Movie Review: Miracle on 34th Street

Posted: November 30, 2009 in Holiday, Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , ,


They call me MISTER Kringle!

Miracle on 34th Street (1947 20th, Century Fox Dir. George Seaton)


Nah, you’ve got the wrong shop, we don’t sell that kind of thing here. You want to try the Village for that.

You might notice that this is the 1947 version and not that hideously terrible 1994 remake that sucked the life out of all those who watched it. I really hated that version, because it was truly reprehensible. This however, isn’t. There are parts of this movie that bug me, and there are parts I really like. I intend to be tough but fair to this movie, attacking it at its weak points and applauding it at its strong ones. This is not going to be a glossy “Oooo I just loved every moment of this movie” review, but I do like this movie so I won’t be going after it like some things I’ve reviewed in the past. This is not a perfect movie, but I like it.


Oh look honey, back projection!

When we being a kindly old man tells a shopkeeper that he’s putting the reindeer in the wrong spots in the display window. It’s amusing to watch the shopkeepers face as this nutty old man leaves after telling him about getting the little toy reindeer mixed up. Then we’re taken to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, where this strange little man shows up. We’re already supposed to suspect he’s Santa Claus, but he clinches it when he bawls out the imposter Santa for being drunk at his post. He walks off to complain to Mrs. Doris Walker, who a very obviously dubbed young lady tells us is running the show. Mrs. Walker mistakes him for being the Santa, and they go to check out the drunk who passes out on the moment. In a pinch, she asks him to fill in, which he only agrees to because of his dedication to the children. He turns out to be the best Santa ever and they hire him to be their Store Santa on the spot. The Parade uses actual footage from the real Macy’s Parade in New York, which is pretty neat. I must point out here that the character’s name used in the story is Kris Kringle, so I shall endeavor to remember to call him that. Interesting point, Kris Kringle more or less means Christ Child in… German? I think it’s German. I would have to get up to go look in one of my books and I don’t want to bother right now. A Kringle without the Kris, is a kind of preztel. See? I do my research before writing these things.


There is a reason for the title you know.

Now we’re introduced to Susan and Mr. Fred Gailey. Susan is Doris’s daughter and Fred is the nice man who lives in an apartment across the way from them. Susan and he discuss how she doesn’t believe in anything because her mother refuses to let her have any fantasies. It seems Doris has been raising a little robot without any emotions or beliefs in anything at all. Gailey has been quite fond of Susan, but he’s been using her in order to meet Doris. Fred gives Doris a little crap for not letting her have any fantasies, and then Suzie asks if it’s okay that Fred comes to dinner and then shows that it was a plan between them by tipping her hand accidentally. Instead of being sent to the Gulag, she’s instead allowed to live and he comes over for dinner, which is sort of nice. It’s good when a holiday classic doesn’t end in every character either dead or dying. It’s also nice when you don’t end the holiday with someone putting a gun to their head and blowing their brains out because they can’t take it anymore. I had a very bad childhood.


You know, these two look like they’re on a date and that’s just creepy.

We’re then taken to the next morning and one of my problems with the movie. This is where we’re introduced to Alfred, a nice boy from Brooklyn. He admits that he likes to play Santa at the YMCA. It seems to warm Kris’s heart. He likes the idea, it will be one of the last ideas he likes. Before Kris goes out, he’s given a list of toys to suggest to children, a list of toys that are overstocked you see? Kris doesn’t like this idea and complains about trying to convince a child to accept a toy they don’t want because the store bought too much of the wrong thing. This leads to Kris and Alfred complaining about the commercialism of Christmas, which rings hollow. Alfred sweeps up, in the back, so he’s never seen by a customer. If it weren’t for people selling their hearts out, the store couldn’t afford to keep someone like Alfred on. He doesn’t do anything for the store’s profits, 80% of which are made in December, but he’ll sure complain a lot. It also rings false that the very symbol of materialism and greed should be complaining. Fortunately, this bit ends quickly and we start to see Kris’s real plan come forth.


A touch like this won’t be bad for another thirty years or so.

When a young man asks for a fire engine, and the mother tells him that no one has any Kris promises him one anyway. The mother is at first annoyed that he promises a toy that she can’t find, but Kris pulls out a little note book and informs her that she can get the fire engines he wants at Schoenfeld’s on Lexington avenue and tells her the price and everything. The woman looks like she was slapped in the face with a live perch. She is dumbfounded that a Macy’s Santa would suggest another store, but Kris explains that it’s only important that the children get what they should want. When the head of the toy department (Mr. Shellhammer) hears this he’s horrified. Can’t imagine why a Capitalist Suck Pot like him would be worried about not being given all the money in the world. However, he’s congratulated by the first woman who tells him that she’s going to shop at Macy’s a lot more not. He’s bewildered by all of this, but everyone wants to thank him for having such a great idea. He then has Kris Shot for not making people give him all their money.


I can understand, I will out my cards the same way. No one ever reads that crap.

Fred has brought Suzie to see Santa, which makes Doris a little annoyed. We get a scene that can only be categorized as character building in which Doris explains that Suzie is stupid and easily led and she shouldn’t believe in things that don’t exist because she (Doris) fell in love with a man who turned out to be no good. Sadly, the producers couldn’t come up with any other reason for Doris to be an independent career woman without having her being a twisted and bitter divorcee. I’m certain she’s just dying for someone to come along and invent feminism so she can shed this crap and get on with her life. Of course since this movie with end with her being fulfilled because a wang bearer enters her life, she’ll have to wait a few more years. Keep strong sisters! You’re time will come.


This man is trying to pass a brick. He’s just dying for Ex-lax to be invented.

We then see one of the best scenes in the whole movie. A woman explains that the next little girl in line is a Dutch orphan and doesn’t speak any English. While the woman is explaining this little girl’s life story, Santa blows her off and starts talking to the little girl. He speaks in what I assume to be Dutch but I don’t speak Dutch so I can’t tell. He speaks to the little girl in Dutch, sings a song with her and makes her happy. How dumb is it that this is one of my favorite scenes? I don’t care, I love this bit. All this happens in front of Susan, who is then convinced that Kris is really Santa. Maybe because of the whole Santa/Lapland thing? No, then because it would be Finnish he’d be speaking. Okay, so I’m not sure why she suddenly believes just because he speaks Dutch. Dutch must be a very magical language. Anyway, she goes and tells her disapproving mother about the whole thing.


Tell Big Tony to give me a couple more days. That’s all I’m asking, just three more days.

Doris calls Kris down and begs him to explain that not only is he not Santa, but there no Santa. He refuses on both counts, and when challenged keeps insisting he’s Santa. Doris asks for his card and finds that he’s listed his name and Kris Kringle and that he’s listed the reindeer as his next of kin. Doris decides to fire Kris on the spot, fearing he might be insane. It’s at that moment though that Mr. Macy calls her up to his office to thank her for the tremendous response that Kris’s plan has had. He announces that he’s going to expand the program storewide. This is when Doris explains that she fired him. The head of the toy department reasons he’s probably just a little crazy “Like painters, or composers, or some of those men in Washington” and demands she get Kris back to work. They decide to get the store psychologists to look at him. Fortunately Kris is pretty cool with the whole thing and informs her than she and Suzie are a test case for him, trying to get them to believe is like the whole system in miniature.


No, I can’t really do that. I’m not that flexible. Where did you get a magazine like this anyway?

This leads to the store shrink having a look at him. How far as corporate America fallen? Employers used to look after their people. Once it was normal for a place to have doctors and nurses on staff, now it’s barely acceptable to have a health insurance. And you have to pay extra for an insurance that doesn’t sent guys to your house and kill you if you get a sniffle. Anyway, the shrink and the brain tests. The test proves to be something of an annoyance, because Sawyer is kind of a nervous jerk. He doesn’t like Kris, and Kris just messes with him while taking the test. Sawyer tries to claim he’s insane, but can’t prove it because he passed all the tests. The doctor from the retirement home defends Kris against Sawyer, and convinces them to keep Kris on board. Sawyer is a jerk though, and everyone seems to realize it, but because Kris might get into trouble by having him stay over at their place. Some talk about rooms goes on and Kris ends up staying with Doris and Suzie for a few hours. In that time he tells Suzie how imagination is important and delivers and object lesson about it.


Now the scroll says, “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” What does that mean to you guys and how can we use it to crush the competition?

While Kris teaches Suzie how to use her imagination, Fred realizes that here is his ultimate conspirator in getting the two women to believe in something. He offers a room to Kris, who accepts happily. Mr. Shellhammer was going to take in Kris, but isn’t needed now with the new arrangement. We’re then taken to a conversation where Kris asks Suzie what she really wants. Suzie whips out an advertisement and tells him she wants a real house out on Long Island. Seems she doesn’t like the city much. This is her requirement of truth, if he’s really Santa he can manage and if not, he’s just a nice man with whiskers. This seems like kind of a set up. If he can’t perform the biggest request in his history, dead parents not withstanding, she’ll never believe in anything? Wow! Still, though, he takes the commission and tries to figure out a way to fill the order. I can’t help but think that this movie ends with Fred getting his organs harvested.


Father Christmas and two storeowners walk into a brothel…

We start seeing the operation of the store now, where an entire department is busy putting together books of advertisements of other stores so that the employees can tell the customers about the deals. Yeah, an entire department. They just don’t do it like they used to. This leads the guys at Gimbel’s to also decide to play the same game. He expands the operations to all their stores, then Macy does the same thing. They get a lot of pictures for the publicity, this being the biggest Christmas story of the last fifty years and everybody wanted to get into the newspaper story about it. One might mention that they were using up all kinds of store equipment that they had lying around, but I think we’ve milked that joke. While taking pictures Mr. Macy gives Kris a big check. When asked what he’ll do with it. Kris thanks him and mentions that a friend of his needs an X-Ray machine. The two storeowners then start falling over each other to make up the difference on getting that X-Ray machine for him. Then, they have a good laugh, this being the first time that these capitalistic bastards have ever fought over doing something nice for someone else. One assumes they have to go kill some babies with hammers to make up for this.


“I love you, Pumpkin.”
“I love you, Honey Bunny. All right, everybody be cool, this is a robbery!”

After another little bit we get to the actual meat of the story. It seems that punk Sawyer has been practicing head shrinkery on poor Alfred, twisting his young and impressionable mind. Kris looses his temper, announces that he’s going to tell Mr. Macy all about this and gives Sawyer what for. The scene that follows is somewhat odd, as capoeira wasn’t well known in the states at this time. But hey, a kung fu fight in the middle of the movie perks me up enormously. During the big brawl, Kris whacks Sawyer on the head. Sawyer pretends to be worse off than he was, and then lies all about what happened. He then gets them to take Kris to Bellevue before he can see Mr. Macy and tell him what a quack Sawyer is. Doris demands she won’t have any part of betraying Kris, but they tell him she did, lying again. This sadly crushes Kris’s spirits, and then he miserably fails the examination because he doesn’t care about anything anymore.


Hey! Look kids, it’s an establishing shot!

When Fred comes to explain everything, but by then it’s too late. Unfortunately, now Kris in on the inside and they can’t just let him walk out. Kris has faith in Fred to get him out, even though Fred tries to wriggle for a moment or two. Then we find out Macy’s opinion, which is that Sawyer had better get Kris out right away or he’ll get another lump. Mister Macy informs Sawyer that he too knows capoeira and isn’t going to take anymore shit from him. I like Macy, he’s a good egg, he would beat the crap out of a guy for threatening the idea of Santa Claus… or hurting sales, whatever. Seriously, who cares, right? He’s on the side of the righteous and employee benefits won’t be slashed left and right until long after he’s dead.


See, you just turn this switch and it speeds up. Neat, huh?

Now we get to the good bit. Instead of just signing some commitment papers, Fred comes to the rescue. He prevents to papers from being signed and starts the legal work and gets a great idea about publicity from Sawyer. Then the media blitz starts with four part harmony and full orchestration. Everyone hears about how the Santa that started the goodwill operation is being examined for lunacy. The judge in the case is told by his political advisor to leave town instead of taking the case. The judge says he’s an honest man and no one would hold it against him for doing his duty. Unfortunately for him about 14 seconds later, his grand children prove he’s wrong by snubbing him. When he complains, his wife joins in the chorus. Poor guy, just trying to get re-elected and do his job. You might notice the order I put those two points in.


Man runs naked through street. Yeah, that description does sound like me doesn’t it?

The district attorney only asks one question, which is whether Kris believes he’s Santa Claus, to which he answers yes. There is a legal matter here though. All the judge has to do is say that despite being delusional and thinking he’s Santa Claus, Kris is no danger to anyone (apart from Sawyer) and that he can go free. That wouldn’t be a very good end to the movie though, so we go ahead with the hearing. Besides, there has to be some awesome, right? If there wasn’t a big dose of awesome, this would just be another movie. No, we’ve GOT to bring the awesome. So the awesome will come!


Hey look, now there’s some location shooting.

This starts a lot of legal wrangling, in which Fred claims he’s going to prove that Kris is sane because he is Santa Claus. His bosses try to get him to drop the case, so he quits. Doris thinks it’s silly and childish, and they break up for a little while because she calls this an unrealistic binge. His mother says it might not be the best course of action, he punches her in the mouth. Fred is done taking crap from the man and he’s going to go all out to defend his wacky client. Meanwhile the District Attorney has the same trouble as the judge has, his family and the media is yelling at him. Also, someone threw a dead dog through his window. Now, I’m not going to say who it was, I’m just saying if anyone comes asking I was with you the whole time.


The faces of those innocent children would haunt him forever.

Fred starts his defense with Mr. Macy, asking him if he believes that Kris is Santa Claus. Brilliant move this, it’s like… I don’t know, playing a king or a knight instead o just one of the pawns? I don’t know anything about chess really. Macy has visions of headlines saying that he called his own Santa a fraud and answers that yes, he does believe that Kris is Santa. Whatever the reason, he believes. On his way off the stand, Macy delightfully fires Sawyer. The DA complains and demands that the Judge give a ruling on the reality of Santa Claus. Can this be done? Really? Can it? I remain unsure.


Every scene this girl is in just gets creepier and creepier.

The Judge has a moment of trouble but his advisor gets him in chambers and has a Come to Santa meeting with him. He explains that if there is no Santa, kids won’t hang up the stockings. If there are no stockings, then no one will buy the toys that should go into the stockings? So the toy manufactures have to lay off union employees, and this guy is a democrat. And there will be the department stores, the candy makers, and the Salvation Army. As a result, the judge rules that there must be proof of Santa Claus. Fred calls the DA’s son to the stand and asks him if there is a Santa Claus, and the boy agrees that Santa is real because his father told him so. Not wanting to disappoint, his son the DA agrees that there is a Santa but demands proof that Kris is that Santa.


And each one starts “Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought this would happen to me…”

This prompts the DA to ask for authoritative proof that Kris is Santa. Now we get the best damn solution EVAR! See, some guys down at the post office sorting station get an envelope from Suzie and Doris, addressed to him at the Court House. They discuss the case for a moment and then decide that if there are fifty thousand letters or so, that it would be nice to get rid of them. So they decide to deliver the mail to Kris at the court house. Kris get’s Suzie and Doris’s note, in which they both tell him they believe in him and it saves the day for him. This proves to be the ultimate proof that they needed. Fred brings in a lot of proof about how the Post Office is a wing of the federal government and then mentions how they brought Kris the letters. This allows the judge to not have to make a decision, beyond deciding not to argue with the Federal Government. It’s really great watching ten guys walk in carrying mail bags which they then empty on the judge’s desk.


Of all the things I didn’t need to see, Santa’s O face was number 26.

You know, it’s kind of funny, but I still giggle like a little kid every time they drag in those bags in and bury the judge in envelopes. Something about the nine or ten bags being deposited in front of him while he disappears behind the mound of correspondence. I guess it comes from my desire to see public officials buried under paperwork. It gets me hot. Really hot. I have some weird kinks.


I don’t know… some joke about these three having a hot time tonight or something. You make the dirty joke here.

There is only one bit of major business left to deal with. Kris’s doctor friend gets his x-ray machine, but Suzie’s present wasn’t delivered. This crushes Suzie’s faith, but Doris tells her to believe even if it’s silly. Fred and Doris make up a little, Kris gives them some instructions on how to get home, missing some traffic. That leads them to pass a house and Suzie runs into it. They run after her and find that the house has a big for sale sign on it. You see, it’s the house she wanted, and now she believes. Fred and Doris agree that the house was for sale, that they love each other and that they can’t let her down.


The Judge Spears curses the fact that his first name starts with a B

Fred congratulates himself for proving legally that Kris is Santa, but they notice a can sitting in the corner. Strangely, it’s much like the cane that Kris was always seen carrying around. Doris thinks it must have been left behind, but Fred remains dubious. He suspects that Kris maybe really is Santa and that everything has been part of an elaborate plan. In closing let me tell you that the DVD isn’t exactly stacked, but it does have an interesting trailer where the fact that this is a Christmas movie was entirely obscured. See, the movie was released in May for reasons I still don’t understand exactly. Oh I’ve heard the reason, that doesn’t mean I really get it though. A good movie, worth watching, you’ve just got to watch the original and not any of the crappy remakes, of which there were four. I have the 1955 one (I think) and it really is quite pointless. One of the main problems being that it’s almost a shot for shot remake. It’s just shorter is all. As we saw how lame it worked out here, I wonder why anyone thought it as a good idea to do it with Psycho.


I have to admit, I have no idea what this thing is. I’ve been pretending to be a doctor all this time.

Official Score:
60 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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