Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Mircale on 34th Street

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie, I blog about it.  You know the drill.  I'm getting into all the Christmas movies I watched back in December, which is why on this February 7, 2019, I'm blogging about Miracle on 34th Street.  I originally watched this on December 2, 2018.

This is the year I finally break down and buy my favourite Christmas movies on home media, just so I can finally watch them when I have the time.  That's why, when I was out and about Christmas shopping, I picked up Miracle on 34th Street...the original, not the remakes. 

I can't remember where I first saw it.  It was probably on TV, but somewhere along the way, it became a holiday staple, and now I have to watch it every Christmas.  As I've blogged before, most modern Christmas movies almost have a twinge of cynicism towards the season, but these older ones, they still maintain a bit of Christmas magic. 

In case you've never seen it, it all goes down in New York City.  A kindly old man, with a bit of a resemblance to jolly ol' St. Nick, discovers that the Santa Claus for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is drunk off his ass.  He brings this to the attention of Doris Walker, the parade organizer, and she immediately hires our kindly old man to be the new Santa Claus.  The old man, Kris Kringle, is a natural, leading Doris to hire him to be the Macy's Santa for the holiday season. 

Here's where the complications ensue.  Turns out Kris Kringle is a little bit delusional in his old age and actually believes himself to be Santa Claus.  And for the most part, no one seems to mind, as it makes him a kind and generous soul.  Even the doctor from Kringle's retirement home says he's perfectly harmless.  But that's no good for the villain of our piece, Mr. Sawyer, the Macy's HR guy.  He gets to administer psychological tests as part of his job, and as such, believes himself to be an amateur psychologist.  He's convinced that Kris Kringle's delusions makes him dangerously psychotic, and Kris needs to be locked up. 

The main plot, though, has to do with Kris trying to restore Doris's Christmas spirit.  Doris is a divorcee, quite taboo when this film came out in 1947, and is a single mother.  As such, Doris has become deeply cynical, and is passing those beliefs onto her daughter Susan, teaching young Susan that Santa isn't real and to ignore such nonsense as fairy tales.  Doris's next door neighbour Fred is a young up-and-coming lawyer, and is sweet on Doris.  So Kris Kringle tries to set the two up, all while trying to restore Susan's childlike wonder. 

Things come to a head though when Mr. Sawyer diagnoses Albert, the janitor in the store, as being equally as psychotic as Kris Kringle because Albert likes playing Santa Claus down at his local youth centre's Christmas party.  Enraged, Kris Kringle confronts Mr. Sawyer, and Mr. Sawyer takes advantage of this to try to get Kris Kringle committed.  Fred becomes Kris Kringle's lawyer, and a commitment hearing is convened.  But Fred knows it would be nice to have the court of public opinion on his side, so he leaks the story to the press, and before you know it, we've got the headline all over town, "Santa Claus on trial!" 

This hearing takes up the second half of the film, and it's what makes the movie so famous.  I like that they take the time to present the struggles of the DA and the judge assigned to the case.  The DA becomes a villain in his own home because his kids see him as the guy who's prosecuting Santa.  There's much hand-wringing between the judge and his political advisor as to how to handle this so he doesn't come across as the guy who locked up Santa.  It makes for some nice little side stories.

Fred's entire defense is to prove that Kris Kringle actually is Santa Claus.  Which leads to that wonderful, beautiful, magical ending.  A clerk in the dead letter office gets the bright idea to send all the letters addressed to Santa down to the courthouse.  Fred has the mail brought into the courtroom, sacks and sacks full of letters to Santa, and argues that if the post office believes Kris Kringle to be Santa, then he must be Santa.  The judge agrees, and sets Kris Kringle free.

And was does the 1994 remake have?  No magic of the post office.  Just a long, lengthy speech about faith.  That's what I mean about Christmas magic. 

Anyway.  Miracle on 34th Street.  A Christmas classic to be enjoyed!

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