The original Miracle on 34th Street is an absolute delight. It’s a standard for a reason. It not only has high production values and good acting, but the story is one that is relateable to just about everyone.
Edmund Gwenn is perfect as Kris Kringle, the real Santa Claus. That white beard looks very real. Of great importance is that he has a wonderful rapport with young Natalie Wood, who plays Susan, the little girl who has been raised to be logical and not being in fairytales, myths, or anything that is fantasy based.
Wood was outstanding. It’s no wonder she went on to have such a terrific career.
I’m a big fan of Maureen O’Hara who plays Wood’s mother, Doris, and the woman in charge of Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. O’Hara has the strength and presence to make her quite believable as the career woman who tries to keep her life very tidy and organized.
John Payne is also very good as Susan’s friend, Doris’ romantic interest, and Santa’s pal. He’s also a lawyer, which completes the package nicely since he ends up defending Kris in court when Kris is accused of being mentally unbalanced.
My favorite moment is when the post office delivers letters addressed to Santa Claus to Kris while the case is being tried. That scene is altered in future versions of the movie, which is a shame. The fun and zing of this moment works because of the full courtroom and how it is set up here.
The ending is superb as well. Payne has the perfect expression and vocal tone upon seeing something unexpected.
This is a Christmas classic that never gets old.