Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street

4.2 17
Director: George Seaton

Cast: George Seaton, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn

     
 

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At the time of its release, everyone thought of Miracle on 34th Street was a potential disaster in the making. Apart from being extremely expensive to film -- having been shot partly on location in New York -- and being built around a fantasy tale (always a tough sell), the studio decided to open the movie in the spring of 1947. Yet the gamble paid off, and the

Overview

At the time of its release, everyone thought of Miracle on 34th Street was a potential disaster in the making. Apart from being extremely expensive to film -- having been shot partly on location in New York -- and being built around a fantasy tale (always a tough sell), the studio decided to open the movie in the spring of 1947. Yet the gamble paid off, and the picture was still running in December of that year, one of the most successful fantasy movies and one of the most popular Christmas films in the history of Hollywood. In the decades since, the story of the bearded old man (Edmund Gwenn who proves to be something more than an actor playing Santa Claus at Macy's has become virtually a modern-day fable, remade twice by the studio (in the 1970's and the 1990's). The 1947 film has a special charm and vitality, however, most obviously due to the vibrancy of the performances -- Edmund Gwenn was at his most charming as Kris Kringle, the geriatric claimant to the name of Santa Claus, and Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood are perfect in their parts as three of the people swept into Gwenn's magical orbit. Moreover, and more subtly, the movie captured the mood of hope, tinged by uncertainty, that characterized the postwar United States (especially New York). The DVD is as perfect a presentation of the movie as this reviewer has ever seen, and runs circles around the laserdisc editions of previous years (one of which, at least, was colorized), as well as the various videocassette versions. The source print itself is flawless, and the transfer ideal. The 21 chapters are just adequate to break down the movie's highlights but their paucity is more than made up for by the presence of the original trailer -- one of the most effective promotional pieces ever to come out of a Hollywood studio, it doesn't show anything from the movie, yet it conveys the movie's richness of plot perfectly and cleverly, making it seem an irresistible attraction (which it proved to be). The disc is programmed to go to the menu before starting the movie, which gives the viewer a chance to see that delightful trailer first.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Miracle on 34th Street has been a favorite holiday movie since its release in 1947, and sharp-eyed observers may or may not have noticed that the film essentially retells the New Testament's story of the life of Jesus Christ. The movie was set in New York City in 1947 and utilized a large amount of location shooting (courtesy of Fox's Movietone News Studios, located in Manhattan) to give it a realistic texture; while screenwriter Valentine Davies' original story seems, superficially, to be the height of whimsy, about Santa Claus's appearance in the midst of that realistic setting, it becomes clear on closer examination that Davies borrowed liberally from the New Testament. Edmund Gwenn's Kris Kringle is almost more a substitute for Jesus than a screen-bound Santa. He enters a big city with his message of generosity and foresaking commercialism; he meets some doubters and some interested onlookers, and soon they're listening to him and starting to believe in him. Then he's betrayed and put on trial, not for his life but for his identity: he must prove he is who he says he is, or be imprisoned and labeled a madman and a pretender. The New York locations and use of New York "types," including Thelma Ritter's portrayal of a harried mother, Jack Albertson's postal worker, and Alvin Greenman as the simple, trusting Alfred (Greenman also appeared in the 1994 remake), only heightened the realism of this modified retelling of the trial of Jesus. And all of it was done so subtly--as opposed to, say, Frank Capra's more obvious retelling in Meet John Doe--that it was scarcely noticed by most viewers. However, the film adds a happy ending, reflecting a postwar feeling of confidence and helping to ensure its endurance across the decades.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/05/1999
UPC:
0024543013624
Original Release:
1947
Rating:
NR
Source:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:
1
Time:
1:37:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Aspect ratio: 1.33:1; Interactive menus; Scene selection; Original theatrical trailer; Languages: English mono; Frenceh mono; Subtitles: English; French

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Maureen O'Hara Doris Walker
John Payne Fred Gailey
Edmund Gwenn Kris Kringle
Natalie Wood Susan Walker
Harry Antrim R.H. Macy
Jerome Cowan D.A. Thomas Mara
William Forrest Dr. Rogers
Herbert Heyes Mr. Gimbel
Gene Lockhart Judge Henry X. Harper
Jack Albertson Postal Worker
Lela Bliss Mrs. Shellhammer
Teddy Driver Terry
William Frawley Charles Halloran
Robert Gist Window Dresser
Jane Green Mrs. Harper
Alvin Hammer Mara's Assistant
Percy Helton Santa Claus
Richard Irving Reporters
Robert Karnes Actor
Robert Lynn Macy's Salesman
Anne O'Neal Secretary
Steve Roberts Guard
Anthony Sydes Peter
Guy Thomajan Post Office Employee
Basil Walker Intern
Porter Hall Mr. Sawyer
Philip Tonge Mr. Shellhammer
Jeff Corey Reporter
Mary Field Mother
Alvin Greenman Alfred
Theresa Harris Cleo
Robert Hyatt Thomas Mara, Jr.
Harry "Snub" Pollard Mail-Bearing Court Officer
Thelma Ritter Peter's Mother
James Seay Dr. Pierce

Technical Credits
George Seaton Director,Screenwriter
Lloyd Ahern Cinematographer
Charles G. Clarke Cinematographer
Valentine Davies Original Story
Richard Day Art Director
Roger Heman Sound/Sound Designer
Richard Irvine Art Director
Arthur L. Kirbach Sound/Sound Designer
Ernest Lansing Set Decoration/Design
Thomas K. Little Set Decoration/Design
Cyril Mockridge Score Composer
Kay Nelson Costumes/Costume Designer
Alfred Newman Musical Direction/Supervision
Ben Nye Makeup
William Perlberg Producer
Fred Sersen Special Effects
Robert L. Simpson Editor

Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Scene Selection
1. A Mistake With the Reindeer [1:27]
2. Macy's Thanksgiving Parade [5:01]

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Miracle on 34th Street 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
''Miracle on 34th Street'' really is a Christmas classic. Starring Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood, the film brings holiday cheer and warmth to the family. The plot line begins with and elderly man meandering down a busy street who pauses to correct a store decorator's arrangement of Santa's reindeer. He moves on to court to try to prove to the world that he is, in fact, Santa Clause; and in the process wins over the critical Susan (Natalie Wood), and her mother Mrs. Walker, portrayed by Maureen O'Hara.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my all time Favorite Chastmas Movie the remake just doesn't have the charm that this one does, A True classic, I hightly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS STORY FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a superb Thanksgiving/Christmas movie and the whole cast is wonderful, especially Natalie Wood, Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn and John Payne. I highly recommend buying this magnificent black and white classic on DVD! The remake starring Mara Wilson was okay but not great and lacked the charm and warmth of this version!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the original 34th street and didn't expect much from a "new" version. But I thoroughly enjoy this movie and watch it at least 2 or 3 times every Christmas as well as a couple of times through the year. If you-deep down in your heart-believe in the magic of Santa and Christmas, you will love this movie too.
Bill-Ciardini More than 1 year ago
We know Miracle on 34th Street is one of the most beloved films of all time and is a true cinema treasure. It is one of those films that simply becomes a part of your life and the next generation. With so many perfectly cast players, Edmund Gwynn (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance), John Payne, Natalie Wood and Thelma Ritter in her first film, I love it most for Maureen O'Hara. In terms of film history, she was one American cinema's great beauty's which may be why she was a bit underrated as an actress. O'Hara's red hair and green eye's were made for technicolor and her own naturally spunky nature crossed over into her film roles to the point that she was never window dressing for the male lead but always his equal partner. She was always a outstanding addition to any film she appeared in and in this wonderful little story of Christmas, I believe the O'Hara character is the heart and soul of the film even though we logically assume it is the Kris Kringle character. But the film is so expertly directed that we look at it as a nearly perfect ensemble piece. I've loved her work my entire life, obviously, and believe her to be Ireland's great gift to film. Shockingly, she was never 'Oscar'd, nor even nominated'. Here Esmeralda, in her first American film THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, is one of my favorite films of Miss O'Hara's. She was superb it the film but it had the misfortune of being released in that golden year of 1939 which was a rich, competitive year for classic performance on film. She was overlooked for major awards from HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY through THE QUIET MAN and OUR MAN IN HAVANA right up until ONLY THE LONELY. But we still have her and on several DVD'S in which now into her 90's she has gifted us with a few facinating oral history's concerning her work in MIRACLE and on the wonderful John Ford film, THE QUIET MAN. O'Hara worked for Ford five times in all and that say's alot about the actress. That brings me to her skillfully transformational role of Doris, mother to Natalie Wood's Susan character in MIRACLE on 34th STREET. To me the film seems to be centered around O'Hara going from Chistmas cynic to wide-eyed believer at the close of the film along with the daughter she has with all of the best intentions, made to see the world in black and white only with no gray tones. The journey begins with Edmund Gwynn's opening jaunt down an Avenue in NYC in which we learn right away from his first scene with the window dresser he encounters that he believes he is the real Santa Clause. We, the viewer's, like Doris are skeptical because we are adults and we are of course logical. My first viewing of the film was as a child so my opinion was that he was Santa. The film makes that very clear to the young viewer. But one of the great charms of the film is that later in adulthood it is still a joy to travel through the rich tableau of this Christmas classic and enjoy the story and wonderful characters all over agan. O'Hara's oral history of working on the film begins with the circumstances surrounding her being cast in the film and like her wonderful anecdotes on THE QUIET MAN, it was enough for me to buy the film for the third time. The first was on VHS in it's black and white version, then later the VHS colorized version and now it's better than ever on Blue Ray, with all the enhancements that provides, but mainly for the wonderful gift of Maureen O'Hara's priceless commentary.
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