Thursday, December 25, 2008

Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street; Tragicomedy, USA, 1947; D: George Seaton, S: Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, Natalie Wood

New York. An older man with a beard is shocked to spot a drunk man playing Santa Claus during the parade, so he accepts the offer of organiser Doris Walker to replace him. He does his job well and stirs some feathers when he plays Santa Claus at Macy's and recommends the parents to buy toys for their children at rival stores. Still, the customers are grateful and Mr. Macy decides to keep the man. But Doris, her boyfriend Fred Gailey and her daughter Susan are surprised when the man tells them he really is Santa Claus. A psychiatrist sends him to a mental asylum and the things ends up in the court. Still, due to all the Christmas letters, the judge rules out he really is Santa Claus. Susan gets her wish: a real house.

"Miracle on the 34th Street" is a sweet and entertaining piece of modern fairy tale about faith and the power of imagination. The story about a man who claims to be Santa Claus could have easily turned into a cheesy, cheap Christmas movie, yet thanks to the realistic writing by Valentine Davies, humorous touches and heartwarming moments, it turned out to be quite a good achievement after all, even though some of the "unshown" flaws are still sensed since it seems rather naive at times. Edmund Gwenn plays Santa Claus really well (in one scene, he tells how it's important to have imagination, telling how there is "British-nation" and "Imagi-nation") and won the Oscar as best supporting actor together with best screenplay, but the real highlight is the 8-year old Natalie Wood as the little Susan who was taught that there is no Santa Claus, which gave the movie a few subversive hidden contexts, even religious ones. The court sequence that revolves whether the protagonist really is Santa Claus or not didn't turn out as powerful as it was expected, yet the movie offers quite a few satirical touches that will cause delight even for the harsher critics.


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