DIRECTOR: George Seaton
May contain spoilers!
The original and dare I say, the best, Miracle On 34th Street is one of the Christmas classics. We meet Maureen O’Hara and her daughter, a young Natalie Wood, a cynical pair, the mother divorced and the daughter who only believes in what she sees.
Enter Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus. The newly hired Macy’s Department Store Santa claims to be the REAL Father Christmas but O’Hara and Wood are too wise to believe this, but this story of believing in Santa is more to do with faith and never allowing life’s hurdles to jade us rather than is solving the controversy as to whether Kris Kringle is Santa Claus or simply a mad man.
Miracle On 34th Street (1947) was actually released in May of that year, despite the fact that it is set between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This was apparently due to studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck feeling that more people went to the cinema in summer rather than braving the cold of winter so the publicity, including the theatrical posters were toned down, without any festive artwork whatsoever.
The tone and dialogue are sharp as this light comedy mounts its attack on the ever commercialised Christmas, (and they thought it was it bad in 1947!) but somehow manages to make its string of marketing managers and CEO’s, including fictitious versions of R. H. Macy and Mr. Gimble of the now defunct Gimbles Department Store’s into loveable rogues rather than fat cat villains. This an enjoyable and poignant romp through the Christmas Season as the we follow Kringle’s journey into the heart of commercialism only to be won over by the good nature of people, faith in mankind winning out.
In 1985, this film was colourised, a process which I, as many, have a fundamental problem with. I feel that it is unnecessary and as wrong as CGI special editions or post conversions of old films into 3D.
But whilst I feel there is little need for any of these processes, I am guilty of enjoying the results. It can be nice to revisit classics such as Jurassic Park (1993) or The Wizard Of Oz (1939) after an IMAX 3D conversion, without detracting from the originals, it can offer a new viewing experience of a film which has been watched to death! At the very least, a novelty.
So what a pleasant surprise to discover how good A Miracle On 34th Street looked after the 1985 colourisation process. Granted, the colour is not as rich as Technicolor but it works, breathing new life into a film which looked perfectly fine in black and white but why not have the option to see it colour, certainly with such a light and breezy subject such as this.
The colour complimented the film’s festive tone and whilst not better than the original, it was a nice alternate way to see this classic.