MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947)
Article #996 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-6-2003
Posting Date: 5-4-2004
Directed by George Seaton
Featuring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn
A man hired to play Santa Claus by Macy’s claims to be the real thing.
This Christmas perennial takes aim at two targets; the increasing commercialism of the holiday (a trend which has only gotten worse as time passes) and the underlying cynicism that is the ultimate cause of it. There are many reasons this movie works, though perhaps the strongest is Edmund Gwenn’s gentle and strong performance as Kris Kringle; he is so utterly charming in the role that you find yourself willing to believe that he is the real Santa Claus, particularly during an effective sequence when he addresses a Dutch girl in her native language. Natalie Wood and Gene Lockhart also stand out as respectively the little girl who has the most resistance to believing in Kringle’s identity, and the judge presiding over the case to prove it. I find it quite interesting that two of the biggest factors that come into play in determining the result of the trial include the fear of public and private embarassment on the parts of several individuals, and the passing thought of a postal employee who has hit upon a scheme to decrease his workload. The fantastic aspects of the movie aren’t overt, but they’re there for those who wish to believe. All in all, this is a movie that has definitely earned its place as a Christmas perennial.