Miracle on 34th Street, Directed by George Seaton
20th Century Fox, May 2, 1947 (US)
Screenplay: George Seaton, story by Valentine Davies
Starring: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn
I was contemplating whether to put up Christmas decorations this year, knowing full well the implications and what would happen if they did not make it out of storage. We’d be judged unfairly, labeled Scrooges and used as examples of everything that was wrong with the holidays of late.
Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn): You’re a disgrace to the tradition of Christmas.
Nevertheless, I had to wonder if maybe doing things a little differently was not the way to go, especially this year. Could putting up a Dickens Village, a tree, a few wreaths, mistletoe, or scores of other holiday decorations mask the reality that our mortgage was woefully underwater, that this could be the year that we might join the ranks of the unemployed, or that we were a pink slip away from finding ourselves having to make difficult choices regarding health care? Besides, we had a lot of shopping left to do before the big day, and really, shouldn’t that come first? Imagine what Christmas morning would be like if we cheated family and friends out of their customary gifts from Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s.
Alfred (Alvin Greenman): There’s a lot of bad-isms floating around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it’s the same. Don’t care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.
My head was spinning. So forgive me if I happen to offer you some hot cocoa or a glass of wine to drink in a living room that is void of customary holiday cheer. But I can assure there will be friendship, warmth, and good tidings in abundance, so please, by all means, come on in. You can close your eyes and pretend that the room is sparkling bright, as bright as it was when we were kids. We can pretend that nothing at all has changed.
Kris: Do you know what the imagination is? … To me, the imagination is a place all by itself. A separate country. Now you’ve heard of the French nation or the British nation. Well, this is the imagi-nation. It’s a wonderful place. How would you like to be able to make snowballs in the summertime? Or drive a great big bus right down Fifth Avenue? How you would like to have a ship all to yourself that makes daily trips to China? Australia? How would you like to be the Statue of Liberty in the morning, and in the afternoon fly south with a flock of geese? It’s fairly simple. Of course, it takes practice. How? The first thing you’ve got to learn is how to pretend.
Wasn’t the real meaning of the season about giving and spreading kindness? Couldn’t we do that minus the window dressing? What about making a concerted effort to do good deeds like going out of your way to shovel snow from a neighbor’s sidewalk, or donating time or money to a good cause? Sharing a laugh. Creating a mood from within ourselves to make the time we spend together mean something more than ever before.
Kris: Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind and that’s what’s been changing, and that’s why I’m glad I’m here. Maybe I can do something about it.
Remember what it was like when you believed in Santa Claus? Isn’t it strange how, despite believing in the existence of flying reindeer and the fat, jolly old man in the red suit who comes all the way from the North Pole each year to deliver toys, that life somehow made more sense back then? What would it have been like if you were never told of Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy?
Fred Gailey (John Payne): I see she doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. No Santa Claus, no fairy tales, no fantasies of any kind. Is that it?
Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara): That’s right. I think we should be realistic with our children and not have them growing up believing in a lot of legends and myths like Santa Claus, for example.
Would it be like stripping away all of the decorations that help remind us for a very short while that it is okay to believe in miracles?
Doris: What is she going to think? Who’s she going to believe? And by filling them up with fairy tales, they grow up considering life’s a fantasy instead of a reality. They keep waiting for Prince Charming to come along and when he does, he turns out to be a.…
On second thought, maybe skipping the decorating was not such a good idea. I would hang the stockings over the fireplace after all and put up the tree with all the pretty ornaments that somehow have made it through the years unscathed. I would once again make all of those darned sugar cookies, frosting one after the next after the next. I wanted to believe in magic as much as anyone. I was just so tired of getting depressed by things like the latest Republican debate or turning on the news and getting the latest dose of grim.
Fred: Look, Doris. Some day, you’re going to find your way of facing this realistic world just doesn’t work. When you do, don’t overlook those lovely intangibles. You’ll discover they are the only things that are worthwhile.
This year, I want to pay close attention to the sounds outside on the roof. I want to listen for the tapping of hooves and look out the window wide-eyed with wonder. I want it to snow and snow and snow without fearing the drive on Route 20.
Susan Walker (Natalie Wood): I believe, I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.
I want to be able to say, “Merry Christmas” and not just “Happy Holidays.”
Kris: Even if we can’t win, we can go down swinging.
And to all a good night.