Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
December 8, 2014 2:50 PM - Subscribe

When a nice old man named Kris starts working at Macy's as a department-store Santa, he ends up claiming to be Santa Claus. Facing institutionalization, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing. Directed by George Seaton, starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Gene Lockhart and a young Natalie Wood.

Rated 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Noel Murray at The AV Club give it an A- and writes:
In the battle of the classic Hollywood Christmas movies, It's A Wonderful Life feels charmingly ancient, fixed in an early-20th-century America that scarcely anyone today remembers first-hand. Miracle On 34th Street feels more modern, with slangy dialogue and naturalistic asides, and a general awareness of how Christmas has become about the intertwined stresses of shopping and selling. Gwenn's Santa Claus descends on New York like a department-store Jesus, healing the retail world by reminding everyone how to use capitalism (and later, the U.S. justice system) for good.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called it 'the freshest little picture in a long time, and maybe even the best comedy of this year.' (1947)
Script from Script-O-Rama

Kris Kringle: No, but don't you see, dear? Some children wish for things they couldn't possibly use like real locomotives or B-29s.

Can You Stream It?
posted by the man of twists and turns (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This movie is part of the Holiday Movie Club
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:51 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Just because I speak French doesn't mean I'm Joan of Arc."
For some reason this line always stuck with me, and once I said it when it happened with the movie in front of some friends when I was a college sophomore like it was Rocky Horror to some stunning responses because it's such a minor line.
There really should be a drag version.
posted by provoliminal at 5:46 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I sat down to watch this with my five year-old. He immediately raised hackles because: 1) old; 2) black & white; 3) not widescreen. So I caved and we started to watch the 1994 remake. Now initially, I found myself thinking, well... Richard Attenborough. Not all bad. (Even if someone on set should have broken out some fucking teeth whitener.) And the sign language rewrite of the Santa speaks Dutch scene was a nice update. But the remake's attempts to streamline the Macy's/Gimbel's rivalry (now the Cole's/Shopper's Express rivalry) and make it the central plot device were thematically muddled and stupid. Worse still, Santa's entire storyline is weakened dramatically by trying to make his story a parable for the need for Christian faith. They try to make it subtle at first (mostly failing) but then that godfuckingawful rewrite of the famous ending and the way it hinges on "In God We Trust"...

It's just shit, that remake.

So a chunk of the way through, I started jumping to the parallel scenes in the original film. My kid started acknowledging, "OK, that was better." Then by the time we got to comparing the two court finales, we completely quit the '94 remake and stayed with the marvelous original.

The original is such a marvelous film because--although we assume that's really Santa and love the idea he is--it doesn't really matter. It's a movie about kindness and faith in people and Kris works as a symbol for that whether he's Santa or not. The remake stops just short of insisting he really is Santa and somehow insists on the logic that believing in him is an important parallel to believing in God. Which is not only ideologically repellent to me personally, but is, in terms of story, far less thematically sound.

I hadn't really given as much consideration to what the original has to say--marvelously, subtly, with real balance and nuance--about commercialism and buying and selling until I watched it in parallel with the remake and the newer film trip and fall over its own feet trying to do the same.

Also, if you can watch this movie without devecloping at least a mild crush on Maureen O'Hara and/or John Payne I do not trust you and would like you to stay away from me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:36 AM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

And apologies for harping about the remake in a thread about the original, but the '94 version also overuses the "halo lighting" of good and/or beautiful people to a Abrams/lens flare. Seriously. I started laughing out loud each time it happened again.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2014

Oh god, I love this movie so much. "I believe, I believe. It's silly, but I believe."

Thelma Ritter, who plays the perplexed New Yorker Mother ("I just don't get it!) was Jimmy Stewart's maid in Rear Window!
posted by ChuraChura at 7:32 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have loved this movie since I was a kid. I have nothing to add other than yes, it's near-perfect. Valentine Davies and Tomie DePaola did a lovely book inspired by it. I also saw a stage-play adaptation a couple of years ago in a regional theatre, and it took to the stage very well, too. Just a really good story.
posted by Miko at 8:19 PM on December 11, 2014

I hadn't really given as much consideration to what the original has to say--marvelously, subtly, with real balance and nuance--about commercialism

"There's a lot of bay-ud isms in this woild, and one of the woist is commoicialism."

That's the line I end up quoting year-round from this movie. This is the one Christmas movie I absolutely have to watch every year.
posted by Night_owl at 4:53 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

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