One of my all time favorite Christmas movies is Miracle on 34th¬†Street, and I watch it every year (both versions) without fail. So naturally, when I got home for Christmas, I made my sister watch both of them with me ‚Äî the black and white 1947 version with Natalie Wood and Maureen O‚ÄôHara and the 1994 version with Mara Wilson, which is the version we grew up watching.
In the original version, Doris Walker (Maureen O‚ÄôHara) is in charge of the Macy‚Äôs Thanksgiving Day Parade, and is at her wits end after having to fire the parade‚Äôs Santa for getting drunk before the parade. She encounters a man with a snowy white beard who introduces himself as Kris Kringle, and gets him to be the parade‚Äôs Santa. The parade reception is so great that Macy‚Äôs hires him to be the store Santa for the remainder of the holiday period. Fun fact about the film: Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle, actually was Santa Claus in the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade! Check out a list of cool facts about film here.
Doris‚Äôs young daughter, Susan, (child actress Natalie Wood) doesn‚Äôt believe in Santa and is very cynical and skeptical of everything. The Walker‚Äôs lawyer neighbor, Fred, is in love with Doris and makes a deal with Kris ‚Äî if Kris gets Susan to become more imaginative and childlike, then Fred will work on softening Doris‚Äôs cynicism.
Later on in the film, when Kris claims that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental health and his authenticity as Santa Claus. Fred quits his job at a prestigious law firm to defend Kris and the judge demands that Fred prove Kris is ‚Äúthe one and only‚Äù Santa Claus. During the trial, Susan mails Kris a letter to cheer him up, and the Post Office collects letters addressed to Santa Claus. Fred then presents the judge with three letters addressed to Santa Claus, of the 21 mailbags collected by the Post Office. Fred then asserts that the Post Office has acknowledged that Kris is in fact Santa Claus, so the case is dismissed.
On Christmas morning, Susan is disappointed that Kris couldn‚Äôt get her what she wanted, and Doris tries to bolster her faith in Santa Claus by telling her that ‚Äúfaith is believing in things even when common sense tells you not to.” I just love that line so much! On their way home, Susan sees her dream house with a ‚ÄúFor Sale‚Äù sign in the yard, and Fred boasts to Doris that he must be a great lawyer since he proved that Kris was Santa Claus. In the living room, there is a cane that looks exactly like Kris Kringle‚Äôs cane and the adults aren‚Äôt so sure, while Susan is ecstatic that her Christmas wish for a house came true.
Christmas is one of my favorite times of year, and Miracle on 34th¬†Street will forever be close to my heart. It‚Äôs a gorgeous, sentimental, warm, incredible, hopeful film. I love Maureen O‚ÄôHara as Doris Walker, and I think that there‚Äôs something heartwarming about Susan‚Äôs initial skepticism of Santa Claus, and journey to believing by the end of the film. Her childlike wonder toward the end of the film is something to be celebrated, and I think something that the world needs more of today.
I can‚Äôt decide which version I like better ‚Äî I grew up watching the 1994 version, and I think Mara Wilson as Susan is just captivating, but I think the 1947 version is equally as charming and delightful, and I‚Äôm a big Maureen O‚ÄôHara fan. One last thing: even though they colorized the 1947 version, in my opinion, it‚Äôs best to see it in black and white. And, now that my sister and I finished the film while I was writing this piece, I‚Äôm going to make her watch the 1994 version with me! What’s your favorite holiday film? Sound off in the comments below.
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