Even though it was shot in black-and-white and released nearly 70 years ago, “Miracle on 34th Street” may well be the most modern holiday movie ever made.
What makes “Miracle” progressive? Macy’s eschews profits like a socially conscious Seattle coffeehouse. Its inclusive, nondenominational plot omits any religious references. The female lead is a divorced single mother, a ’40s cinema rarity. She’s also a corporate executive.
“Maureen O’Hara’s character is a wonderful role model,” says actress Natasha Wagner, 45, whose mom, Natalie Wood, shined as 8-year-old Susie, averting all child-star mawkishness. “Because the movie’s a classic, [its feminism] gets overlooked.”
Take a fresh look at the Christmas gem when it hits 600 U.S. theaters, including Stony Brook 17, on Sunday, Dec. 20, and Wednesday, Dec. 23. Preceding the screening will be a filmed introduction by Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, which is presenting the film with Fathom Events.
Wagner, who recently unveiled the perfume Natalie at nataliefragrance.com, will attend a viewing near her Venice, California, home. “We showed ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ to our stepsons last year,” she says. “This week my daughter, Clover, will see it for the first time. She’s 3, so I’m excited. I love when Santa and my mom blow bubble gum together. Those scenes are indelible.”
Sure, it’s archaic that Susie whines about living on Central Park West, but don’t be a Grinch. Instead, enjoy these 25 factoids about the 1947 classic.
1. Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, released the movie in May to maximize revenue and marketed it as a romantic comedy.
2. The Catholic Legion of Decency rated it “morally objectionable” because O’Hara’s character was a divorcee.
3. Opening scenes were shot at the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle in the film, was the parade’s Santa.
4. The suburban house featured at the end of the movie is at 24 Derby Rd., Port Washington. Years ago, its owners paid the film homage by placing a replica of Santa’s cane by their fireplace.
5. Director George Seaton, a Marx Brothers writer, voiced radio’s “Lone Ranger.”
6. Does Kris Kringle’s Foley Square trial scene look familiar? Barzini (Richard Conte) in “The Godfather” was murdered on those courtsteps.
7. The movie’s working titles were “It’s Only Human” and “The Big Heart.”
8. Jack Albertson (“Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”) plays a mail sorter.
9. TCM recently auctioned Wood’s bound screenplay of the film. It sold for $2,125.
10. In his Oscar acceptance speech, Gwenn said, “Now I know there’s a Santa Claus.”
11. “Miracle” also won Oscars for best screenplay and original story.
12. Gwenn nabbed the Kringle role after his cousin Cecil Kellaway rejected it.
13. Brooklyn-born Jeff Corey, who plays a reporter, taught acting after being blacklisted during Hollywood’s Red Scare. Among his protégés were Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson, Cher, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams, Leonard Nimoy and James Dean.
14. Kringle’s address is 126 Maplewood Dr., Great Neck.
15. Thomas Mitchell, Ed Wynn and Sebastian Cabot played Kringle in three TV remakes. A 1994 feature starred Richard Attenborough as Santa.
16. Wood and Robert Wagner reportedly declined leads in the 1973 TV version.
17. O’Hara was “madder than a wet hen” when Fox cut short her Ireland vacation, where she was visiting family, to begin shooting.
18. In 1985, “Miracle” became one of the first colorized films.
19. “Here’s Love,” a 1963 Broadway musical version, was written by Meredith Willson.
20. William Hoehne Jr. (Sam the clerk) appeared in “Gone With the Wind” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”
21. Manhattan’s Alvin Greenman (janitor Alfred) was the only original cast member to appear in the 1994 remake (as doorman Alfred).
22. Macy’s refused to participate in the 1994 version. It was replaced by the fictitious Cole’s.
23. Floral Park’s Stephen Roberts, known for portraying President Franklin Roosevelt in five films, played a guard.
24. A Macy’s puppet version is voiced by Broadway’s Brian Stokes Mitchell and Victoria Clark.
25. Gene Lockhart (the judge) taught acting at Juilliard. John Payne, who played O’Hara’s paramour, studied there.