Miracle on 34th Street
Zach Davis

Directed by: George Seaton

Starring: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, Porter Hall, and Gene Lockhart

Miracle on 34th Street earned George Seaton the Oscar for best screenplay in 1948.  It was the first of two Academy Awards for Seaton; he would take home the best screenplay award again in 1955 for The Country Girl.  Seaton was also the voice of the Lone Ranger on old radio broadcasts in the early 30’s.  He then teamed up with MGM to write for such comedy giants of the time as Jimmy Durante and the Marx Brothers.

The holiday season has begun, and Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) is busy organizing everyone and everything for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  While observing the chaotic scene, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) stumbles upon the man playing Santa Claus (Percy Helton) who is drunk as a skunk and in no shape to take part in the parade.  Kringle brings the matter to the attention of Doris, and she asks him if he wouldn’t mind filling in for the drunk.  Kris is an exact match for Santa Claus already, so it makes perfect sense.  Kringle agrees and plays the part well garnering him a job as the Santa Claus in Macy’s for the rest of the holiday season. 

One evening Doris’ daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) asks Kris whether he is the real Santa Claus.  He tells her that he is.  Upon learning about this, Doris becomes worried about Kris’ mental health as he becomes more assertive in his belief that he is the real Santa Claus.  Kris takes and passes a psych evaluation.  The matter worsens though when Kris angers Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall), the man giving the evaluation, by giving him an evaluation of his own.  Sawyer then declares him insane and a danger to himself and others.  Fred Gailey (John Payne), a lawyer who has been courting Doris all the while, steps in to defend Kris with the argument that he is in fact Santa Claus.  The court is then forced to decide whether Santa Claus actually exists.

The cast did an excellent job in this classic.  Maureen O’Hara was perfect as the doubtful Doris who raised her daughter away from fairy tales and magic.  Edmund Gwenn gave an iconic performance that set the standard for portrayals of Santa Claus in all future holiday films.  And of course the adorable Natalie Wood brings the innocence of a child to the screen.  That youthful innocence is what makes the holidays so special, and it’s crucial for any great Christmas movie.  Porter Hall also stood out as the embittered psychologist Granville Sawyer, whose own psychological well-being is in serious question.

Miracle on 34th Street is a must-watch holiday staple that you can enjoy any time you want to feel the Christmas magic.  Pour yourself a glass of eggnog, and light the fire while you sit back and relive the magic.