I have watched MIRACLE ON 34th STREET dozens of times throughout my life, which is a “miracle” since it focuses on believing Santa Claus is real. I am Jewish. It goes against everything I was taught as a little girl in Hebrew and Sunday School. The film also centers around Macy’s Department Store. This has always been my favorite place to shop. Growing up in New York, my Mom took me several times a month to shop, look, linger, and try on anything I wanted. We didn’t have much money, so these excursions were the beginning of the game I would play with Aaron and Ilisa later in my life. My Mom and I would “dream shop” together. We rarely purchased anything, but we had so much fun just considering the possibility, and Macy’s salespeople were always patient with us. The hat department was the best. I remember trying on every hat they had. People would laugh seeing a young girl wearing huge “adult” hat. No one ever harassed or hurried me, and I always replaced the hat precisely as I found it. My Mother and I would walk through the entire store and end up at Herald Square, where the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade concludes. I loved viewing the store windows, especially during the holiday season. I sometimes would stare at Macy’s Santa sitting on his “throne,” talking with children…one by one.
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET premiered in 1947, becoming a beloved film favorite during the holiday season (although the film did open in May, seven months before Christmas). It features a talented ensemble, including a very young Natalie Wood as Susan. The movie won three Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Original Story, and Best Supporting Actor Edmund Gwen as Kris Kringle. It was an instant hit. Audiences were so taken with Edmund. The chatter was that he personified exactly what Santa Claus should look like. He even had eyes that twinkled and the perfect beard (which Kris Kringle said he slept with it on top of the blankets so it would grow faster). Everyone in the production has said he was the nicest man and made working on the film a joy.
The storyline is quite simple. Due to an intoxicated Santa for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Edmund as Kris quite accidentally takes his place. Kris was so popular that Mr. Macy insisted he is hired as the store Santa Claus for the season. Maureen O’Hara, as Doris, was in charge of keeping an eye on him. She did not believe in fairy tales or fantasies. She thought it best to tell the truth about “playing make-believe” for herself, especially her daughter, Susan. Kris decided to make them his “test case” for healing the world and creating more “faith” and hope. Of course, there is a romantic subplot with Doris’s handsome neighbor, Fred Gailey (John Payne). Some thought Kris was crazy since he truly believed he was the real Santa. His sanity and mental states were challenged all the way to the New York Supreme Court. The only way to defend him was to show real tangible proof that Santa Claus did, in fact, exist. The courtroom scenes are excellent, because the “proof” is so simple, clear, and honest. “How do you know there is a Santa Claus? Because my Daddy told me, and my Daddy wouldn’t ever lie.” This is one of the many “awww” moments that give way to all the twists and turns throughout this “miracle.”
The sweet chemistry between Doris and Fred is visual in every scene. They looked like they belonged together. It was a good lesson for couples in real life to see how issues can be worked out and resolved. Their emotions and expressions seemed effortless. The entire ensemble worked well together. It was a joy to watch. The parade was the real Macy’s Day Parade. And the location shots of New York with all the busy, fast-paced crowds remind me of “home” (even though most of the department store was filmed on a sound stage). Kris’s cane was a conundrum for me. I never liked him “striking” with it, even though it was a different period. The “cane” ending was magical and always made me wonder…was he really Santa? “It’s all the intangibles that are on trial…joy, love, faith. Intangibles are the only thing worthwhile in this world.”
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET is light, captivating, sentimental, and heartwarming. The director, George Seaton, created the perfect film for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It questions the commercialism of Santa Claus and the frenetic pace of the holidays. It is powerful to acknowledge the cynicism in the late 40s. What would the writers say about 2022?
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET is a wholesome treat for the entire family. It is entertaining and a delightful Christmas classic for all times. It will make you smile at the sheer wonderment of all the infinite possibilities during the holidays if you are willing to change your paradigm and believe.
MIRACLE ON. 34th STREET is available to stream on AMAZON PRIME.