Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The funny thing about the original version of Miracle on 34th Street is that it was released in the month of May because Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, wanted to catch the summer crowds rather than capitalize on the Christmas theme.[1][2] So that moviegoers wouldn't be turned off about seeing a Christmas movie in May, they kept the Christmas aspect under wraps. So much so that the trailers for the movie are notoriously lacking in footage from the movie or saying anything about the plot.[3] I dare say that now very few people—if any—watch this film in May.

My verdict: This is a great film that is daring enough to peer into the matter of faith versus reason. It's even more impressive that it comes down on the side of faith.[4] For the most part I like this version and the new version [5] about equally. I was less impressed with the actor who played Fred Gailey in this one (vs. Bryan Bedford in the new version), but more impressed with the actress who played Susan. They say that Kris didn't need any padding, but the actor is actually quite skinny—even though Edmund Gwenn put on thirty pounds for the role.[6] The character of Alfred adds something to this movie that is sadly lacking in the new version. My favorite part of the movie is the moment when the judge demands that all the remaining evidence be put on his desk immediately. My least favorite part is the moment when Doris and Fred abruptly start calling each other 'Darling'—that transition should've happened a little more slowly.


[1] This is somewhat ironic since the original story, by Valentine Davies, was written in response to the commercialization of Christmas.

[2] See on 34th Street#Production.

[3] See, for example here.

[4] The television show Bones seems to be headed in the same direction. See my post The Boothification of Bones and the Bonesification of Booth.

[5] Read my review here.

[6] See the AMC Story Notes. This site has a lot of interesting trivia about the film. For example, Kris Kringle says that Daniel D. Tompkins was John Quincy Adams' Vice President. In actuality, Tompkins was Vice President to James Monroe and John C. Calhoun served under Adams.

Image attributions:

Turkey Float is by Aaron of NEPA, available at 

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