Miracle on 34th Street

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Miracle on 34th Street
Image:Miracle on 34th Street.jpg
Original movie poster for Miracle on 34th Street
Directed by George Seaton
Produced by William Perlberg
Written by Valentine Davies (story)
George Seaton (written by)
Starring Maureen O'Hara
John Payne
Natalie Wood
Music by Cyril Mockridge
Cinematography Lloyd Ahern
Charles G. Clarke
Editing by Robert L. Simpson
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) May 2 1947 (U.S. release)
Running time 96 min
Language English
All Movie Guide profile
IMDb profile

Miracle on 34th Street (also titled The Big Heart in the UK) is a 1947 film which tells the story of a gentle old man, working as a Santa Claus at Macy's department store in New York City, who contends that he is the real deal. The movie was written by Valentine Davies and director George Seaton; Davies also penned a short story version of the tale which was published simultaneously with the film's release.

The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmund Gwenn), Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture, losing to Gentleman's Agreement. It was placed #9 at AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers.

The film was colorized twice, first in a poorly recieved version released in the 1980s, and most recently by Legend Films. The new colorized version was released in 2006.


[edit] Plot Summary

[edit] Initial Proclamation

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) attracts the attention of a window dresser and corrects his placement of the reindeer. He then attends the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and finds to his indignation that the actor cast as Santa (Percy Helton) is drunk. When he complains to the special events director, Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), she persuades Kris to replace him. He proves to be sensational and is hired to be the Santa for Macy's flagship New York City store on 34th Street at Herald Square.

Once there, both his firm belief in the spirit of Christmas and his firm contention that he is actually Santa himself cause problems. A woman shopper (Thelma Ritter) is impressed by Santa sending her to another store for a fire engine for her son Peter. She tells Mr. Shellhammer head of the toy department, she will become a loyal Macy customer. Another mother, Kris tells Macy's rival Gimble has better skates for her daughter. Fred bring Susan to see Kris. Susan explains to Kris the shortcomings of the prior Macy Santas. Doris then lectures Fred about filling Susan's mind with fantasy. Susan watches Kris talk and sing to a Dutch World War II orphan girl in her native tongue. Susan feels maybe that Kris is real.

[edit] Test of Faith

Although Doris initially wants to fire him as crazy, Kris' winning ways and unorthodox ideas, such as recommending rival stores when they have better bargains, generate so much good publicity and customer goodwill for Macy's that Mr. R.H. Macy himself (Harry Antrim) promises Doris and her boss, Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge) generous bonuses, making it vital to keep the old man. Kris accomplishs the impossible, Mr. Macy shake hands with his biggest competitor, Mr. Gimble (Herbert Heyes) owner of Gimbles Department Store. Gimble asks Kris what he will do with money from a large check Macy has just given him; Kris says he will give the money toward an xray machine needed at the home, Gimble states he will get the machine for cost. Furthermore, Doctor Pierce (James Seay), Kris' doctor at his nursing home firmly assures Doris and Shellhammer that Kris' apparently delusion is harmless and equally disagrees with the store's psychologist, Mr. Granville Sawyer, (Porter Hall) about advice to institutionalize Kris in a mental hospital. Meanwhile, Doris' idealistic lawyer neighbor, Fred Gailey (John Payne), who agrees to let Kris bunk with him during his employment period at the store, and her no-nonsense young daughter. Susan (Natalie Wood), whom she has raised not to believe in such childish fantasies, (as Doris still has bitter feelings of a failed relationship with Susan's biological father) gradually come to see there is something special about the old man.

[edit] The Trial Begins

Things take a turn for the worse when Kris and the incompetent, would-be psychologist Sawyer get into a heated argument over the quack's diagnosis of a young, impressionable employee, Alfred (Alvin Greenman) as mentally ill simply because he is generous and kind hearted, and hates his father. In a fit of anger at Sawyer's unreasonable belligerence, Kris raps him on the head, with an umbrella, which Sawyer exaggerates in order to have him sent to Bellevue mental hospital. Once there, the discouraged Kris deliberately fails his mental examination and is recommended for permanent commitment.

However, Fred persuades Kris not to give up and works to secure his release. To that end, Fred gets a formal hearing before Judge Henry X. Harper (Gene Lockhart), of the New York Supreme Court for New York County in which he makes the stunning argument that Kris should be released because he really is Santa Claus - at least in the eyes of the law. Sawyer wants the matter dropped, he is told is must go through the legal system. Sawyer pleads for Fred not to seek publicity. Fred knows he can win in the court of public opinion. Mr. Macy sees how Sawyer's actions could ruin the Christmas sales season. R.H. Macy states Kris is Santa. After he leaves the stand Macy fires Sawyer. Fred quits a prestigious New York law firm. Although Doris has no faith in Fred's ability to argue this case and his complete determination to do so, he is able to support his argument with clever questioning of witnesses, including the son, Thomas Mara, Jr. of the prosecutor, New York County District Attorney Thomas Mara (Jerome Cowan). In addition, Judge Harper is sympathetic, if only because his political adviser, Charlie Halloran (William Frawley) has informed him that an unfavorable ruling would derail his upcoming bid for re-election.

[edit] Exhonoration

However, Fred hits a snag when Mara points out that Kris has no authoritative support for his claim. While Fred searches frantically, Susan, by now firmly believing in Kris, writes him a letter to cheer him up. A mail sorter (Jack Albertson) sees it and realizes that the post office could clear out the many letters to Santa taking up space in their dead letter department by delivering them to Kris at the courthouse. When Fred learns this, he successfully argues that the United States Post Office, a branch of the federal government, accepts Kris' claim. When asked to produce his evidence, Fred has all the mail brought in and the judge is practically buried beneath bags and bags of letters, which conveniently lets him rule in favor of Kris. After the hearing, Doris invites Kris to dinner, but he turns her down because it is "Christmas Eve."

On Christmas morning, Susan, Fred, Doris, R.H. Macy and Alfred (dressed as Santa) have breakfast at the Brooks Home. Dr. Pierce is thrilled to find the xray machine. Susan is disillusioned because Kris was apparently unable to supply her greatest wish, a house in the suburbs. However as Fred, Doris and Susan are driving along a route Kris recommended, Susan is elated to see the house of her dreams with a for sale sign in the front yard. Fred and Doris decide to get married and purchase the house. Fred boasts that he must be a great lawyer since he managed to do the seemingly impossible in getting Kris officially recognized as Santa. However, he then spots a cane leaning against the fireplace that looks exactly like the one Kris used, which suggests this dream home could be his doing. Fred then remarks "Maybe I didn't do such a wonderful thing after all."

[edit] Trivia

  • The main character's name, Kris Kringle, is that of a German giftbringer similar to Santa Claus.
  • Kris's Macy's Employee Card: Name: Kris Kringle; Address: Brooks Memorial Home for the Aged 126 Maplewood Dr. Great Neck, Long Island; Date of Birth: As old as my tongue and a bit older than my teeth; Place: North Pole; Next of Kin: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen.
  • When Kringle is hired (the second time), he is told to take a "mental exam" because he keeps claiming he is really Santa. Kringle boasts that he knows all of the questions because he has taken many before. The questions include things like "How much is 3x5?" and "Who was the first President?" Kringle then challenges Mrs. Harper with an atypical question: "Who was Vice-President under John Quincy Adams? Daniel D. Tompkins, and I bet your Mr. Sawyer doesn't know that!" Unfortunately, J.Q. Adams's Vice President was John C. Calhoun, not Daniel D. Tompkins. Tompkins was VP under James Monroe, predecessor to Adams. In his test at Bellevue, Kris admits to Fred, he said the first president of the United States was Calvin Coolidge.
  • Fred's bosses: Haislip, Haislip, Mc Kenzie, Sherman and Haislip Attorneys at Law - Associates, Edward P. Parks, Robert M. Haynes, John W. Richards, Sherman S. Smith, Frederick M. Gailey and William H. McCarthy.
  • When Fred is called by Bellevue about Kris, he is dictating on Real Property.
  • Attorney Fred Gailey reads from the 1946 World Almanac, "The Post Office Department was founded by the Second Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General, 1775-1776. The volume of mail and revenue of the United States Post Office for 1946 under Postmaster General Robert E. Hannegan." (President Harry Truman appointed Robert E. Hannegan, (1903-1949) of Missouri Postmaster General May 8, 1945. Hannegan served July 1, 1945 to December 16, 1947. He resigned due to failing health.) Gailey reminds the court to misdirect the US Mail is a Federal crime. Thereby, the mail sent to Kris and delivered to the Court Building by the US Post Office establishes Kris in the eyes of the US Government is Santa Claus.
  • In the book, Reel Justice, the authors point out that Judge Harper had an easy way of dismissing the case early without the political repercussions he feared. This was when the prosecutor rested his case immediately after Kris Kringle admitted in court simply that he believed he was Santa Claus. In doing so, Judge Harper could have ruled that prosecution had forfeited its opportunity to prove that Kringle was dangerous, the basic point of the hearing (his actual mental state itself being irrelevant), and ordered the subject immediately released.
  • Significantly, the morally uplifting ending at the end of the movie, where Kris is found to be Santa Claus and the power of faith and belief in good things wins out, comes as a result of virtually every character working simply for their own self-interest. The judge does not want to find Kris insane because he is worried about the political backlash; Macy endorses Kris as Santa Claus because he fears the publicity if he denounces him; the prosecutor concedes the existence of a Santa Claus because he does not want to admit that there is no Santa in front of his son; and even the postal workers send the letters that save Kris to the courthouse because they want to clear out their dead letter storage. This irony, where everyone's self-interest comes together to end in an uplifting ruling that speaks of the power of faith, is quite notable. This serves as an example of Adam Smith's invisible hand, in which the society as whole receives a benefit when individuals pursue their own interests. (The 1994 remake does not have this plot line and instead has a simpler ending where everyone is just won over and "believes.")
  • During the courtroom scene, Kris promises Attorney Thomas Mara's son that he would get the "real football helmet" he wants. This could be an inside joke, as the real-life Mara family have owned the NFL's New York Giants since 1925.

[edit] Remakes

There were four remakes:

  • A 1959 television movie starring Ed Wynn as Kris Kringle; also featured was Orson Bean. This version of the popular Valentine Davies story was broadcast live and in color on NBC the day after Thanksgiving in 1959 and seemed to have disappeared completely. NBC made a kinescope of the program, probably for broadcasting opening night on the west coast. The copy was in a large collection of kinescopes donated by NBC to the Library of Congress and recently unearthed by Richard Finegan, who reported his quest and experiences in the December 2005 issue of Classic Images.

ru:Чудо на 34-ой улице (фильм)

Miracle on 34th Street

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