19 Truths And Secrets About The Original ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

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19 Truths And Secrets About The Original ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

19 Truths And Secrets About The Original ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

In 1934 writer-director George Seaton introduced the world to his passion project Miracle on 34th Street. The charming tale of a cynical little girl whose faith in Santa is renewed amid an extraordinary court case earned box office success, acclaim, and a spot in the hearts of generations. But if you think you know all there is to know about the holiday classic, Santa’s got some surprises for you!

  1. Miracle on 34th Street won three Academy Awards. One was for Best Screenplay, one for Best Original Story, and the last for Best Supporting Actor Edmund Gwenn in the role of Kris Kringle. In his acceptance speech, Gwenn cheered, “Now I know there’s a Santa Claus.”
  2. Gwenn’s Oscar-winning role was originally offered to his cousin. South African-born actor Cecil Kellaway was asked to play Kris Kringle, but declined. He’d later play Santa on an episode of television’s Bewitched.
  3. 8-year-old Natalie Wood shot two movies simultaneously. The production schedules of Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir had some crossover, which meant mornings had the young actress playing Susan Walker and the afternoons playing little Anna Muir.

    Fox

    Fox

  4. Wood worked method for the shoot. Such a young girl, she was convinced that Gwenn really was Santa Claus. It wasn’t until she saw him at the wrap party that this lovely delusion was shattered. You see, Gwenn had shaved off his Santa-like beard.
  5. It marked the screen debut of Thelma Ritter. The American actress who’d go on to be nominated for six Academy Awards for films like All About Eve, Pillow Talk and Birdman of Alcatraz, had an uncredited role as the mother Santa sends to another store to get the toy her child desires.
  6. The little Dutch girl’s Christmas wish was already granted. When she sits on Santa’s lap, no subtitles clue viewers into their conversation. But when Santa asks the child what she wants for Christmas, she says she wants nothing now that she’s gotten her adoptive mother.

    Fox

    Fox

  7. The film shot on location at Macy’s Herald Square. Production swamped the store after closing at night. And so much electricity was demanded from the crews equipment that special arrangements needed to be made to supply it.
  8. The rivalry of the department stores was real. Gimbels and Macy’s were competitors for customers. And both stores demanded to see the final cut of the film before allowing their names to be used in Miracle on the 34th St. Gimbels closed in 1987, but is remembered forever here. Macy’s rejected the offer to be included in the 1994 remake of the Christmas classic telling producer John Hughes, “We feel the original stands on its own and could not be improved upon.”
  9. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was not staged; it was real. Gwenn took his role as Kris Kringle to a live audience playing the parade’s Santa in 1946. Fox set up camera’s along the parade route to capture all that beautiful black-and-white footage.

    Fox

    Fox

  10. Macy’s closed early so its 12,000 workers could see the film. This was reported in Hedda Hopper’s May 3, 1947 “Looking at Hollywood” column.
  11. Santa wasn’t so great on American history. In the film, Kringle tries to prove his mental competence by answering questions, including who was John Quincy Adams Vice President. He says Daniel D. Tompkins, but it was actually John C. Calhoun.
  12. Miracle on 34th Street’s marketing played down its holiday elements. Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck believed the movie would play better in summer, so he pushed the advertising to tone down all things Santa. The bizarre move didn’t hurt. The $630,000 film pulled in $3.15 million.
  13. Frigid weather delayed Miracle on 34th Street’s final shot. The exterior shot when little Susan runs up to her dream house was shot on a day so cold that the camera equipment was freezing to failure. A neighbor to the location invited the cast inside her home to warm up as the crew worked to fix the issue. As thanks, Maureen O’Hara took this kind lady and her husband out to the luxurious 21 Club.
  14. The film was at the center of the colorizing controversy in the 1980s. When the re-mastering of black-and-white films turned to translating them into color, Miracle on the 34th Street was one of the first to get the makeover in 1985.

    Fox

    Fox

  15. The cast reunited on radio. After the movie’s successful summer run, Lux Radio Theater brought Wood, O’Hara, Payne and Gwenn together again for an hour-long radio version of Miracle on 34th Street. You can listen to it here.
  16. There’s a little known Brodway musical version called Here’s Love. With music, lyrics, and book by Meredith Willson, it opened on October 3, 1963 and ran for 334 performances at the Shubert Theater.
  17. Miracle on 34th Street has been remade three times to date. In 1959, a TV movie version was made that had vaudevillian Ed Wynn playing Kris Kringle. 1973 brought a made-for-TV version with Family Affair’s Sebastian Cabot in the part. Finally, in 1994 little Mara Wilson played Susan Walker to Richard Attenborough’s Santa.

    Fox

    Fox

  18. Wood chose not to have her daughter follow in her footsteps. It’s said producers approached Wood in the 1970s, asking that her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner play little Susan in a TV remake. Though Natasha would grow to become an actress of her own volition, Wood didn’t want to put her daughter on that path so young.
  19. There could have been a Miracle on 34th Street sequel.  John Payne, who played Kringle’s lawyer Fred Gailey, so loved the film that he dreamed of making a follow-up. He claimed to have even written a sequel, which he’d promised to send to his onscreen love O’Hara. “Tragically,” she recalled, “he died before he could get around to it. I never saw it and have often wondered what happened to it.”

 

 

 

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