Seventy years ago, The Miracle on 34th Street delivered a tale of Kris Kringle that put faith and belief on trial. Nominated for Best Picture, it won Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle), Best Writing, Original Story for Valentine Davies, and Best Writing, Screenplay. Considered historically significant in the National Film Registry and preserved by the Academy Film Archive, the film is one that transcends time and trends.
In a classic beloved by generations of Christmas film fans, Christmas ends up on trial when the real Kris Kringle (Gwenn) arrives at Macy’s for the Thanksgiving Parade. He realizes that the department store Santa is drunk, and complains to Maureen O’Hara’s event boss, Doris Walker, that he needs to be replaced. She hires Kringle to do the job, and he overturns everything about the status quo, even the cost of business.
Soon, Kringle draws Walker’s ire, and that of her boss. He’s finally institutionalized for arguing that he’s actually Santa, convincing even Walker’s daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood). When Fred Gailey (John Payne) becomes a true believer, he agrees to defend Kringle at a trial, throwing his career and relationships with Walker into turmoil.
Ultimately, the film proves the Christmas spirit, but it also serves as a testament of faith. Who believes what and why? Who determines what is true and believable, and what is made up? While Christmas movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf have become modern favorites, it’s films like It’s a Wonderful Life and 34th Street that set the stage for what we consider classic. It’s not just the Christmas trappings, but the actual look at what it means to hope, to love, and to believe. It’s never better than here with Kris Kringle.
On Fox’s 70th Anniversary Edition, fans can take the film on the go with the Digital HD included. There’s also audio commentary from O’Hara, as well as the backstory to the film. Fans of the film and the parade will enjoy “Floating in History” as a look at the historic celebration of capitalism and Christmas.