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Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street(1947)

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

SYNOPSIS

Kris Kringle is a kindly old gentleman who is a dead ringer for Santa Claus. When the Santa hired to ride in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade shows up drunk, store supervisor Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) convinces Kringle to take over the role for the day. Kringle is so successful as Santa that Macy's hires him as the in-store Santa Claus. The trouble is that Kringle not only thinks he really is Santa, but also that he starts sending customers to other stores when Macy's doesn't have what they want to buy. Doris, a divorced and disillusioned single mother, has trained her young daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) not to indulge in silly fairy tales like Santa Claus. When Doris' neighbor, ambitious young attorney Fred Gailey (John Payne), takes an interest in her, he is saddened by Susan's skeptical take on life at so young an age and tries to break through the cynical wall that Doris has built up around them. Meanwhile, Kris Kringle's radical tactics as the new Macy's Santa Claus brings unprecedented success to the famous department store, which inspires the community to adopt the generous spirit of the season year round. However, following an incident with the nasty in-store psychologist Mr. Sawyer (Porter Hall), Kringle must face the threat of institutionalization as he goes to court to prove that he is indeed the real Santa Claus.

Director: George Seaton
Writer: George Seaton
Story By: Valentine Davies
Producer: William Perlberg
Cinematography: Charles Clarke, Lloyd Ahern
Art Direction: Richard Day, Richard Irvine
Editing: Robert Simpson
Music Composer: Cyril Mockridge
Music Director: Alfred Newman
Music Arranger: Edward Powell
Cast: Maureen O'Hara (Doris Walker), John Payne (Fred Gailey), Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle), Gene Lockhart (Judge Henry X. Harper), Natalie Wood (Susan Walker), Porter Hall (Mr. Sawyer), William Frawley (Charles Halloran), Jerome Cowan (Thomas Mara), Philip Tonge (Mr. Shellhammer), James Seay (Dr. Pierce), Harry Antrim (Mr. Macy)
BW-96m.

Why MIRACLE ON 34th STREET is Essential

Miracle on 34th Street was a smash hit when it was released in 1947, but no one could have imagined that it would go on to become a holiday classic that continues to be shown every year. Its upbeat story and warm-hearted message of generosity and faith remain more relevant today than ever as the film continues to find new fans generation after generation over 60 years after the film's release.

Edmund Gwenn's delightful Academy Award-winning performance as Kris Kringle created a character that generations of children and adults alike have come to love. Gwenn is so memorable in the role that he came to forever be identified with Santa Claus until his dying day.

Miracle on 34th Street was one of the earliest screen roles for little Natalie Wood, who was just beginning to establish herself as a fine child actress. Her remarkable performance as the skeptical Susan Walker showcases her natural talent as an actress that would take her far in her adult career as one of Hollywood's most luminous movie stars.

Miracle on 34th Street helped make the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade an American institution. The parade had been around since 1924. However, before the film, the parade was a local New York City tradition that was broadcast locally over television beginning in the 1940s. With its on-location opening scenes, Miracle on 34th Street brought the parade into the national consciousness. National television coverage began for the parade in 1948, the year after the film's release, and has remained a part of American popular culture ever since.

by Andrea Passafiume

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

A one-hour television adaptation of the film starring Teresa Wright and Thomas Mitchell was shown in 1955 as part of The 20th Century Fox Hour. It was re-run later with a new title, Meet Mr. Kringle.

A live television version of the film was shown in 1959 starring Ed Wynn as Kris Kringle.

A television movie version of Miracle on 34th Street was broadcast in 1973 starring Jane Alexander, David Hartman, Roddy McDowall and Sebastian Cabot as Kris Kringle.

In 1994 a big budget re-make written and produced by John Hughes was released starring Elizabeth Perkins in the Maureen O'Hara role, Dylan McDermott in the John Payne role, Mara Wilson in the Natalie Wood role and Richard Attenborough in the Edmund Gwenn role. Macy's, however, wanted no part of the remake and refused to lend its name. The department store in this version is called Cole's.

Valentine Davies, who conceived of the original story for Miracle on 34th Street, published a novella version of the story in 1947 when the film was released.

A musical version of Miracle on 34th Street called Here's Love created by Meredith Wilson ran on Broadway in 1963. It starred Janis Paige, Craig Stevens and Laurence Naismith.

Stars Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Edmund Gwenn reprised their roles in Miracle on 34th Street for a Lux Radio Theatre production of the story on December 22, 1947 and again on December 20, 1948 and December 21, 1954.

Macy's Herald Square has shown a 30 minute version of the story in its Puppet Theater during Christmastime featuring voices of Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Victoria Clark.

In 1999 Macy's Herald Square chose Miracle on 34th Street as the theme of its famed Christmas windows display. Its windows were adorned with miniature recreations of the film's most famous scenes with the old-fashioned mechanical style window displays that were phased out in the 1960s. Macy's Creative Design executive Sam Joseph said at the time, "I thought, wouldn't it be kind of cool to say goodbye to this century the way they said goodbye to the last century? What better vehicle to use than Miracle on 34th Street?" Maureen O'Hara was recruited as Macy's special guest who unveiled the windows to the public and signed autographs. "I know John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Kris Kringle are up in heaven looking down on us and smiling," she said.

Maureen O'Hara was welcomed back again to Macy's in 2004 where she made an official appearance to sign copies of her autobiography 'Tis Herself.

Even to this day Macy's mentions the film by name on its website, boasting proudly, "The still-classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street opened in 1947 and is set in Macy's Herald Square, proving that Macy's has the one and only true Santa Claus."

by Andrea Passafiume

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Some of the production schedule on Miracle on 34th Street overlapped with Natalie Wood's work on another film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). Natalie would sometimes spend the mornings playing Gene Tierney's daughter in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and the afternoons playing Maureen O'Hara's daughter in Miracle.

It was so cold during the filming of the scene at the end of the film where Natalie Wood spots her dream house on the street and runs inside that the cameras actually froze. While technicians worked on fixing them, a woman who lived in one of the neighboring houses invited the cast inside to stay warm. The Good Samaritan was rewarded when Maureen O'Hara as a thank you took her and her husband to the 21 Club later that night.

The scenes inside Macy's were actually shot at the famous department store at Herald Square. They had to be shot at night so as not to interfere with regular store business.

Miracle on 34th Street was character actress Thelma Ritter's first film. In a memorable uncredited role, she plays the disbelieving mother whom Santa Claus first sends to another store in search of the toy her son wants.

A young Jack Albertson appears in the film in an unbilled role as a postal employee.

When Edmund Gwenn accepted his Best Supporting Actor Oscar®, he said, "Now I know there's a Santa Claus."

On its current website, Macy's says: "The still classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street opened in 1947 and is set in Macy's Herald Square, proving that Macy's has the one and only true Santa Claus."

Miracle on 34th Street was one of the first films to be colorized in 1985, resulting in some controversy and an uproar from film purists.

When John Hughes' production company wanted to do a theatrical re-make of the film in 1994, they could not get Macy's to participate. "We feel the original stands on its own and could not be improved upon," said a company spokesperson at the time. The re-make instead called its fictional store Cole's.

The rivalry between department stores Macy's and Gimbels depicted in the film was very real. The two stores were just blocks from each other in New York and major competitors for the same business. The rhetorical question "Does Macy's tell Gimbels?" was a popular phrase used throughout the 1930s-1960s which meant that business competitors are not supposed to share trade secrets with one another.

Co-star John Payne, who passed away in 1989, hoped to do a sequel to his dying day, and even took matters into his own hands. "John really believed in and loved Miracle on 34th Street," said Maureen O'Hara, "and always wanted to do a sequel. We talked about it for years, and he eventually even wrote a screenplay sequel. He was going to send it to me, but tragically died before he could get around to it. I never saw it and have often wondered what happened to it."

In her autobiography, Maureen O'Hara nicely summed up what the film had come to mean to her over the years. "Everyone felt the magic on the set and we all knew we were creating something special," she said. "I am very proud to have been part of a film that has been continually shown and loved all over the world for nearly sixty years. Miracle on 34th Street has endured all this time because of the special relationship of the cast and crew, the uplifting story and its message of hope and love, which steals hearts all over the world every year. I don't think I will ever tire of children asking me, 'Are you the lady who knows Santa Claus?' I always answer, 'Yes, I am. What would you like me to tell him?'"

Gimbels Department Store closed its doors permanently in 1986.

Macy's department store founder R.H. Macy is portrayed in the film by actor Harry Antrim even though the real R.H. Macy passed away in 1877.

Memorable Quotes from MIRACLE ON 34th STREET

"Could you be Santa Claus? Have you had any experience?"
"Oh, a little."
"Oh, please. You've got to help me out."
"Madam! I am not in the habit of substituting for spurious Santa Clauses."
-- Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) and Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn)

"I see she doesn't believe in Santa Claus, either. No Santa Claus, no fairy tales, no fantasies of any kind. Is that it?"
"That's right. I think we should be realistic and completely truthful with our children and not have them growing up believing in a lot of legends and myths like Santa Claus, for example."
--Fred Gailey (John Payne) and Doris, discussing Doris' daughter Susan

"Imagine, making a child take something it doesn't want just because he bought too many of the wrong toys. That's what I've been fighting against for years, the way they commercialize Christmas." -- Kris Kringle

"Listen, I want to congratulate you and Macy's on this wonderful new stunt you're pulling. Imagine sending people to other stores. I don't get it...Imagine a big outfit like Macy's putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the commercial. It's wonderful. Well, I'll tell ya. I never done much shopping here before, but I'll tell ya one thing. From now on I'm going to be a regular Macy's customer." -- Peter's Mother (Thelma Ritter), speaking to the store manager after Santa Claus tells her she can find a toy for her son at another store

"I shouldn't have brought Susie to see Santa Claus?"
"Now you're making me feel like the proverbial stepmother."
"I'm sorry, but it's just that I couldn't see any harm in just saying hello to the old fella."
"But I think there is harm. I tell her Santa Claus is a myth, and you bring her down here and she sees hundreds of gullible children, meets a very convincing old man with real whiskers. This sets up a very harmful mental conflict within her. What is she going to think? Who is she going to believe? And by filling them full of fairy tales, they grow up considering life a fantasy instead of a reality. They keep waiting for a Prince Charming to come along. When he does, he turns out to be a--"
"We were talking about Susie, not about you."
--Fred / Doris

"Imagine Macy's Santa Claus sending customers to Gimbels. But gentlemen, you cannot argue with success. Look at this: telegrams, messages, telephone calls -- the governor's wife, the mayor's wife. Over 500 thankful parents expressing undying gratitude to Macy's. Never in my entire career have I seen such a tremendous and immediate response to a merchandising policy...And I'm positive, Frank, that if we expand our policy we'll expand our results as well. Therefore, from now on, not only will our Santa Claus continue in this manner, but I want every salesperson in this store to do precisely the same thing. If we haven't got exactly what the customer wants, we'll send him where he can get it. No high-pressuring and forcing a customer to take something he doesn't really want...We'll be known as 'The Helpful Store.' 'The Friendly Store.' 'The Store With a Heart.' The store that places public service ahead of profits. And consequently we'll make more profits than ever before." -- Mr. Macy (Harry Antrim), addressing his employees in a meeting

"I fired him."
"Who?"
"Santa Claus."
"What?!"
"He's crazy! He thinks he is Santa Claus."
"I don't care if he thinks he's the Easter Bunny. Get him back."
--Doris and her co-worker, Mr. Shellhammer (Philip Tonge)

"Maybe he's only a little crazy...like painters or composers or some of those men in Washington."

-- Mr. Shellhammer, referring to Kris Kringle

"For the past 50 years or so I've been getting more and more worried about Christmas. It seems we're all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster and look shinier and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle."
"I don't think so. Christmas is still Christmas."
"Oh, Christmas isn't just a day. It's a frame of mind."
--Kris Kringle / Doris

"Now, that's what I want for Christmas."
"You mean a doll's house like this?"
"No, a real house. If you're really Santa Claus, you can get it for me. And if you can't, you're only a nice man with a white beard, like Mother said."
"Now, wait a minute, Susie. Just because every child can't get his wish, that doesn't mean there isn't a Santa Claus."
"That's what I thought you'd say."
--Susan / Kris Kringle

"All my life I've wondered something, and now's my chance to find out. I'm gonna find the answer to a question that's puzzled the world for centuries. Does Santa Claus sleep with his whiskers outside or in?"
"Always sleep with them out. Cold air makes them grow."
--Fred / Kris Kringle

"You don't have any faith in me, do you?"
"It's not a question of faith. It's just common sense."
"Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to."
--Fred / Doris

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The inspiration for Miracle on 34th Street came when writer Valentine Davies was standing in line at a big department store during the Christmas season. The realization that Christmas was becoming more commercialized sparked the first broad strokes of the story that would eventually become Miracle on 34th Street.

Davies took his story idea to writer/director George Seaton who in turn hammered out a solid screenplay from it that he titled The Big Heart. The story about a disillusioned woman, her skeptical daughter and a mysterious man who believes he is the real Santa Claus was about love, Christmas spirit, generosity, and the magic of believing "when common sense tells you not to."

20th Century Fox Studios loved the script and decided to move forward with production on it. There was only one potential problem, however, and it was a big one. Macy's department store and its real-life rival Gimbels figured prominently in the story, and the script used the stores' real names. In order to get away with it, Macy's and Gimbels would both have to eventually grant their approval. 20th Century Fox made Macy's and Gimbels aware that the film was going into production, but representatives from neither store would be allowed to see anything until it was completed. It was a big risk on Fox's part to make the film without either store signing off on it ahead of time. A rejection from them--especially Macy's--would mean major re-structuring of the film once it was already done. However, Fox had faith that the stores would ultimately be pleased with how they were represented and decided to move forward with optimism.

Meanwhile, in October of 1946 actress Maureen O'Hara had just arrived in her homeland of Ireland to visit family members she hadn't seen in seven years. O'Hara, who had dual citizenship in both the United States and Ireland, had been prevented from traveling there because of World War II, and she was elated to finally be back for the first time in so long.

When O'Hara received word from her home studio of 20th Century Fox just a few days into her trip that she was to report back to the U.S. immediately to begin work on a new film, she was furious. "After waiting seven years, my reunion had been cut short by the studio," said O'Hara in her 2004 autobiography 'Tis Herself. "I was heartbroken, furious and reduced to tears. I almost refused to go back, but knew I had no choice. I was madder than a wet hen the whole flight back. 'How dare they,' I fumed. 'How dare they force me back just to make a silly little movie about Santa Claus!'"

When O'Hara was back on American soil and finally had a chance to read the script, however, her whole attitude changed. "I knew the movie was going to be a hit...It was warm, charming, and sentimental, but more than anything, it captured the spirit of Christmas."

O'Hara discovered that the reason Fox had called her back from Ireland so urgently was because the studio wanted to move quickly on the production. The story opened with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, an annual New York City tradition since 1926, and writer/director George Seaton wanted to capture real shots from the upcoming 1946 parade with his actors in the middle of the action. The parade was coming up in a matter of weeks, and the studio had to prepare quickly. Macy's had granted them permission to film the parade, with the one caveat being that the parade could not be stopped to accommodate the filming.

With shooting set to begin in November on The Big Heart, the rest of the cast was quickly assembled. John Payne was hired to play O'Hara's love interest, aspiring lawyer Fred Gailey. It would be the third film in which O'Hara and Payne co-starred. To play O'Hara's daughter, the studio chose young up-and-coming child actress Natalie Wood whom O'Hara called "a remarkably endearing eight-year-old." British character actor Edmund Gwenn would portray the film's central character, the is-he-or-isn't-he Santa Claus, Kris Kringle. While the cast and production team knew that the film they were about to make would be good, no one had any idea they were about to become part of a timeless holiday classic.

by Andrea Passafiume

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

With a new working title of It's Only Human, production began on what would become Miracle on 34th Street in November 1946 with the cast and crew traveling to New York City to capture real shots of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

On Thanksgiving Day November 28, 1946, director George Seaton did his best to shoot as many scenes as he could by placing his actors in the midst of the parade festivities. They had to work quickly, however, since the parade was not going to be stopped on their account. "It was a mad scramble to get all the shots we needed, and we got to do each scene only once," said Maureen O'Hara in her 2004 autobiography 'Tis Herself. "It was bitterly cold that day, and Edmund and I envied Natalie and John Payne, who were watching the parade from a window."

Actor Edmund Gwenn got a thrill when he got to play Santa Claus that day. He was given the task of riding in the actual Santa Claus float during the parade and climbing to the top of the Macy's marquee. The crowds were not aware at the time that it was Gwenn waving to them. It was only the next day when the New York Times ran a small piece about it that everyone became aware that Gwenn had been the star of the show the previous day.

Following the parade, the cast and crew remained in New York to film as much as they could on location in order to capture a realistic feel of the city during the Christmas season. With the department store's permission, scenes were shot inside the real Macy's Herald Square during the month of December. "When Natalie [Wood] and I shot the scenes in Macy's," said O'Hara, "we had to do them at night because the store was full of people doing their Christmas shopping during the day. Natalie loved this because it meant she was allowed to stay up late...I really enjoyed this time with Natalie. We loved to walk through the quiet, closed store and look at all the toys and girls' dresses and shoes."

O'Hara's time with Natalie Wood was something she always treasured. "I have been the mother to almost forty children in movies, but I have always had a special place in my heart for little Natalie," said O'Hara. "She always called me Mamma Maureen and I called her Natasha, the name her parents had given her."

The entire cast enjoyed a special bond, according to O'Hara, and always got along beautifully throughout the production. "Each evening, when we were not working," recalled O'Hara, "Edmund Gwenn, John and I went for a walk up Fifth Avenue. Natalie had to go to bed, but we didn't. We stopped and window-shopped at all the stores, which were beautifully decorated for the holidays. Edmund especially loved those nights and acted more like the kid who might be getting the presents instead of the Santa who would be giving them. I got such a big kick out of seeing the expressions of window dressers when they saw Edmund peering in at them--I knew then that he was going to make a big splash as Santa Claus."

The cast and crew were unanimous in their opinion of Santa Claus himself, Edmund Gwenn: they loved him. Actor Alvin Greenman who played soft-spoken janitor Alfred called Gwenn "a dear, dear man," and Robert Hyatt, who played the judge's son Tommy, Jr., said in a 2001 interview, "He was a really nice guy, always happy, always smiling. He had this little twinkle in his eye." Added Maureen O'Hara: "...by the time we were halfway through the shoot, we all believed Edmund really was Santa Claus. I've never seen an actor more naturally suited for a role."

In January of 1947 the cast and crew returned to California to finish shooting the film on the 20th Century Fox studio lot. In March, the filming wrapped and went into post-production.

Sporting the new and final title of Miracle on 34th Street, the film was finally screened--separately--for the high ranking Macy's and Gimbels executives, who still had veto power if they didn't like what they saw. There was a risk that they wouldn't approve the final film, but the studio felt confident that Miracle on 34th Street depicted both Macy's and Gimbels in a positive light. It was the kind of publicity that money couldn't buy if the film did well at the box office. Luckily, the famous department stores gave their blessings with enthusiasm.

20th Century Fox knew that it had a terrific film on its hands and believed it had the potential to be a big hit. With that in mind, studio chief Darryl Zanuck made the decision to release the Christmas-themed film not in December, which would seem logical, but rather in June. The studio believed that more people went to the movies during summer and would therefore mean bigger box office potential.

With a summer film about Santa Claus, the challenge for 20th Century Fox was in figuring out how to market it. Darryl Zanuck and his marketing team devised a publicity campaign for Miracle on 34th Street that would entice audiences to see it without ever mentioning it was about Christmas. The holiday theme was played way down in teaser trailers, and movie poster art featured Maureen O'Hara and John Payne prominently with Edmund Gwenn barely visible in the background. As far as unsuspecting audiences knew, they were simply seeing a lighthearted romantic comedy. The marketing campaign worked. When the film was released in the summer of 1947, it was a smash hit, winning the hearts of audiences and critics alike.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) began life as a short story by Valentine Davies and ended up being one of the most beloved Christmas films of all time. In it, Doris, a divorcee who works at Macy's (Maureen O'Hara) raises her young daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) in a very no-nonsense manner. And that includes not believing in Santa Claus. Enter Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), playing Macy's Santa Claus. Kringle is a sweet old man and an excellent Santa but there is one small problem - he actually believes he's Santa, which results in his being committed to an institution and lawyer Fred Gailey (John Payne) defending him.

Payne, who had starred in many films at 20th Century-Fox, had been unhappy about the quality of roles he was being given, and when he read the story, he bought the film rights as a starring vehicle for himself. Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck agreed to make the film, sending producer William Perlberg and writer-director George Seaton a memo on November 6, 1946, outlining his thoughts on the first draft continuity script, then titled The Big Heart. "It is excellent, fresh, exciting and delightful. I definitely want to use John Payne for Fred. Mark Stevens does not fit the part at all and in any event it is essential that we have a box-office name with [Maureen] O'Hara, as the only conceivable excuse we have for making the picture from a box-office standpoint is the combination of O'Hara and Payne, who have already established themselves. I will not tell you about the many things I like but will get to the points that actually disturb me. I feel Doris is overdrawn. I feel that she is so cold, cut and dried, that an audience will have a difficult time forgiving her. Perhaps if there were a way to bring out quicker the hurt in her background and past life we might be able to understand her. It was impossible for me to believe that any mother could be as heartless as she appeared to be...Any man who ever heard [a mother] give her child the kind of advice that Doris does would start running in the other direction. Furthermore, I do not believe the characterization is either plausible or true to life...You get the feeling that she is a bit of a fanatic on the subject of Santa Claus when actually she is merely a modern woman who doesn't believe in feeding a child a lot of silly antiquated fairy stories. I also think that if you make her a little more normal Fred will automatically be more understandable...I am crazy about the title The Big Heart. If we can clear it, it is a natural. It is the kind of title like Sentimental Journey [1946] that made such a hit previously with these two people."

Maureen O'Hara was vacationing in Ireland when Fox summoned her back to the United States to make Miracle on 34th Street and she was not happy about it. As she wrote in her autobiography, "The first thing I did was read the script that I was so urgently brought back to make...My mood changed as soon as I finished reading the script. I knew the movie was going to be a hit, but I was not clairvoyant enough to foresee it becoming a classic. It was warm, charming, and sentimental, but more than anything, it captured the spirit of Christmas...I spent the first week in costuming, and by Thanksgiving was in front of the cameras filming. It went unusually fast. I later learned the reason I was so urgently brought back to New York was so we could film the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade sequences live while the parade was actually happening. They weren't going to run the parade more than once on our account. Those sequences, like the one with Edmund riding in the sleigh and waving to the cheering crowd, were real-life moments in the 1946 Macy's parade. It was a mad scramble to get all the shots we needed, and we got to do each scene only once. It was bitterly cold that day, and Edmund and I envied Natalie and John Payne, who were watching the parade from a window." The weather in New York was so cold that the camera froze several times during the shoot and had to be thawed out. O'Hara remembered that a woman named Vaughn Mele lived across the street from where they were shooting exteriors and allowed the crew to warm up in her house. In gratitude, O'Hara took Mele and her husband to the famed "21" restaurant and Mele was so excited all she could drink was a glass of milk.

O'Hara was very fond of her co-stars. "Natalie, John and Edmund - I had a special relationship with each one. I have been the mother to almost forty children in movies but I have always had a special place in my heart for little Natalie. She always called me Mamma Maureen and I called her Natasha, the name her parents had given her. When Natalie and I shot the scenes in Macy's we had to do them at night because the store was full of people doing their Christmas shopping during the day. Natalie loved this because it meant she was allowed to stay up late. I remembered all the tricks we pulled as kids in our house, trying to stay up past bedtime, and so I really enjoyed this time with Natalie. We loved to walk through the quiet, closed store and look at all the toys and girls' dresses and shoes...When John Payne arrived on the set of Miracle each morning, I made sure to greet him with a big, joking smile to make up for the frowns he teased me about on To the Shores of Tripoli (1942) and Sentimental Journey. John really believed in and loved Miracle on 34th Street , and always wanted to do a sequel. We talked about it for years, and he eventually even wrote a screenplay sequel. He was going to send it to me, but tragically died before he could get around to it. I never saw it and have often wondered what happened to it.

"Each evening, when we were not working, Edmund Gwenn, John, and I went for a walk up Fifth Avenue. Natalie had to go to bed, but we didn't. We stopped and window-shopped at all the stores, which were beautifully decorated for the holidays. Edmund especially loved those nights and acted more like the kid who might be getting the presents instead of the Santa who would be giving them. I got such a big kick out of seeing the expressions of windows dressers when they saw Edmund peering in at them - I knew then that he was going to make a big splash as Santa Claus...Everyone felt the magic on the set and we all knew we were creating something special. I am very proud to have been part of a film that has been continually shown and loved around the world for nearly sixty years."

Miracle on 34th Street was released on May 2, 1947, despite being a Christmas film. Zanuck thought that more people went to the movies in the summer and wanted to get back his costs. He did. The low-budgeted film grossed $2,650,000 in the United States alone. It won three Academy Awards - Best Supporting Actor for Edmund Gwenn, Best Writing, Original Story for Valentine Davies, and Best Writing, Screenplay for George Seaton's adaptation. It was also nominated for Best Picture but lost to another Fox film, Gentleman's Agreement (1947). Valentine Davies would write a novelization of his story in 1947. A musical and several remakes of the film have been done on stage, screen, and television. John Payne, Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwenn would reprise their roles twice, in 1947 and 1948 on The Lux Radio Theater. Gwenn would play the role three more times on radio - in 1949, 1950 and 1954.

Miracle on 34th Street continues to be a popular holiday classic. It was included in the National Film Registry in 2005. The following year it ranked #9 in the American Film Institute's Most Inspiring Movies of All Time, and in 2008 ranked #5 on their 10 Greatest Films in the Fantasy Genre.

Producer: William Perlberg
Director: George Seaton
Screenplay: George Seaton (screenwriter); Valentine Davies (story)
Cinematography: Charles Clarke
Art Direction: Richard Day, Richard Irvine
Music: Cyril Mockridge
Film Editing: Robert Simpson
Cast: Maureen O'Hara (Doris Walker), John Payne (Fred Gailey), Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle), Gene Lockhart (Judge Henry X. Harper), Natalie Wood (Susan Walker), Porter Hall (Granville Sawyer), William Frawley (Charlie Halloran), Jerome Cowan (Dist. Atty. Thomas Mara), Philip Tonge (Julian Shellhammer).
BW-96m.

by Lorraine LoBianco

Sources:
Belmer, Rudy Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox
The Internet Movie Database
O'Hara, Maureen and Nicoletti, John 'Tis Herself: An Autobiography
Whitaker, Jan Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

AWARDS AND HONORS

Miracle on 34th Street was nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn), Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay (George Seaton). It won in every category except Best Picture.

Edmund Gwenn won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Kris Kringle, and George Seaton also won a Golden Globe for his screenplay.

In 2005 Miracle on 34th Street was added to the National Film Registry for preservation.

In 2006 the American Film Institute ranked it number 9 on its "100 Years...100 Cheers" list, which "celebrate the films that inspire us, encourage us to make a difference and send us from the theatre with a greater sense of possibility and hope for the future."

In 2008 the American Film Institute ranked Miracle on 34th Street fifth on its list of the top 10 fantasy movies of all time.

Film Reviews: Miracle on 34th Street

"For all those blas skeptics who do not believe in Santa Claus--and likewise for all those natives who have grown cynical about New York -- but most especially for all those patrons who have grown weary of the monotonies of the screen, let us heartily recommend the Roxy's new picture, Miracle on 34th Street. As a matter of fact, let's go further: let's catch its spirit and heartily proclaim that it is the freshest little picture in a long time, and maybe even the best comedy of this year." -- The New York Times

"Film is an actor's holiday, providing any number of choice roles that are played to the hilt. Edmund Gwenn's Santa Claus performance proves the best in his career, one that will be thoroughly enjoyed by all filmgoers. Straight romantic roles handed Maureen O'Hara and John Payne as co-stars also display pair to advantage...Gene Lockhart's performance as judge is a gem, as is Porter Hall's portrayal of a neurotic personnel director for Macy's. Surprise moppet performance is turned in by little Natalie Wood as O'Hara's non-believing daughter who finally accepts Santy. It's a standout, natural portrayal." -- Variety

"By the fadeout, not only the courts of New York State but 20th Century-Fox itself are ready to insist that there really is a Santa Claus, and that Mr. Gwenn is it. Almost certainly he is, so far as the box-office is concerned. Author-Director George Seaton has laced his sure-fire sentimentality with equally sure-fire wit and some cynical knowledge about how men of business and law might talk, look and act under these extravagant circumstances. The movie handles all its whimsy deftly and is consistently a smooth, agile job." -- Time magazine

"Probably no actor on earth could have done more handsomely by the role of Kris Kringle than Edmund Gwenn, who plays it without a trace of archness and makes sure that things are kept within the realm of credibility when the script becomes too fanciful for its own good. Mr. Gwenn gets sturdy support from everyone else in the cast...The most appealing of the lot, it seems to me, is a girl named Natalie Wood, who turns in a remarkably accurate performance as a progressive-school product indoctrinated against the whole idea of Santa Claus. My guess is that you'll find yourself nicely refreshed by this neat little fantasy." -- The New Yorker

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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