from Jack Albertson as the postal employee who inadvertently saves the day. Also making her film debut is Thelma Ritter as the mother of a child looking to meet Santa Claus, the one official Santa Claus, courtesy of Macy's Department Store.

Although Miracle on 34th Street has been remade several times over the years, this one is the genuine article. As genuine as the fact that Macy's has the official Santa Claus as certified by a higher authority.

One thing has always puzzled me though. How long did it take Edmund Gwenn to grow that beard for the part?
41 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Genuine Article, Still A Miracle
bigpurplebear25 December 2001
There's a "legend" connected with this film, one which has recently gained new life via AMC: Supposedly, upon completion of principle filmmaking, 1947's "Miracle On 34th Street" then had to be submitted to the heads of Macy's and Gimble's department stores who -- had either man withheld approval -- could have cost 20th Century Fox a small fortune in rewrites and reshootings.

Frankly, in view of the fact that much of "Miracle" had already been shot on location in Macy's New York City store (to say nothing of the fact that studio heads of that era -- or any era, for that matter -- were notoriously prone not to take such financial risks), this "legend" is likely just so much "hype," otherwise known as "nonsense."

Thankfully, this is the only trace of phoniness attached to this jewel of a movie. "Miracle On 34th Street" is just that, in every sense of the word: a miracle.

Take a perfectly-crafted, thoughtful screenplay. Add an impeccable cast (from top-to-bottom, by the way; catch, just as one example, Thelma Ritter's uncredited turn as "Peter's Mother"). Throw into this mix an on-location "shoot" (along with Macy's, there's the store's actual 1946 Thanksgiving Parade, footage in a post office facility and a courthouse) which gives this film a nice sense of verisimilitude . . . just in case you're not already prepared (courtesy of Edmund Gwenn, in a totally-deserved Oscar-winning performance) to recapture your belief in Santa Claus.

"Miracle On 34th Street" is many things: a celebration of the Christmas spirit, a heartfelt plea against the "over-commercialism" (even in 1947)of Christmas, an examination of faith itself . . . just to name a few.

It works on every level. Every bit as well today, 54 years after its initial release, as then. Don't waste your time with the remakes -- both on TV as well as theatrical productions (and the less said about an abortive 1963 Broadway musical adaptation, "Here's Love," the better.)

Go for the original film. Go for the genuine article. Again and again and again.
41 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Classic holiday fare
Boyo-221 November 2001
Its very easy to see why this movie won the Oscar for Screenplay that year. Its very intelligent and has a lot to say about several topics - how to raise a child, how a person of questionable sanity gets treated, how greedy businessmen are, how politics play out in a courtroom..and what to do with all that damn mail addressed to Santa Claus!

Its also very mature in some ways - Doris (Maureen O'Hara) is divorced and the mother of Susie (Natalie Wood). Doris has raised Susie to be very practical and to think for herself, but she neglected to teach Susie one thing - how to be a child, when you ARE a child. Enter Mr. Gayley (John Payne), a struggling lawyer who befriends Susie as a way to get to know her Mom better.

Doris works at Macy's and is organizing their Thanksgiving Day Parade, when the Santa they've hired is intoxicated. In a pinch they hire the REAL Kris Kringle to appear in the parade. He ends up being such a big hit that he gets hired to work at Macy's also. He is not the traditional employee, however, and this comes to light when he sends a customer (the venerable Thelma Ritter) to ANOTHER STORE! Schoenfeld's, he says, has what she's looking for. Then he is overheard, by the store manager no less, sending another customer to GIMBELS!

Don't want to give away any more, but the movie is touching, dramatic and hysterical - Doris on the phone with her co-workers' wife, who has been given too much liquor, is worth a million bucks alone. Whenever I want to make my sister laugh, I do a pretty decent imitation of her saying "HELLO?" Also, I can sing the song Kris sings to the girl from Rotterdam..the girl who is so thrilled that Kris can communicate with her in her language. Susie overhearing this is beginning to think that Kris might be the real thing, and she's a pretty hard nut to crack, for a little kid.

See it, own it, memorize it..and pity the 31 souls in 'User Ratings' who gave this a '1', which is ridiculous but it takes all kinds I guess.
70 out of 79 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
A Visit From St. Nicholas
telegonus14 November 2001
The great Edmund Gwenn shines as Kris Kringle, an elderly, eccentric man who may or may not be the real Santa Claus. Little Natalie Wood thinks he is, though, and that's all that matters. This movie, written by Valentine Davies, has become, along with It's a Wonderful Life, a Christmas classic, and deservedly so. It is not, I imagine, in the same league as the Capra film (what is?), but it's an awfully good little movie in its own right; and while it presents its characters and issues pleasingly it does not push the envelope too much in any one direction, as one can respond to its whimsical little story any way one pleases.

Like so many films of the immediate postwar period it stresses the faith and wisdom of small children (as,--literally--opposed to adults); and its message is that children are perhaps wiser than we think. Considering the mess that grownups had made of the world in the previous two decades it must have been difficult for movie audiences of the time to disagree. Indeed, much of the mood of the postwar era was based at least partly on this premise, as children became central to our culture as never before. Their whims and wishes became paramount. Perhaps, in the end, too much so. One can see the start of all this in Miracle On 34th Street, whose gentle message still rings true today, every year, in the waning days of December.
63 out of 73 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Holiday Combination That Works Well
Snow Leopard8 December 2004
Still among the most worthwhile of the familiar holiday movies, this classic version of "Miracle on 34th Street" has a combination of cast, story, and production that works well. Maureen O'Hara, young Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn would probably have carried it pretty well by themselves, and they are joined by a very good supporting cast. The screenplay is nicely done, bringing out the fantasy elements of the story without letting it become trite.

Gwenn, who played many solid character roles, gets the chance here to play a role for which he was ideally suited, and it works very well. O'Hara and Wood make a good pair to balance him out. The supporting cast gets some very good moments of their own, especially Gene Lockhart and William Frawley, whose scenes are entertaining while also offering some occasionally pointed commentary.

The style of the production is well-suited to the material, offering an innocently upbeat story without overdoing it on sentimentality. For all that this style of the production and acting are out of fashion, they are able to capture a theme like this in a worthwhile way that is simply not possible with the kind of false "sophistication" that permeates so many present-day movies.

That's not to say that this is some kind of masterpiece, which it is not and did not try to be. Instead, it's a light, enjoyable, positive movie that does make a worthwhile point or two. That kind of feature will always find an appreciative audience somewhere.
23 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Edmund Gwenn as Santa: a deserving Oscar winner
moonspinner5522 November 2001
A perfectly-cast Christmas confection that surpasses all expectations and really does make viewers laugh and tear up. Corny? Yes. Overacted? In some scenes, yes. Dated? Perhaps. But the message of belief, ultimately, is timeless and the silvery black and white cinematography is wonderful. And yes, there's Edmund Gwenn as the department store Santa who really is. A most deserving recipient of the Supporting Actor Oscar, Gwenn seems like an incredibly nice man--maybe because he never has to force kindliness; more than that, he has an innate happiness and twinkle that comes from within. He truly glows in this part. Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Thelma Ritter (in a wonderful bit) and precocious Natalie Wood are also excellent in this classic fairy tale. It is a film without artifice. It glows, too. **** from ****
28 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Missing Scene
nwflyer0413 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Am I too old or what. Very few places on the Internet do people talk about the missing scene in this 1947 version of the movie. When I was a kid I saw the movie and there was a scene about the football helmet at the end. The attorney needs to get the helmet but it's too late but it mysteriously shows up. He says to the wife I am glad you were able to get it and she says I didn't get it I thought you did. I thought that scene was the best and sealed the case that it was Santa in that court. No one even talks about it and it is not in any of the remakes or made for TV versions. Too Bad! I would be interested to hear from anyone that has seen the version I was talking about.

I went on the Internet to see if I can find an original copy but no luck. Looking to hear from anyone that has one.
15 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Feel Good Movie
stardust10611 December 2003
It's amazing to me when one single movie can brighten your spirits, Miracle On 34th Street is one such movie that has the ability to do just that. A viewer can't help but to wear a smile after watching, which is what makes for a great film. There was nothing bad about this film at all. The acting and the sets were very good. And the whole spirit of Christmas shone throughout the entire movie.

Like I said above, that acting in this movie was superb. Edmund Gwenn playing the role of Kris Kringle was marvelous. He seemed to be happy and jolly throughout the whole movie, all the qualities one thinks of when thinking about Santa, Edmund Gwenn embodied. He even made a believer out of me, well, not really, but close. Natalie Wood as Susan Walker had so much talent for someone her age. The emotion that she put into her role was so great that I kept forgetting that she was only a child. As for the sets, all of them were well done, but the set that stood out the most was definitely the courtroom scene. The detail that went into the making of that set was so good, it surpassed all the other sets in the movie by far.

Personally, I love Christmas movies and am really critical of what ones are good and what ones I'd have rather gouged my eyes out than have to watch. Luckily, Miracle On 34th Street was not one of those movies. The spirit of Christmas was portrayed really well, this was one movie that one couldn't help but feel warm and toasty after viewing. What is probably one of the greatest things about this movie is that it is one that the whole family can enjoy, and more importantly enjoy together. On a scale of 1- 10, Miracle On 34th Street is undeniably a 9, one movie that I wouldn't mind watching over and over again.
20 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
It makes you want belive that Santa Claus really exists
meggs2128 December 2003
Miracle On 34Th Street was a great Christmas movie. The major conflict of the movie was whether or not Santa Claus really existed.

The movie begins with Kris Cringle (Edmund Gwen) walking by a store with a man setting up a display of reindeer and notices that they are not in order. Kris tells the man politely how to fix them in the right positions, but the man gives him a strange look and goes back to work. Kris Cringle believes himself to be Santa Claus although most everyone else thinks he is crazy. Even little Susan (Natalie Wood) thinks he is a fake and doesn't believe in any ‘fairytales'. Her mother, Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), taught her that to believe in ‘fairytales' is childish and impractical. Kris is later made a part of the Macy's parade when the Santa Claus that was supposed to be in the parade is found drunk. When asked if he had ever had any experience, Kris replied, `Many times.' Doris makes him the department store Santa Claus at Macy's where he tells many people that he is the real Santa Claus.

As more people find out about Kris Cringle calling himself ‘Santa Claus', they get upset saying that no such person really exists. Many people took it more literally and said that it would be impossible for reindeer to fly or for anyone to live in the North Pole. He is forced to take a mental examination and the doctor convinces Doris that Kris is mentally ill after he gets in a fight. Kris is arrested and taken to court and his lawyer is Mr. Gailey who starts to believe, along with Doris and Susan, the he actually is Santa Claus.

I thought that this was a really good holiday movie that focus on something that all of us as little kids went through- believing or not believing in Santa Claus. It even feels like I should believe in Santa after watching it. I thought that Edmund Gwen was a really good actor and perfect for his part. He played his role very innocently, which made him very believable as Santa Claus. Natalie Wood was a great actress who played very well the typical role of the cynical child. The acting and the plot was very well written. It was a very innocent movie that is entertaining for all types of audiences.
21 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
The Classic Is a Classic For a Reason
Christmas-Reviewer20 February 2018
REVIEW DATE 2/19/2018

PLEASE BEWARE OF SOME REVIEWERS THAT ONLY HAVE ONLY ONE REVIEW. I HAVE OVER 400 REVIEWS OF "CHRISTMAS RELATED FILMS & SPECIALS" WHEN ITS A POSITIVE THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE THEY WERE INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION. NOW I HAVE NO AGENDA! I REVIEW MOVIES & SPECIALS AS A WAY TO KEEP TRACK OF WHAT I HAVE SEEN! I HAVE DISCOVERED MANY GEMS IN MY QUEST TO SEE AS MANY " C H R I S T M A S " MOVIES AS I CAN.

Now Someone keeps reporting my reviews. I guess they are jealous because I do tell the truth. I want to point out that I never make snide remarks about actors weight or real life sexual orientation. If there acting is terrible or limited "I talk about that". If a story is bad "I will mention that" So why am I being "picked on"? IMDB? When one of my reviews gets deleted IMDB will not even tell me what someone found offensive. Well on to this review.

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is indignant to find that the man (Percy Helton) assigned to play Santa in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is intoxicated. When he complains to event director Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), she persuades Kris to take his place. He does so well, he is hired to play Santa at Macy's flagship New York City store on 34th Street.

Ignoring instructions to steer parents to buy from Macy's, Kris directs one shopper (Thelma Ritter) to a competitor. Impressed, she tells Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge), head of the toy department, that she will become a loyal customer.

Attorney Fred Gailey (John Payne), Doris's neighbor, takes the young divorcée's daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) to see Santa. Doris has raised her to not believe in fairy tales, but Susan is shaken after seeing Kris speak Dutch with a girl who does not know English. Doris asks Kringle to tell Susan that he is not Santa, but he insists that he is.

Worried, Doris decides to fire him. However, Kris has generated so much positive publicity and goodwill for Macy's that Macy (Harry Antrim) promises Doris and Julian bonuses. To alleviate Doris's misgivings, Julian has Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall) administer a "psychological evaluation". Kris passes, and questions Sawyer's own mental health.

This is a great film that everyone should see.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Another Great Film in the Tradition of "It's a Wonderful Life".
tfrizzell6 May 2002
Great film that came out one year after "It's a Wonderful Life" and is still probably the second-best film dealing with the Christmas holidays behind the aforementioned movie. The Macy's Santa Claus (Oscar-winner Edmund Gwenn) claims he is the genuine article. Lawyer John Payne actually starts to believe him, but employee Maureen O'Hara thinks that Gwenn is just a senile, old man. The dilemma for O'Hara is that young daughter Natalie Wood believes in Gwenn as well. What follows is Gwenn being committed and actually ending up in court to prove that he is who he says he is. A really smart comedy that has good drama, a fine story and top-notch acting from all involved. Gene Lockhart and William Frawley are great in supporting turns and look for a then-unknown Jack Albertson as a postal worker. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Miracle on 34th Street
Coxer9921 April 1999
A compelling and heartwarming tale that will make you believe over and over again. Edmund Gwynn's Kris Kringle is one of those rare gems you wish you could lock away in a safe and hold on to. It's like precious gold. Gwynn won Oscar gold, but the performance is well beyond Oscars. Like George Bailey, Kris Kringle is a symbol, not only of Christmas, but of America. George Seaton beautifully directs the humor, the happiness and the heart. Maureen O'Hara and young Natalie Wood add sentiment to the piece and are simply lovely in their doing so.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
How Christmas should be
AmyJenson199525 October 2015
I have felt ashamed to have never seen the original version of Miracle on 34th Street. I have watched the 1994 version and my Christmas movies are more like Home Alone or the Grinch.

This said, I have to tell that this movie and story line is touching and very clever. This is about Christmas spirit and how it should be felt. This is about happiness family and magic instead of 'make a buck make a buck this is only about make a buck' like Alfred liked to say. This theme is quite actual.

Maureen O'Hara's character, a heartbroken divorced woman who doesn't believe in any magic and faith anymore is representing this situation all on herself. She lost the spirit and is drowning in her work. She educated her daughter in a way that she don't believe in anything either. So the fact that both of them starts to believe again alongside Santa Claus is really symbolic. Even more importantly she believes in love again which is the real essence of Christmas.

I wish we would keep this authentic spirit. Being less selfish and more sharing. Believe in something even when we think everything is dark and lost. This is all Christmas is all about. And I am thankful that there are movies like Miracle on 34th Street to remind this to us.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Many miracles happened that Christmas
SimonJack28 January 2015
World War II had ended less than two years before this film made its debut in early May 1947. It would open in Western Europe in early December, in time for Christmas. The world was in no mood for a court in the United States to declare that there is no Santa Claus. Besides the loss of loved ones in the war, the U.S. and other countries had endured years of rationing, sacrifice and going without. The post-war economies were gearing up, people had jobs and money to spend, and families that had gone without now could buy holiday meals and gifts for everyone.

The screenplay of "Miracle on 34th Street" doesn't say anything about all of this. But, it is implied and it was surely understood by the movie audiences that watched the film on its release in 1947. Keeping that in mind today will help one understand the commercialization aspects the movie addressed at that time. Interestingly, Valentine Davies wrote the story for the movie in 1944 while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. He had become disillusioned by the commercialization of Christmas – and that was during the war years. Imagine how he would see the major holiday observation in the world today.

Davies won one of the three Oscars the film garnered. His was for best original story; and his close friend, George Seaton, won the Oscar for the screenplay. The most recognized Oscar was that awarded to Edmund Gwenn for best supporting actor, as Kris Kringle.

One scene in the movie puts the author's point clearly. Kris is talking with Alfred (played by Alvin Greenman), a young Macy janitor who plays Santa Claus at an orphanage. They have talked about the changes in attitudes and loss of the Christmas spirit. Kris, "That's what I've been fighting against for years …the way they commercialize Christmas." Alfred, "Yeah, there's a lot of bad 'isms' floating around, but one of the worst is 'commercialism.' Make a buck. Make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it's the same. Don't care what Christmas stands for. Just make a buck. Make a buck." What would Alfred say today with one more 'ism' added – secularism?

This film surely is a holiday classic and favorite. Besides Gwenn, it has a sparkling cast. Maureen O'Hara plays an unusual role for that time – a divorced single mother who was working in an executive position. Doris Walker was raising her little girl in their mid-town Manhattan apartment. This was 8-year-old Natalie Wood's fifth film and first major role, as Susan Walker. John Payne plays a young attorney, Fred Gailey. Porter Hall is fantastic as Granville Sawyer. He's the twitching neurotic Macy company personnel psychologist (who doesn't have a license to practice, by the way). Much of the comedy occurs in the courtroom sequences. Some of the funniest occurs between Gene Lockhart who plays Judge Henry Harper and William Frawley who plays Charlie Halloran, his campaign manager. All of the cast are excellent.

Over the years as I watched this movie with family members, I would "see" the miracle in the story. Only, it changed from year to year. Or rather, it multiplied. So, in answer to a question that someone might ask, "What is the miracle?," it seems clear that there are several. Indeed, this is a film about many miracles, large and small. I'll let the viewers ferret out those themselves.

In the meantime, here are some bits of trivia related to the movie. The parade that takes place in the film is the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy's started the annual event in 1924. But, that was four years after Herald Square rival department store, Gimbols had held the first such parade in Philadelphia. At the time, Gimbols was the largest department store chain in the world. If you haven't guessed by now, one of the miracles was the coming together of the heads of those two companies in the spirit of Christmas to direct shoppers to others stores if they couldn't find what they wanted in their store.

Here are a couple of favorite lines from the film. Doris, "He's crazy. He thinks he is Santa Clause." Julian Shellhammer, "I don't care if he thinks he's the Easter Bunny. You've got to get him back." Doris, "He's insane, I tell you." Shellhammer, "But, but maybe he's only a little crazy … like painters or composers or some of those men in Washington."

Fred and Doris are talking about his defense of Kris in the court hearing. Fred, "You don't have any faith in me, do you?" Doris, "It's not a question of faith. It's just common sense. Fred, "Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to."
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
A Classic Forever
johnclark-125 December 2007
Xmas Day, 2007, and I find myself watching this delight yet again. Fox TV decides to show the original 1947 Edmund Gwenn version, alternating it all day with the 1994 Attenborough modernization. I want to state here and now that the Gwenn film is not simply the best, but it could be used as a primer for anyone studying dialogue and screenplay structure. It was cast perfectly, a light touch with a good old-fashioned story full of uplifting ideas on a universal theme.

It's interesting, not to say astonishing, that the writer/director, George Seaton, should have wanted to make stabs at improving his own original, as he did by contributing to the writing of the forgettable '59 and '73 television adaptations, and to the '94 film version.

This film classic should be the last to be seen, in order to overwrite and obliterate any memory of the others.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
good, squeaky clean fun!
imahottieandahalf11 December 2003
First and foremost, let me say that if you're selective about your taste in movies, and you happen to be someone that is into action, action and more action…this movie may put you to sleep.

Miracle on 34th St. is focused on fun with your family and having faith in the wonderful things that you used to enjoy as a child. You could say this has a `cuddly' feel to it, and is a perfect example of Christmas joy.

Made in 1947, this stars Maureen O'Hare as Doris Walker, Natalie Wood as Susan Walker, Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and John Payne as Fred Gailey.

The movie starts out with Kris walking down the streets of New York, while the people are starting to decorate for the Christmas season. He notices the annual Macy's parade and heads over to see the floats in preparation.

Noticing that the Santa they have hired is drunk, he goes to inform to the head director. After finding her, he discovers that it's Doris Walker.

Kris ends up filling in for the Santa and, since he did such a good job, he gets hired as the seasonal Santa at the local Macy's location.

When Doris returns home, she discovers that her daughter, Susan, is with her neighbor, Fred Gailey, watching the parade.

Doris is a headstrong woman who doesn't believe in fairy tales, nor `childish myths,' such as Santa Claus. Suzie, being her daughter and under the influence of her mother, also is a firm believer in fact and doesn't have faith in such things. So, from the moment Kris discovers there's no sight of Santa in their minds, he attempts to make a believer of Doris, Suzie and the rest of the world. Miracle on 34th St. is a good, wholesome movie that everyone can enjoy, yet doesn't have any of the unnecessary cussing, violence, or sex scenes that you see in the movies today, which makes this classic spectacular.

If you enjoy Christmas and the good cheer that is attached, you'll love Miracle on 34th St. It's a `feel good' movie that anyone of any age can enjoy over and over again.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
best of them all
paul_simkins25 December 2013
There are really just a handful of Christmas movies threat are worthwhile. This is the true classic, better than any of the remakes. To me, its not Christmas until I see Its a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and this movie.

Do yourself a favor, ignore all the remakes and watch this. Edmund Gwynne makes you want to really believe he is Santa. Great roles by Maureen O'Hara ( whom I could watch all day anyway), and Natalie Wood. Combines love elements, a pointed commentary on faith, humor, and a little bit of suspense ( not much, but enough to make it fun). Detractors would say it is predictable and I cannot argue with that, but I also believe that it is part of the magic of the film.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
If "The Great Gatsby" is the "perfect" American novel . . .
pixrox13 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
. . . then MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET is the flawless U.S. flick. Just as some English professors have said you cannot improve upon one word in F. Scott Fitzgerald's literary masterpiece, it's exceedingly difficult to second guess one casting choice, line of dialog, or subtle gesture during MIRACLE's perfectly brief 96-minute running time. If only Ebenezer Scrooge had watched this film, he could have avoided Jacob Marley and the other three ghosts altogether. Where Dickens' tale is haunted by the Spectre of Death, MIRACLE delivers but a single bump to a well-deserving noggin' (Mr. Sawyer's). If you haven't viewed this feature in years, you may remember it as PROVING that Edmund Gwen's "Kris Kringle" IS the one and only Santa Claus, with all the magic powers ascribed to him in the countless cartoon and live-action films that have cluttered the big screen almost every holiday season since MIRACLE came out in 1947. However, anyone who cares to actually WATCH this holiday classic (as opposed to merely letting it play in the background when relatives are filling your house) will discover that MIRACLE is pretty even-handed and agnostic regarding the Santa Question. For example, you may notice no effort is made to indicate WHERE this "Kris Kringle" keeps his reindeer, OR how recently he's even seen them.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
It just ain't Christmas without seeing this movie!
MartinHafer28 November 2009
In my opinion, this is the best holiday film of all-time. This is saying a lot, as other films such as A Christmas STORY and HOLIDAY AFFAIR are amazing films in their own right. I think the reason I feel this is the best of the lot is that it has a certain magical quality the others just can't reach. The story is tops--clever, cute and memorable. The acting is terrific--who could be better than Edmund Gwenn? Natalie Wood had perhaps one of the best performances by a child actor ever in this film--she is a child yet seemed so real. Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and the rest are simply terrific! Overall, a brilliant film. However, please don't assume that the sequels are worth seeing. Sebastian Cabot and Richard Attenborough are simply NOT Santa--and can't hold a candle to the original
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Still the best holiday movie to watch.
cmyklefty25 December 2001
Natalie Wood plays a skeptical child who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, and Maureen O'Hara plays her mother who works in a department store. Edmund Gwenn plays the Santa she hires for the store. Well acted and a very good story to watch for the holiday. Original released in the Summer 1947, Miracle on 34 Street has become a movie classic that the whole family will enjoy.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Long Live St. Nick!
harry-763 December 2002
"Faith is believing in something when common sence tells you not to," is Kris Kringle's charge to little Susan. And, lo and behold, this motto, first ridiculed by mom Doris, ends up being her own affirmation.

That's the turn around that transpires from jolly Kris' effect on a "completely realistic" mom and daughter. And in the process of this delightful modern fairy tale, the audience joins in believing: not only is there a Santa, but Edmund Gwenn's Kris is indeed the one-and-only.

Along the way, we're offered thoughtful parables about free speech, human rights, trusting our friends, and supporting the right to be different.

John Payne's lawyer Fred sees an opportunity to court divorcee Maureen O'Hara's Doris through being nice to her daughter (Natalie Wood). Great idea, were it not for some odd ideas mom has about dreaming and wishing.

Slowly Writer Valentine Davies' tale chips away at these hard-headed types, who have no time for fantasy. Until the end, when even tough judges and lawyers must succumb to the miracle on 34th street: Kris is indeed our real Santa!

Finally, all have come to have a change of heart (except a pesky pseudo-psychiatrist, who's nicely discarded) and everyone lives happily ever after--in a house of little Susan's dreams.

Makes one want to hang up that stocking and wish upon a star.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
My Favorite Movie Of All Time !
unkadunk080122 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This is my favorite Movie of all time!I first saw it on TV in the early 1950s and while watching it with my father said "Daddy He Is Santa Claus!" And when my father asked me how I knew that I replied "because I know he is !"And my father didn't reply and at the end I turned to him with a great big smile and said"See Daddy I was right!He is Santa Claus!I knew it"And my father just nodded and then smiled .And to this day when ever I see that movie,I remember that little boy who knew that and believed in the movie and it makes me smile again .And what can about such a fine cast Edmund Gween ,John Payne,Maureen Ohara,Natalie Wood ,Gene Lockhart,William Frawley ,Porter Hall,Thelma Ritter ,Jerome Cowan Jack Albertson and the rest all did great jobs in the movie And Percy Helton who was another great character actor played Macys Drunken Santa in the beginning was excellent as well.This is a great classic movie that should be seen and loved by all generations.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed