The Making of Miracle on 34th Street
By Thomas Myler
Christmas would hardly be the same without watching the movie Miracle on 34th Street. There were two versions, one made in 1947 and the second in 1994, but it is generally agreed that the earlier version was the best, as good as the second one was, surprisingly for a re-make.
With Maureen O’Hara in one of her best roles as a Macy store executive and a strong cast headed by John Payne as her husband, Natalie Wood as their daughter and Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus, the movie was a delightful fantasy and soon became a holiday classic – and stands up well today, exactly 70 years on.
Maureen always said it was one of her favourite movies. In an interview this writer did for Ireland’s Own some years ago, the Dublin-born star recalled: ‘It was a joy to make, and we all had a wonderful time.’
The story will be familiar. A kindly, white-bearded man, a resident of an old folks home and calling himself Kris Kringle shows up at the parade and is horrified to find that the fellow portraying Santa is so drunk that he can hardly stand on his feet. Furiously, he reports the situation to the parade director who in turn convinces Kris to play the role himself, not only in the parade but in Macy’s big department store.
Children and adults alike are drawn to the new Santa and many begin to believe that Kris Kringle is the real Santa Claus. This sets in motion a series of events in which Kris touches the lives of many, teaching them a lot about faith and the true meaning of Christmas. One who is not a bit impressed is O’Hara’s sophisticated little girl Susan, played by Natalie Wood, who thinks the very idea of Santa Claus is ridiculous.