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Miracle on 34th Street
Directed by: George Seaton
Written by: Valentine Davies (story), George Seaton
Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara

Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: family, holiday
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: nostalgic
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5

Plot synopsis It’s 1940s New York, and the highlight of the Christmas season is the Macy’s Parade, with crowds flocking to the city to catch the first glimpse of Santa Claus and mark the beginning of the festive season. Not wanting the tradition to be spoiled, a kindly old gentleman [Edmund Gwenn] nonetheless feels compelled to turn in Santa when he notices that the Macy’s Santa’s has had one festive sherry too many. This presents a problem for parade organizer Doris Walker [Maureen O’Hara], who now has no Santa for the store, until she takes a good look at the old man and decides to hire him to fill those shiny black boots. She has a few suspicions about the gentleman, who calls himself Kris Kringle and claims to be ‘the real Santa Claus’, but he certainly proves popular with the children and even sparks a little seasonal interest in her non-believer daughter Susan [Natalie Wood]. However, Kringle isn’t your run-of-the-mill department store Santa Claus; outraged at the idea of pushing stocked toys to children who haven’t yet decided what they want, he goes so far as to send parents over to the competitors’ store, Gimbles, when they can’t find the perfect gift— completely against the wishes of toy-department manager Mr. Shellhammer (Philip Tonge). When word of Kringle’s beliefs reaches the angry store psychologist, it leads to a committal hearing where Santa’s sanity is called into question. Susan and Doris, with the help of their lawyer neighbor, rush to defend Kris Kringle as they ask the ultimate question: does Santa Claus really exist?

Review Ah, they don’t make them like they used to… and sadly, they really don’t. There’s little likelihood of any modern day seasonal offerings picking up three Oscars (best original story, best screenplay and a much deserved best supporting actor for Edmund Gwenn’s portrayal of Santa Claus). Miracle on 34th Street is a slice of Christmas nostalgia that is often imitated but rarely bettered. There have been over ten remakes of this film, for the large and small screen, yet none have captured the warmth and elegance of the original. Nostalgia is a strange thing – many of us hanker for the homey, commercial-free Christmas embodied in this 1947 classic, despite the fact that it was made decades before we were born. The cast includes some of the most gifted actors of their time. Maureen O’Hara, better known for her role in How Green Was My Valley, is the perfect all-American mother, and Natalie Wood provides the innocent, childish delight that makes a Christmas movie complete. Then there’s Edmund Gwenn, who creates the quintessential Santa Claus of our childhood dreams: joyous, bearded, and most importantly, real. (Despite making over eighty films in his career, Gwenn never really became known for anything else.) I admit, I have some bias, I do love Christmas, and for me, Miracle on 34th Street is a Christmas day afternoon staple, sandwiched between dinner and It’s A Wonderful Life. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if Kris Kringle is the real Santa Claus or just a bearded old loon from Long Island, it’s all about the possibility of a Christmas miracle coming true. —reviewed by Kelly-Marie Dudley

Kelly-Marie Dudley is a journalism student living in Staffordshire, England. While hoping to eventually become Carrie from Sex and the City, she is currently concentrating on her ever-expanding collection of shoes and student loans.

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