Christmas Classics: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
If we are going to look at classic Christmas films, then we have to venture into the black and white world of Miracle on 34th Street. This particular film has gone through several iterations between film and television, but the one we are revisiting is the 1947 original that was written and directed by George Seaton. The film follows a man who starts working as Santa Claus for Macy’s and claims to be the actual Kris Kringle. It stars Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn. The film went on to win three Academy Awards including Best Writing for Original Story and Best Writing for Screenplay. In addition to its accolades, the film has gone on to become a Christmas favorite for many.
So, what makes Miracle on 34th Street stand out as a Christmas classic?
1) A Charming Kris Kringle
While the other characters and storylines have their moments, it is Edmund Gwenn’s performance as Santa Claus that makes this film such a classic. Gwenn exudes joy and happiness in the role, and he is quite believable as Santa. Of course, it’s not just his joy that defines this role but also his determination for people to be shown love and respect. In his confrontation with the psychologist at Macy’s, he shows the extent of his love and care for people like Alfred, and you cannot help but love his interest in the many children that cross his path. The moment with the little Dutch girl is heartwarming, and his ongoing conversations with Susan only make him all the more endearing.
2) Christmas Over Commercialism
For a movie that features a Macy’s employee, the movie really leans into the fact that Christmas isn’t about belongings or competition. It all starts with Kris Kringle telling one mother where she can find a specific toy, and after she complements the store on their dedication to customers over profit, it becomes a whole strategy for the store. It even leads to Macy’s compiling a guide of shopping for their customer’s convenience. Sure, they are still using it as a tactic to gain customers in the long term, but this lovely idea is really put into motion by Kringle’s desire to see children happy.
3) The Perfect Amount of Whimsy
The whole idea for this movie is a little whimsical, and I love that it hinges on whether this old man is crazy for believing that he’s the one and only Santa Claus. His joy is infectious, and I love the many moments where he embodies the love and generosity that encapsulates this iconic character. It is a feel-good film, and for something that was made in 1947, there is still this magical quality to Kringle’s determination to help a child and her single mother believe in Santa Claus. It provides for a fun and thoughtful “what if” situation, and ultimately, it captures the magic of the holiday season.
In case you need a reminder of the whimsical nature of this film, just remember what Kris Kringle says in the film. He states, “Christmas isn’t just a day; it’s a frame of mind.”
So, have you ever seen Miracle on 34th Street? Is it a holiday film that you revisit on a yearly basis? Comment and let us know!
Stay tuned next week as we revisit another classic Christmas film!
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.