Holiday Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Calling Miracle on 34th Street a Christmas classic is a lot like calling chocolate just another candy. Some movies stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, and this classic stands even higher than that in the holiday pantheon.

As with many of the best stories, this one has been put to screen a number of times with a variety of interpretations. For me, none have managed to equal the ineffable combination of talents assembled for the b&w 1947 version starting Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, and a young Natalie Wood. It won 3 Academy Awards (out of 4 nominations).

Gwenn is what makes this movie so bright. It’s hard not to think of him more as Santa Claus than as a kind old man with whiskers. The famous scene with the Dutch girl I think cinches it for a lot of us. There’s a magic there between the two of them, an earnestness, that simply resonates. Of course there’s also that final image….

The thing is, the movie isn’t just about Santa Claus. It’s a commentary on American capitalism as well as our public-opinion-tilting political system. It’s also an indictment on how easy it is for a small person with more power than ey* deserves (I’m talking of the psychologist) can turn everything topsy-turvy out of all proportion. It shows that decade after decade we still have many of the same problems.

In the end, though, Miracle on 34th Street is a movie about believing. It’s about being willing to love, about being willing to fight a battle because it’s right and not just because you think you can win. It’s about wanting to turn to the light, in spite of the risks, instead of lurking in the shadows with a false sense of security. It’s about listening to the better angels of our nature.

But forget about all of that. Watch Miracle on 34th Street because it’s a really good holiday movie. It might not hurt to have a tissue or two within reach as well.

4.75 of 5 

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

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