Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Reviewed on 2010 December 18
I have something of a jaundiced eye when I sit down to watch a Christmas movie, because so many of them range from overly sweet to just awful. This is an old favorite that I forgot to review and I decided to correct that. It’s consistently sweet and funny without being soggy or — urp — heart-warming. Honestly, I don’t think they can make stuff like this any more.
Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) is a kind but very tough woman, a quick-thinking special events director for Macy’s and a single mother who raises her child Susie (Natalie Wood) to be a level-headed child. You see how well she did that a bit later when Susie explains that she gets what she wants for Christmas “if it’s suitable and not too expensive”. Doris is getting the cast of characters ready for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a task that makes cat wrangling look easy on a good day, and she learns the schlub they picked to be Santa is completely drunk. She notices the kind man who told her (Edmund Gwenn) her looks very much like the classic Kris Kringle, and thinking on her feet she asks him to be Santa. He does such a spectacular job that the Macy’s crew hires him to be their Santa. The problem is that the old guy really does think he’s Santa…
If you watch this after enough candy cane martinis or you’re just worn out enough from a tough week at the office, you might start asking if Edmund Gwenn is Santa. The guy is that good, and I learned that in 1946 Macy’s really used him as Santa in their parade. Natalie Wood is adorable and Maureen O’Hara was excellent as Doris, making her tough and a bit cynical and still sympathetic.
Four chocolate morsels. Skip the remake.