Starring Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle himself, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET is ranked #9 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time.
AFI Movie Club: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET
Watch director/co-writer George Seaton talk about making MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) in this exclusive video from the AFI Archive.
DID YOU KNOW? Working titles for MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) were MY HEART TELLS ME, IT’S ONLY HUMAN and THE BIG HEART.
DID YOU KNOW? The film is based on an original screen story by Valentine Davies, who was inspired to write it while standing a long line at a department store waiting to buy a Christmas present for his wife.
DID YOU KNOW? Charles W. Howard, who played Santa Claus in the Macy’s parade for many years, acted as technical advisor on MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.
DID YOU KNOW? The film’s narrative centers around department stores Macy’s and Gimbels in New York City. Before saying yes to being involved, both stores wanted to see the final film. Consequently, the entire production was shot without the guarantee that either store would allow their name to be used. Luckily, both Macy’s and Gimbels loved the final product and gave their approval.
DID YOU KNOW? MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET marked the motion picture debut of the great character actress Thelma Ritter. She would later go on to lend her trademark caustic wit to films such as ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), REAR WINDOW (1954) and THE MISFITS (1961).
DID YOU KNOW? The Catholic Legion of Decency rated the film as “morally objectionable” because Maureen O’Hara’s character was a divorceé.
DID YOU KNOW? Head of 20th Century Fox Darryl F. Zanuck wasn’t sure if the film would be successful, so he released the movie in May during peak box office season to maximize revenue and marketed it as a romantic comedy.
DID YOU KNOW? The film won Oscars® for Best Screenplay and Best Original Story. Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle, also received an Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor, and in accepting his award, he said, “Now I know there’s a Santa Claus.”
Learn more at the AFI Catalog.
The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions
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- How does MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET capture the holiday spirit?
- Why do you think Doris Walker has raised her daughter Susan not to believe in fairytales? What is her intention, and do you think this is a helpful/harmful decision?
- How is Doris’ status as a single mother important at the time? How is the onscreen depiction of a non-nuclear family important for the time, especially as the film was made just after World War II?
- Why is Susan skeptical of Kris Kringle at the start of the film? Describe her journey between disbelief and faith throughout the film.
- How do lawyers Fred Gailey and Thomas Mara represent the idealism and cynicism that serve as foils throughout MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET?
- Do you think the holiday season has become overly commercialized? Do you think the film resists depicting commercialism? Why or why not?
- Why do you think the film still resonates to this day, so much so that it was even remade in 1994, starring Elizabeth Perkins, Mara Wilson and Richard Attenborough?
- How would you rate MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET?
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I love this Christmas classic. Why can’t I find this film on a television network? No station seems to play it anymore?