AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Miracle on 34th Street
Alternate Title: The Big Heart
Director: George Seaton (Dir)
Release Date:   2 May 1947
Production Date:   26 Nov 1946--22 Feb 1947; addl scenes 28 Feb and 1 Mar 1947; retakes 24 Mar 1947
Duration (in mins):   95-96
Duration (in feet):   8,663
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Maureen O'Hara (Doris Walker)  
    John Payne (Fred Gailey)  
    Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle)  
    Gene Lockhart (Judge Henry X. Harper)  
    Natalie Wood (Susan Walker)  
    Porter Hall (Mr. Sawyer)  
    William Frawley (Charles Halloran)  
    Jerome Cowan (Thomas Mara)  
    Philip Tonge (Mr. Shellhammer)  
    James Seay (Dr. Pierce)  
    Harry Antrim (Mr. Macy)  
    Thelma Ritter (Mother)  
    Mary Field (Mother)  
    Theresa Harris (Cleo)  
    Alvin Greenman (Alfred)  
    Ann Staunton (Mrs. Mara)  
    Bobby Hyatt (Thomas Mara, Jr.)  
    Richard Irving (Reporter)  
    Jeff Corey (Reporter)  
    Anne O'Neal (Secretary)  
    Dorothy Gilchrist (Secretary)  
    Jean O'Donnell (Secretary)  
    Irene Shirley (Secretary)  
    Lela Bliss (Mrs. Shellhammer)  
    Anthony Sydes (Peter)  
    William Forrest (Dr. Rogers)  
    Alvin Hammer (Mara's assistant)  
    Joseph McInerney (Bailiff)  
    Ida McGuire (Drum majorette)  
    Percy Helton (Drunken Santa Claus)  
    Jane Green (Mrs. Harper)  
    Marlene Lyden (Dutch girl)  
    Guy Thomajan (Post office employee)  
    Jack Albertson (Post office employee)  
    Herbert H. Heyes (Mr. Gimbel)  
    Stephen Roberts (Guard)  
    Brick Sullivan (Guard)  
    Robert Lynn (Salesman)  
    Loren Raker (Salesman)  
    Fran Lee (Customer)  
    Robert Gist (Window dresser)  
    Jack Gargan (Chauffeur)  
    Walden Boyle (Judge's clerk)  
    Teddy Driver (Terry)  
    Patty Smith (Alice)  
    Robert Karnes (Intern)  
    Basil Walker (Intern)  

Summary: In downtown Manhattan, Kris Kringle, a white-bearded man, protests to Doris Walker, the organizer of the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, that the man who will portray Santa Claus is drunk. Doris then hires Kris to substitute for the now unconscious Santa. When Doris, a widow, returns to her apartment, she discovers that her young daughter Susan is watching the parade from the apartment of their neighbor, lawyer Fred Gailey. Doris joins them, thanks Fred for his kindness to Susan, and learns that he has been cultivating a friendship with Susan in hopes of meeting her. Later, at Fred's instigation, Susan wrangles an invitation for him to join them for Thanksgiving dinner. Because of his successful portrayal of Santa during the parade, Kris is hired to be Macy's store Santa. Although Mr. Shellhammer, the head of the toy department, advises Kris to suggest certain toys to indecisive children, Kris instead tells harried mothers where to find the toys their children want, even if it is not at Macy's. Shellhammer is about to fire Kris, when one of the mothers thanks him for putting the Christmas spirit back into the holiday and vows to do all her shopping at Macy's. Later, when Fred brings Susan to visit Santa, Doris, who was disillusioned by a bad marriage to Susan's father, chastises him for filling her head with myths and fairy tales. While they quarrel, Susan witnesses Kris speaking Dutch to a Dutch orphan and begins to think that Kris may really be Santa Claus. Doris then asks Kris to tell Susan who he really is and when he insists that he is Santa, she asks to see his employment card. Learning that he has given his name as Kris Kringle, Doris becomes afraid that he is insane and is about to dismiss him when store owner Macy praises her and Shellhammer for developing the new policy he believes they have instituted. Afterward, Shellhammer dissuades Doris from firing Kris and suggests that she have him evaluated by Sawyer, the personnel director. In the meantime, Doris calls Dr. Pierce, the head of the Brook's Home for Old People, where Kris lives. Kris passes his psychological tests, but the bad-tempered Sawyer recommends his dismissal anyway. Pierce counters by saying that Kris suffers from a delusion for good and insists that he is not dangerous. He further suggests that Kris live closer to the store until his job ends. Fred, having seen the positive effect that Kris has on Susan, offers to let the old man stay with him. That night, Susan reveals to Kris that she wants a real house for Christmas and shows him a magazine picture of her dream house. Although Kris makes no promises, he does agree to try to get it for her. One day, Kris has lunch with seventeen-year-old Alfred, a janitor who plays Santa at the YMCA. When a disconsolate Alfred reveals that according to Sawyer, playing Santa is evidence of a guilt complex, Kris angrily confronts Sawyer and hits him on the head with his cane. Sawyer lies about the causes of the encounter and, using a series of ruses, contrives to have Kris committed to the mental ward at Bellevue. Because he is convinced that Doris participated in Sawyer's plot, Kris deliberately fails his competency tests. The hospital then contacts Fred, who, after questioning Kris, agrees to help him gain his release. Fred successfully swings public opinion in Kris's favor, and at his trial, announces that he will prove that Kris actually is Santa Claus and is therefore sane. Judge Henry X. Harper is distressed by Fred's announcement as he is up for re-election and does not want to alienate either parents of children who believe in Santa or those who think Kris is a crazy old man. Doris tries to talk Fred out of his decision, and learning that he quit his job in order to defend Kris, accuses him of being unrealistic. The next day in court, Fred calls his witnesses. Macy testifies that he believes Kris is Santa, then fires Sawyer. After District Attorney Thomas Mara's young son testifies that his father told him there is a Santa Claus, an embarassed Mara concedes that there is a Santa Claus, but insists that Fred must produce official proof that Kris is the one and true Santa. That night, Doris and Susan write Kris a note to cheer him up. A postal worker, seeing the courthouse address, then decides to send all the letters addressed to Santa to the courthouse. On Christmas Eve, Fred uses the bags of mail as official proof from the U.S. government that Santa exists, and the judge happily dismisses the case. On Christmas, Susan, Doris and Fred celebrate with Kris at the Brook's Home. Kris presents Pierce with an X-ray machine purchased with a bonus from Macy's, but Susan is so disappointed that she did not get her wish that she announces her disbelief in Santa. Doris, who has fallen in love with Fred, then explains that it is important to believe in something even if common sense says otherwise. After the party, Fred drives Doris and Susan home, following directions from Kris. To Susan's delight, they drive right past her dream house, which is for sale, and she rushes out of the car into the vacant house. Susan's excitement prompts Fred to propose to Doris, and when she accepts, he notices Kris's cane leaning against the wall. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: George Seaton (Dir)
  Arthur Jacobson (Asst dir)
Producer: William Perlberg (Prod)
Writer: George Seaton (Wrt for the scr by)
  Valentine Davies (Story)
Photography: Charles [G.] Clarke (Dir of photog)
  Lloyd Ahern (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Richard Irvine (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert Simpson (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Ernest Lansing (Set dec)
Costumes: Charles Le Maire (Ward dir)
  Kay Nelson (Cost des)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus dir)
  Cyril Mockridge (Mus)
  Edward Powell (Orch arr)
Sound: Arthur L. Kirbach (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: R. A. Klune (Prod mgr)
  Dirk Van H. Labberton (Tech adv)
  John C. Eagan M.D. (Tech adv)
  Dr. May Romm (Tech adv)
  Charlie Hall (Loc mgr)
Country: United States

Music:
Songs:
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 4/6/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP1101

PCA NO: 12122
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Comedy-drama
 
Subjects (Major): Aged men
  Children
  Christmas
  Lawyers
  Mothers and daughters
  Romance
  Santa Claus
 
Subjects (Minor): Bellevue Hospital (New York City)
  Department store owners
  District attorneys
  Drunkenness
  Fathers and sons
  Grandparents
  Houses
  Insanity
  Judges
  R. H. Macy's Department store (New York City)
  New York City
  Parades
  Parties
  Postal service
  Retirement homes
  Thanksgiving Day
  Trials
  X-rays

Note: The film's working titles were The Big Heart , My Heart Tells Me and It's Only Human . Although the film was based on an original screen story by Valentine Davies, Davies developed the story into a novel that was also published in 1947. Producer William Perlberg replaced Gene Markey, when the latter was assigned to another project. Fred Lewis was contracted to play "Mr. Macy," according to information included in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, but Harry Antrim played the role in the film.
       Miracle on 34th Stret marked Thelma Ritter's motion picture debut. Although CBCS and contemporary reviews call Alvin Greenman's character "Albert," he is addressed as "Alfred" in the film. Some scenes were shot on location in New York City, at Macy's Department Store and during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Additional material included in the studio records add the following information about the production: Some scenes were filmed inside the Supreme Court Building in New York City. Ralph Burns, author of the novel An Angel on Horseback , sued Twentieth Century-Fox for plagiarism, but the outcome of that suit has not been determined. Mark Stevens was considered for the role of "Fred Gailey."
       Modern sources state that Charles W. Howard, who played Santa Claus in the Macy's parade for many years, acted as technical advisor on the film. Edmund Gwenn received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and the film won Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Original Story. Miracle on 34th Street was voted one of the top ten by NYT . In 1955, Thomas Mitchell, MacDonald Carey and Teresa Wright performed in a television version of the film, entitled The Miracle on 34th Street for the 20th Century-Fox Hour . Another television adaptation aired on CBS in 1973 and starred Fielder Cook, Jane Alexander and Roddy McDowall. Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Edmund Gwenn reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre production of the story on 22 Dec 1947 and again on 20 Dec 1948 and 21 Dec 1954. Screen Directors' Playhouse broadcast a radio version of the story on 23 Dec 1949 and again on 21 Dec 1950. In Oct 1963, a musical version of Davies' original story entitled Here's Love by Meredith Willson opened in New York. According to a 13 Aug 1963 HR news item, producer Fred Kohlmar considered filming Willson's musical but that picture was never made. A colorized version of the original film was authorized in 1985. In 1994, Twentieth Century-Fox produced another film based on Davies' story, also titled Miracle on 34th Street , which was directed by Les Mayfield and starred Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   10 May 1947.   
Daily Variety   2 May 1947.   
Daily Variety   28 Jan 1994.   
Film Daily   2 May 47   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Nov 46   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Dec 46   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jan 47   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Dec 47   p. 1, 21
Hollywood Reporter   20 Dec 48   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Aug 1963.   
Los Angeles Daily News   8 Nov 1993.   
Life   16 Jun 47   pp. 65-66.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 May 47   p. 3621.
The Saturday Evening Post   12 Dec 1964.   
Variety   7 May 47   p. 18.
Variety   24 Jul 1947.   
Variety   26 Jun 1985.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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