Frankly, My Dear, Search This Blog

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Movie Review: "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) ❅

I'm back again, with the third Sunday in my Four Sundays of Christmas blogathon! For each four Sundays of this month, I'm sharing with you my favorite Christmas films. So far, I've reviewed "Holiday Affair (1949)" and "Christmas in Connecticut (1945)".

As a note: Sally over at Flying Down to Hollywood is hosting the 12 Days of Christmas blogathon, and I secured a spot, promising to write up for this film. Therefore, this review is my contribution to the blogathon. Be sure and go over to her blog and check out the other 11 entries, I'm sure they'll all be lovely - I believe a full list of all twelve entries will be compiled on Christmas Eve, so you can see it then. As for now, this is my entry. Thank you, Sally, for hosting this!

Before I get onto the review, just a quick note, guys - you might have noticed that I only need one more follower to reach fifty. To reach fifty followers after a little more than six months of blogging would honestly just make me sooo happy! When I started this blog I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to manage a few followers, so to nearly reach this milestone truly blows me. :) The thing is, I haven't exactly reached it yet... I still need just another follower, and I've really like to reach fifty by the end of this year. There's just about thirteen days left in this year. Let's see if we can reach it!

Okay, enough of that. Time for the review! And, as promised, here is this Sunday's classic Christmas carol:

"Let it Snow" by one of my favorites, Doris Day

And this week's movie, as you might already be able to tell, is "Miracle on 34th Street," (1947) with Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn, and a very young Natalie Wood.

The poster: Alright, if a little dull! (In my humble opinion)

The plot:
When Santa falls down drunk in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, reluctant Macy's supervisor Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) offers the job to a bearded Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) purporting to be the real Santa! During the Christmas season, he shares a flat with Doris's neighbor (John Payne), who has eyes for Doris. Kris hopes to unite the two while winning over Doris's skeptical 6-year-old daughter (Natalie Wood). [from Netflix]

The starring players:
  • Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle
  • Maureen O'Hara as Doris Walker
  • Natalie Wood as Susan Walker
  • William Frawley as Charlie Halloran
The verdict:
You may call this movie a big advertisement for Macy's but I love it all the while. I love the plot, it's humorous and sweet, but don't label it as all fluff. It actually deals with some serious topics, not to mention that our Santa lands up in an mental institution on grounds of insanity. You also have Maureen O'Hara as a successful single mother - single due to divorce, something not quite popular in 1947. Thus Doris Walker became such a symbol for immorality in this Christmas film that it impelled the Legion of Decency to give this movie a B rating. So, no, despite it being based on a children's tale by Valentine Davies, it's not all fluff.. not exactly.

Edmund Gwenn is the perfect stereotypical Santa, with his glorious beard, rotund stomach, and jolly holiday spirit. He is so good, in fact, I think that he is the very definition of "Kris Kringle" in many people's minds, mine included. He is persuasive above all, which I think in this movie is very necessary. So he definitely deserved the Oscar he garnered for this role.

Maureen O'Hara is also fantastic as Doris Walker. In most cases you would resent the fact that she has forced her daughter, Susan, to grow up and face reality the way it is. But I can honestly say that her character is likable, and you can truly understand her reasons for not wanting Susan to believe in Santa Claus. She is wonderful across John Payne, her romance interest. He too is good, a very likable character, and all the while long you have your fingers crossed for he and Maureen O'Hara to get together.

Thus brings me to Natalie as Susan Walker. Natalie Wood never really considered herself a child movie star, not one in the likes of Shirley Temple or Margaret O'Brian - whereas the latter mentioned actresses had vehicles created for them in which they starred, Natalie usually played people's children in films. So she considered herself more of an actress in films who happened to be a child. Yet out of all the films of her childhood career, this is the most famous, and the one that probably marks her as a child movie star.

Bottom line is I loved her in this role. She is so sweet as the doubting six year old, and one of my favorite scenes in this movie is one in which she teaches Santa how to chew bubble gum. All the while her maturity prevents her from becoming sickeningly sweet or annoying, i.e Shirley Temple in her films. Also in this cast you've got William Frawley, in one of his pre-Fred Mertz roles.

I really love this movie. It's sentimental, charming, genuinely entertaining - albeit bordering on corny at times, but that's okay because it's a Christmas movie. I find it, even, a little clever. This film has found its way into many people's hearts - point in case, a colorized version (one we should all AVOID however). But I really suggest you settle into a comfy chair with a cup of hot chocolate and the B&W version of this movie. This one is one of my favorites to watch over and over!

Bottom line:
This will take you on an affectionate journey, and it's the type to leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. So I strongly suggest you watch it. :)

Some photos:


Some trivia:
  • Natalie, who was eight when she did this, was truly convinced during the filming that Edmund Gwenn was Santa Claus. It wasn't until she saw him at the wrap party out of costume that she realized he wasn't Santa.
  • Darryl F. Zanuck did not really promote this as a Christmas movie. He wanted the film to be released in May (and it was), because he claimed more people went to the movies in the summer. Therefore, the Christmas movie angle was not used so often when publicizing this movie.
  • Maureen O'Hara was pretty much forced into this role, as she was just returning to native Ireland when she got called back for this movie. But upon seeing the script and meeting the young Natalie Wood (she and Maureen would form a strong bond), she changed her sentiments.
A movie tidbit:

It's only a week until Christmas! Can you believe it???!

You'll probably be hearing a lot from me this upcoming week. I have two blogathons as well as some Christmas posts planned, and then the last Sunday in my blogathon. So.... until later! Here's a photo of Lucy, Cary Grant (!!!!) and Ann Sheridan to keep you in the holiday spirit:

Yes, I cried tears of joy when I saw this photo.


Carmen said...

I loved the post... but the photo!!!!!! It's amazing!!!!!

Sally said...

Great post!! I love it!! I do love this movie! It's such a classic. It makes me all teary and it's hilarious and it's romantic and it's completely adorable. So good!! I did not know that Natalie Wood thought that Edmund Gwenn was really Santa. That's fascinating!!

I hope you get your 50 followers!! Good luck!!

Classic Film and TV Cafe said...

I agree this is one of the best Christmas movies. The remake isn't bad either, though I prefer the original. Love your site's drive-in logo!

Rianna said...

Carmen: Thank you! And that photo is AMAZING. I can't believe it, Lucy and Cary, my favorite actor and actress, together! And in a funny Holiday photo like that! lol, I want to make it my screensaver. ;D

Sally: It is such a classic! Yeah, I can't blame Natalie though, Edmund Gwenn was so convincing. If I was eight I probably would've thought so, too! Thank you -- I just got a bunch of followers, and I'm over 50 and SO happy! :)

Classic Film and TV Cafe: I haven't seen the remake yet, I think I'm kind of afraid to. ;) Thanks, glad you like it!

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

William Frawley is a hoot as the Judge Harper's rainmaker suggesting how his re-election chances will plummet if he doesn't rule Kris Kringle is Santa Claus.

Post a Comment

I love getting comments and appreciate them so much. Comments don't require moderator's approval but I will remove your comment if it is spam or offensive. Thank you.