The Case of The Miracle on 34th Street

Happy Thanksgiving! Today we give thanks. We understand that this holiday has a controversial past, and understand why some choose not to celebrate it. But, we think it’s always good to take a chance to give thanks whenever possible. So, thank you. 

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Today is a big holiday, and for many it’s spent traveling to family. That’s why we’re releasing an episode today! For anyone that might need a small escape from family time. 

There are actually A LOT of great movies to watch for Thanksgiving! Each year, we choose to watch Miracle on 34th Street. 

  • Miracle on 34th Street came out in 1947. It begins on Thanksgiving Day, and ends on Christmas, making it the perfect film to bridge the gap between the two holidays. It features two big companies: Macy’s and Gimbels, and showcases the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!
  • Before we get into the film, let’s talk about the tradition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! 

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

    • The flagship Macy’s store in Manhattan is located on 34th street, hence the name of the film! 
    • It was the world’s largest store and boasted 1 million square feet of space. Remember: this was the roaring 20’s
    • To celebrate the store, RH Macy decided to throw New York city a parade for Christmas, and they chose Thanksgiving Day
      • The first parade was in 1924, and it was called The Macy’s Christmas Parade
      • There were three floats pulled by horses, 4 bands, and zoo animals including camels, donkeys, elephants, and goats
      • Santa Claus has always been an important component of the parade, arriving last and bringing in the Christmas season
  • In 1927, it was renamed The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and giant balloons replaced the zoo animals as a main attraction. This is now what the parade is known for. 
  • The balloons featured famous cartoon characters, one of the first was Felix the Cat
    • There have been disputes about this, saying that Felix the Cat didn’t appear in the parade until 1931.
  • The oldest Thanksgiving Day parade is held every year in Philadelphia! It was put on by the rival store Gimbels, which is featured in Miracle on 34th Street. 
  • Macy’s would release the balloons at the conclusion of the parade, and would give out a 100$ reward for returned balloons.
    • In 1932, they stopped the practice after it became too dangerous! People would try to catch the balloons in the air, and this became a hazard. 
  • Since its beginning, the parade has only missed three years! The war caused a shortage of helium and rubber. When it returned in 1945, it was the first time the parade was broadcast on TV!
  • In its 93 years of presentation, the parade has increased in size, and has changed routes. This year: there will be 26 floats, 56 balloons, and 11 bands. 

The Plot

  • When Doris Walker discovers that the man hired to play Santa in the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is drunk, she asks a kind old man to take his place. The new Santa is a success, and Macy’s hires him to be their department Santa for the season. 
  • Kris Kringle, as he calls himself, is not only a hit with the children, but also with adult customers. He truly embodies the spirit of Christmas by helping them buy gifts, sending them to other stores to find them. 
  • This new policy becomes a popular gimmick, and things are going great for Macy’s! 
  • It captures the attention of the store that Kris believes that he himself is the real Santa Claus. This issue gets overlooked until Kris assaults the resident psychologist with his umbrella, causing him to get sent to an institution. 
  • All this leads to a public hearing, where Kris’s lawyer Fred Gailey, must defend him by proving that he is indeed the real Santa Claus. 

Making of

  • Directed by George Seaton, the movie was shot during a bitter New York winter that caused equipment to freeze. 
  • The story was written by Valentine Davies and George Seaton
    • Davies got the idea while he was shopping for his wife. He wondered what the real Santa Claus would think of all the commercialism.
  • The music was done by legendary composer Alfred Newman.

Starring

  • Maureen O’Hara as Doris Walker
  • Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle
    • Won best supporting actor Oscar for the role 
  • John Payne as Fred Gailey
  • Natalie Wood as Susan Walker

Trivia

  • The movie won Oscars for screenplay & best original story
  • In the untranslated dialogue with the Dutch girl, Santa Claus asks the child what she wants for Christmas. She says she wants nothing, telling Santa she got her gift by being adopted by her new mother.
  • According to Natalie Wood’s biographer, she believed he really was Santa Claus
  • Edmund Gwenn actually played Santa in the 1946 Macy’s parade! 

Sources:

https://www.history.com/news/the-first-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039628/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv

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