on July 16, 2004
Don't let cute little Natalie Wood and the heartwarming plot fool you... this is a wickedly funny comedy that is easily the best Christmas movie ever made.
Maureen O'Hara is wonderful as the scorned woman (isn't it funny how a female character in a romantic comedy from the 1940's is so strong and independant, while nowadays the romatic leads are usually scatterbrained flaky blondes?), and Natalie Wood steals the show as the perfectly well brought up little girl who confuses imagination with schitzophrenia ("it's when you think you see something that isn't there" she tells Kris Kringle).
I remember loving this movie as a child, but it is actually a grown-up movie. Politics, pop psychology, and commercialism all take a wicked beating... if you are looking for treakly magical endings, you might be surprised at the motives behind what finally 'saves the day.'
If you've never seen it, or if you've only seen the 1994 sacharine-sticky-sweet remake, then you must see this movie. It is great for all ages: the kids will see the heartwarming plot, and the teenagers and adults will understand the delightful cynisism that crops up in the most surprising places.
on May 8, 2004
1947's "Miracle On 34th Street", starring the great Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwenn, is a motion picture that can be watched over and over again without losing one bit of its original flavor. And its flavor is quite tasty, in my opinion!
A very spunky 8-year-old Natalie Wood helps to make this movie an even bigger treat. Natalie shows an acting talent in this film that belies her tender age. She gives one of the best performances by a child actor in a film I've ever come across. "34th Street" was Natalie's 4th screen appearance, in a successful career that would eventually span 52 films before her sudden and tragic death at the age of only 43.
Miss Wood seems well-suited for her good-sized role as "Susan Walker" in this movie. She blends perfectly with the other actors, and her scenes with Gwenn (who, of course, plays the part of "Kris Kringle" to utter perfection) are highly memorable.
Could the studio have possibly found a better choice for the part of "Kris" (Santa) in this motion picture? Well, perhaps. But ONLY if the REAL Santa Claus were to have taken a break from his duties at the North Poll and played the part himself. Oh...wait...Gwenn turns out to BE the REAL Santa, doesn't he? LOL! :)
Yes, Edmund Gwenn actually DOES become "Santa Claus" for the 97-minute running time of this movie. He's *that* believable in the role. Gwenn was so good here that he won an Oscar for his memorable performance (Best Supporting Actor).
This is a perfect movie to show your children. It must be a lot of fun watching a child's reaction to seeing Mr. Gwenn's very realistic portrayal of the portly fur-clad Christmas-time gift-giver. To a child that still does believe that Mr. Claus visits his or her house every December 24, this movie must be quite an eye-opener.
This 20th-Century Fox DVD version of "Miracle On 34th Street" brings us the film in its intended (original) screen ratio of 1.33:1 (Full Frame); and the picture looks just dandy! The film, which was shot in "glorious black-and-white", exhibits outstanding clarity on this DVD. I can't spot a bit of grain or "noise". An absolutely beautiful digital transfer. Especially considering the age of this flick.
The audio comes via an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack. The audio comes across nice and clean, with just a small amount of background "hiss" present. There's also a foreign-language track here, too (French). This French track (which is also 2.0 DD Mono) sounds a bit on the "muffled" side. Not nearly as clear-sounding as the English track. There are subtitles in English and Spanish.
There's not a whole lot to talk about in the way of "Special Features" for this DVD release. But there is the Original Theatrical Trailer and a short "TV Spot" advertising the movie (which is a bonus *not* shown on the DVD's packaging). Plus: there's also a small text-only area on the disc, featuring "Cast Credits".
I *must* say, however, even though we don't get many bonus extras with this title, I'm very pleased that the Trailer is included. This Theatrical Trailer is one of the very best, and most innovative, I think I've ever witnessed. It's a relatively-lengthy trailer, which features a studio executive bumping into multiple actors while on the FOX movie lot. He asks several of these actors what they thought of the just-released picture, "Miracle On 34th Street". And what he receives in return (naturally) are glowing reviews for the film.
It's a very well-done trailer, and doesn't seem overly "hokey" or staged. And it's very fun to see stars the likes of Rex Harrison and Anne Baxter pop up here, promoting "34th Street". Harrison even speaks briefly in this trailer of his then-current work on "The Ghost And Mrs. Muir", which, ironically, also featured young Miss Natalie Wood as one of Rex's co-stars. This trailer is a real treat. And it's in remarkably good shape too. Very good video quality. The audio for the trailer is in DD 2.0 Mono, and sounds just fine.
Menus .... I like a good (and simple) Menu design. And this disc has just that. The Main Menu is a "static" one, with separate links to other Sub-Menus (such as Language Selection, Chapter Listing, and Supplements). When you select any of these three items, you'll be treated to a very short (but fun and well-designed) animated transition, which then dissolves into the chosen sub-menu screen. These short "transitions" are all slightly different, with each one featuring a Christmas tune playing as "background" music as the screen fades from the Main Menu to your desired selection. This themed music seems as though it's being played over a Department Store's P.A. system (which is appropriate for this DVD, since we often hear the soft playing of Christmas tunes during the "Macy's" scenes in the film). One menu transition also features a "snowflakes falling" visual effect, along with the music. Very cleverly done, IMO.
Additional Disc Information for this title ..............................
>> Enclosures? .... Yes. There is one here. A one-page Chapter List insert is included (21 chapters), with an excellent promo picture of actors Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, and John Payne on one side; and on the "Chapter" side, an image of "Kris" (Mr. Gwenn). I particularly like the fact that FOX Home Entertainment used a different picture for the insert than what we see on the front cover (normally on DVDs, the two pictures are identical). I might also add, in case one or two picky people might be interested in such trivial matters, that this insert is made out of better-quality (thicker) paper than what we usually see for such paper enclosures.
>> Region? .... This is a "Region 1" (NTSC) disc. Single-sided.
"Miracle On 34th Street" is one of those films that deserves to be seen more than once, and not only in the month of December either (IMO). It holds up very well even in the summer months. And this clear-as-a-bell DVD from FOX Home Entertainment makes viewing this 1947 classic an even more enjoyable experience -- no matter if it's in December, March, or August.
on December 7, 2003
I hestitate to buy this dvd because I bought the vhs thinking i was getting the original theatrical release. I didn't. I got the version I see on TNT every Thanksgiving. The version that is cut up from years past. People always write that the part they love is when Maureen O'Hara and John Payne find Kris's cane by the fire place in the house for sale. For me the part that makes the movie is always cut. Tommy Mera is just done with his testimony in court and asks Kris on his way out of court for an offical football helmut and Kris says OK. After the happy resolution of the trail Maureen O'Hara ask Kris to dinner party, but Kris says it is Christmas Eve. The next scene should be the Mera house Christmas morning and Tommy getting his football helmut and mom and dad saying I didn't get it while Tommy is wearing this over sized football helmut. Until I see a completely restored version I will not buy the dvd.
I will not bore you with a recap of the whole movie or state which is obvious to all that this 1947 black and white movie is one of the major Christmas Classics.
Kris Kringle (Edmond Gwenn) is appalled to find a Santa preparing to be in the Thanks Giving Day parade is intoxicated. Kris is hired to play the part of him self. He befriends a child Susan (Natalie Wood) who does not believe in Santa or the tooth fairy or giants. His employer Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) is dubious of her decision to hire him after learning that he believes he is Santa. In the spirit of Christmas he brings two rival stores together and is in the process of bringing the girl around to believing. Naturally I left out many other controversial questions and fun scenes. Among them is one where a Dutch girl recognizes him as Santa and he speaks Dutch to her.
Through a few misunderstandings he is put on trial and must prove he is Santa. Can his friend, who happens to be a lawyer, prove this? If not what will happen to him? What effect will this have on Susan? Or you?
on November 14, 2003
Miracle on 34th Street is not only a classical Christmas movie, but simply a hollywood classic that can never be forgotten.
With an all-star cast of Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and Natalie Wood, this movie shows what good acting and plot are all about. Oh sure, there's been a remake of this classic like many others, which I haven't seen, but I hear it's not even worth watching because the story is so convoluted.
For starters, the acting is great and each actor/actress portrays his/her character extremely well. The writing is great also in that the lines are never corny and every situation in the movie is meaningful. But what makes this movie a classic is its acting. All of the actors/actresses got along very well while filming this movie and it is evident in their performance. The chemistry between the characters is genuine and really makes the movie come to life.
I truly pitty all those who dare say that the remake of this film is just as good or better than the original. NO REMAKE ever beats classic movies. I still scratch my head in confusion when directors try to do so.
If you're contemplating whether you should buy this movie, don't. BUY it as soon as you can. It's a classic and you can preserve it in DVD format.
on November 14, 2003
That Christmas is synonymous with "big business" and profits are not new concepts. The Miracle on 34th Street, which was released in 1947 by 20th Century-Fox, evolves around this same theme. Today, times haven't really changed much, if not things have gotten worse. That is probably why an updated version in 1994 of this Oscar-winning picture was also successful.
But, in this black and white comedy classic that was directed by George Seaton, Edmund Gwenn, who delivered an Oscar-winning performance as Kris Kringle, attempts to change the minds of each parent and child about the true meaning of Christmas. He is hired as Santa Claus for Macy's in New York by divorced mother Doris Walker, who is played by the beautiful Maureen O'Hara, though her acting is somewhat stilted in this movie. It is easy to see why Gwenn received the Oscar with his quit wit and flowing lines, as he works his way into the hearts of the public as Santa Claus. As Santa Claus, he encourages Macy's shoppers to use other store chains when products are unavailable or the quality of the item is not the best. These recommendations promote Macy's as a company of good will and the "miracle" begins. Not to be out done, Macy's competitors join in the fray by adopting similar practices. Doris Walker's daughter Susan (played by a very young Natalie Wood) has been taught by her mother not to believe in dreams or fairy tales, and she is very skeptical when she meets Santa Claus. Doris, who is concerned about the man she has hired as Santa Claus and fears that he may be somewhat delusional, has Kris Kringle examined by the store's nasty psychologist. Because Kris Kringle truly believes he is Santa Claus, the psychologist tricks Kris Kringle and has him placed in a mental institution. John Payne, who plays attorney Fred Gailey and who has also taken a personal interest in the Walker's, befriends Santa Claus. The writers did an excellent job developing Gailey's character and his interaction with the Walker's and Santa Claus. Mr. Gailey takes on Kris Kringle's case to prevent the state from permanently committing him to an institution for only trying to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.
The miracle of this enduring movie is that we need to remember to believe in our dreams just as this jolly ole Saint Nick tried to remind all of the people on 34th Street. This film is timeless and was well done. It also won awards for Best Original Story and Best Screenplay. It is a great family movie and it deserves a "look", especially during the holiday season.
on October 22, 2003
The original upstages the remake in so many ways. Here, in this version, is all the reasons why to believe in a Santa and why Christmas is one of the best times of the year.
The story flows like eggnog, smooth and warm, and develops the characters at a moderate pace so that we understand how and why they act the way they do. The actor playing Santa plays his part well, and he may be one of the best Santa's ever put on film.
One of the milestones of this film, at least to me, comes with the character of the young, teenage janitor Santa befriends. He's depressed because his father isn't much of a dad, and he says he only finds joy in playing Santa as it makes other people happy. It is my belief that the boy really wants to commit suicide - and Santa knows that. Thats why through out the movie Santa invites him to a game of chess later, or just sets dates for them to have fun, or just encourages him to play Santa all the more. It not only gives depth to the movie, but it gives depth to the character of Santa.
All in all, one of the best movies to watch around Christmas time next to "Its a Wonderful Life."
on April 6, 2003
The film begins with the supervisor of the parade assigning people to their posts. Isn't it always difficult with people hired for a one-day job? Then we see her daughter, raised as a sensible, rational little adult. As compensation for her failed marriage, or a symptom of the failure? Some say you should never lie to a child, like telling them about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or other legends. But doing so prepares them for life: they will be lied to by rulers, advertisers, employers, friends, and relatives. Get used to it, kid!
The story is that the real Kris Kringle shows up to play Santa Claus - which he does to perfection. He is "too good to be true". This film contrasts the legends to the realities of adult life. What would happen if everyone spoke the truth as they knew it? Is this film a warning against forcing children to grow up too soon?
Susan Walker tells Santa Claus what she really wants: a home with a backyard where she can play. Isn't that what every child should have? After happily married parents? One scene shows Mr. Macy shaking hands with Mr. Gimbel; is this a comment on world conflicts? Another scene discusses the "guilt complex" of giving
away gifts. Does this explain the charities of Carnegie, Rockefeller, and the others?
The story continues with Kris Kringle brought into court for a sanity hearing. Anybody who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, or lawyers, should see this. Yes, the scenario is rigged, just like a lot of life. Or maybe some court cases? Does public opinion affect trials like in this film? Do political bosses advise
judges in real life? How do you think judges get appointed? Kris Kringle's lawyer persists in his defense, even at the cost of his job. He will defend ordinary people against their oppressors. The political boss explains the economics of the Santa Claus legend, a fact that cannot be denied.
Since the Post Office has a ton of dead letters, they decide to send them to the courtroom. His identity is thus authenticated by the US Government! The ending is drawn out, but little Susan finally gets her Christmas present. "You have to have faith" says her mother. And another happy ending to a Hollywood movie.
The saddest fact is that Natalie Wood never lived long enough to play the mother in the remake. Real life doesn't always have a happy ending.
on December 8, 2002
Like many households, for me Christmas movies are as much a part of the tradition as trees and presents. "It's a Wonderful Life," "White Christmas," "A Christmas Carol" the Rankin/Bass Animagics and "Miracle on 34th Street." This Holiday classic is a nice DVD, with good quality and restored black and white. The bonus features are slim to none, containing only a movie trailer and a talent file.
With Ed Gwen and Natalie Woods playing both sides of the coin, "Miracle on 34th Street" is a film of charming, wide-eyed cynicism. What place does Santa Claus have in the modern world? What place does belief and trust have in a world where Santa shows up to work drunk and Christmas is a headache to every retail and postal worker in America?
Gimbels may be long gone, but I am glad that "Miracle on 34th Street" has persisted. Perhaps the message of the film has more staying power than the corporations that would commandeer Christmas.
Like Mr. Macy says, "You cannot argue with success."
Since "Miracle on 34th Street" begins with the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving Day, it is the obvious movie to watch on Turkey Day to begin the Christmas season (when you watch "White Christmas," "A Christmas Carol," and "It's a Wonderful Life" is up to you). I know am not alone in my belief that Edmund Gwenn IS Kris Kringle, which means he IS Santa Claus. Of course they gave Gwenn the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1948, but the film also won Oscars for Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay (George Seaton). Maureen O'Hara plays Doris Walker, a single mom who insists on bringing her daughter Susan, played by adorable Natalie Wood in one of the great childhood performances of all time, in a no-nonsense manner, which means no fantasy, no fairy tales and certainly no Santa Claus. Boy, is she ever wrong.
This version of this classic holiday film offers up the long trailer in which the publicity department tries to figure out how to market the film to the masses. A nice added bonus. However, the point of owning "Miracle on 34th Street" is to be able to watch it when it fits our holiday schedule and cry over our favorites scenes. The best times to cry during this movie are as follows: (1) When Susan overhears Kris talking Dutch to the little refugee girl; (2) When Mr. Macy admits under oath on the witness stand that he believes Kris to be Santa Claus; (3) When Susan writes "I believe in you too" on Susan's letter to Kris; (4) When Susan yells, "Stop, Uncle Fred! Stop!" and (5) when Fred sees the cane in the corner. Please feel free to add others to this list as you see fit. Now, excuse me, as I have to go dry my eyes and remember that some films have become holiday classics for good reasons and that remaking something in color does not mean just because it is new it is improved. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!