Maureen's Miracle in Macy's
When it comes to the two "Miracle on 34th Street" movies I have to say I like them both pretty much equally. The 1947 "Miracle on 34th Street" is classy with that nice old Hollywood blend of innocent humour, romance and drama whilst the 1994 "Miracle on 34th Street" captures the Christmas magic, that sense of nostalgia but gives it a modern feeling. But there is something that little bit more special about the 1947 version, that class, that touch of magic, that innocence and the wonderful performances of Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn along with a young Natalie Wood.
Having come to the rescue of Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara - Sinbad, the Sailor) to play Santa Claus in the Macy's parade, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn - Lassie Come Home) finds himself becoming a hit as he is hired by Macy's to also be their in store Santa Claus. Through Kris's special gift he manages to fill everyone with cheer except for young Susan Walker (Natalie Wood - West Side Story) who just doesn't believe in Santa Claus. But as Kris ends up becoming a huge part of both Susan and Doris's life something magical starts to happen but also something quite terrible as a psychiatrist sets out to discredit him.
So as a Christmas movie "Miracle on 34th Street" is one of those classics and much of that is down to the innocent but beautifully crafted storyline. We get are first smile early on as we meet Kris Kringle telling a shop window dresser that the reindeer in the display are in the wrong order and that smile stays with you through out be it the Macy's parade scene, the children visiting Santa in the store or the comical court case as Kris's credentials are brought into question.
What makes it special is that it has a feel good, innocent storyline about having faith and at the same time a touch of romance as we watch neighbours Fred Gailey and Doris Walker become romantically involved. There is not a single moment during "Miracle on 34th Street" which is questionable as it broaches subjects such as the commercialization of Christmas and that children should be allowed to believe in fairytales, whilst the whole time delivering warmth which radiates through out.
It also helps that director George Seaton also finds the perfect balance so whilst there is drama there is also comedy working perfectly in harmony. Plus there is realism mixed with fantasy and yet again they work in beautiful tandem. And this also means that "Miracle on 34th Street" is beautifully paced, skipping along at a natural rhythm never becoming dull as all these elements interweave to keep you engaged in what is happening, not through the thought of what is happening next but through sheer entertainment.
And to wrap up the loveliness of "Miracle on 34th Street" are the wonderful performances most notably that of Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. Gwenn gets it spot on playing Kringle filling the character with warmth and innocence, a sense of mischief and fun making him a jolly old fellow but not making him a caricature, keeping him human. It makes it perfect that on one hand he could be Santa Claus yet on the other he is just a man with a heart of gold.
Edmund Gwenn is not alone in delivering a brilliant performance as both Maureen O'Hara and John Payne get it spot on as Doris Walker and Fred Gailey especially when it comes to the romantic subplot never allowing it to become too central. And of course there is a young and it has to be said adorable Natalie Wood as the non-believing Susan Walker delivering the right blend of cuteness with that of a very educated almost opinionated young girl.
What this all boils down to is that "Miracle on 34th Street" is a brilliant Christmas movie that delivers the magic and warmth which you want from such a movie. Through the wonderful direction of George Seaton as well as the performances from Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn there is never a dull moment. And despite being over 65 years "Miracle on 34th Street" is still a Christmas movie which will charm and entertain you from start to finish.