Friday, December 23, 2011

"Miracle On 34th Street" 1947

"Miracle On 34th Street"

Another classic, actually my second favorite Christmas movie.  I am a sucker for the Christmas magic and a really good Santa Claus. 

Edmund Gwenn is an awesome Santa aka Kris Kringle. He has a twinkle in his eye and a knowing little smile.  He shows up in New York in time for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I love to watch the parade on Thanksgiving morning, mostly for the commentary and the balloons.  They are fun and unintentionally funny.  That and the poor celebrities roped into making appearances.  They must despise it.

He soon discovers that the Macy's Santa has been celebrating a little early. 

He is so outraged he gets him fired and ends up taking his place on the showstopping float.  

Maureen O'Hara, as Doris Walker is soon obligated to hire this man to be the store's Santa Claus for the Christmas season.   She is a single mother who has shielded her daughter from fairy tales, fantasies and all flights of imagination. 

Doris was hurt.  She believed in the happily ever after and it bit her in the butt.  So she goes out of her way to tell her daughter the brutal truths of life.  They never tell her whole story but I always imagined that her husband knocked her up and then joined the army after Pearl Harbor.  After a short while and some wild women, he tells her he isn't coming home.  He is somewhere the South Pacific being waited on by island maidens and Doris is all alone with her little girl.

But she has a good job and a nice two bedroom apartment in the city.   She also has a handsome lawyer as a neighbor who happens to be in love with her. 

Susan Walker: There's no such thing as giants.
Fred Gailey: What about the one Jack killed?
Susan Walker: Jack? Jack who?
Fred Gailey: Jack from "Jack and the Beanstalk".
Susan Walker: I never heard of that.
Fred Gailey: Sure you have. You must have forgotten. It's a fairy tale.
Susan Walker: Oh... one of those. I don't know any of those. My mother thinks they're silly

Susan Walker is at that age that she believes everything her mother tells her.  But you just know she is going grow and hang around with the wrong kind of boy.

Some rebel without a cause who wears t-shirts and jeans and greases his hair back. 

But for now she is just a little girl.  When Susan visits her mother at work, she goes out of her way to attempt to unveil Kris as a fraud. 

Her faith is shaken when she witnesses something she can't quite believe.

[Doris is trying to convince Susan there is no Santa Claus]
Susan Walker: But when he spoke Dutch to that girl...
Doris Walker: Susan, I speak French, but that doesn't make me Joan of Arc.
But this makes Susan start to wonder if her mother truly knows everything. 

In the meantime, Kris is revolutionizing the way Macy's customers shop.  When a child asks for a crazy popular toy, the mother signals that Santa should redirect him to something else.  He lets her know the toy is available at the competitor's and is even on sale. 

Mr. Macy is outraged until the mother in question asks for a manager.

She explains that due to his unique marketing techniques she will be a Macy's shopper for life.  Next thing you know the whole story is pulling out the competitors advertisements and sending them there if they are out of something.  Department stores are suckers for a new marketing ploy.
When competition sees what is happening they are desperate to get Santa out of the way.  Soon Kris is seeing psychiatrists and needing a lawyer to prove who he really is.  I love when they pull his next of kin from his personnel file and it lists the reindeer. 
When Kris and Susan spend the evening together, he attempts to get her to use her imagination.  They finally pretend to be monkeys.
But when she goes to bed, she decides to test him by asking for what she really wants, which a house somewhere in the suburbs with a tire swing in the back yard.
Susan Walker: If you're really Santa Claus, you can get it for me. And if you can't, you're only a nice man with a white beard like mother says.
Kris smiles that twinkling smile, but first must go to court to prove his identity.  He is defended by the nice lawyer neighbor. 
The trial is great.  All the witnesses are funny and the judge is appropriately gruff and put out by his thankless task.  But what I really love is that Santa is saved by the post office.
Fred Gailey: Your Honor, every one of these letters is addressed to Santa Claus. The Post Office has delivered them. Therefore the Post Office Department, a branch of the Federal Governent, recognizes this man Kris Kringle to be the one and only Santa Claus.
Judge Henry X. Harper: Uh, since the United States Government declares this man to be Santa Claus, this court will not dispute it. Case dismissed.
So Santa is cleared and released on Christmas Eve.  He takes off to do his work and arranges to see the Walkers and Fred on Christmas morning. 
While Susan gets some nice presents, there are no deeds to houses under the tree, so her faith is shaken.  Then Mr. Gailey takes them for a drive.
When Susan sees her dream house with a for sale sign out front, she screams for Mr. Gailey to stop the car.  Before you can say Saint Nick, she is out of the car and running up the lawn.
She is running through the house like she had a Mountain Dew.  Doris and Fred look around imagining the possibilities.  Fred start bragging about his abilities.  Don't think that!!!  Dirty minds.
Fred Gailey: I must be a pretty good lawyer. I took a little old man and proved to the world that...
[looks off screen]
Doris: [sees a cane resting on the wall] Oh no, it can't be. It must have been left by the people who moved out.
Fred Gailey: Maybe... and maybe I didn't do such a good thing after all.
It is a favorite ending of mine. 
They have remade this movie a couple of times.  In 1994 they had a version with Elizabeth Perkins and Mara Wilson.   

There are some updates, but the story doesn't fit the times.  Being a single mother with a career wasn't a huge deal in 1994.  Plus the kid is a little more demanding than the original Susan Walker.

Susan Walker: This is the house I asked Kris for, and he got me a dad, and the third thing I'll just have to wait for.
Dorey Walker: Susan. What else did you ask Mr. Kringle for.
Susan Walker: A baby brother. See ya.

Watch the original black and white original.  Do not watch the colorized version.  I hate Ted Turner for doing that!   Remember the magic. 

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