Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

In director George Seaton's perennial Christmas classic - a dramatic comedy-fantasy about the commercialization of Santa Claus and Christmas itself:

  • the charming 'Kris Kringle' (Edmund Gwenn) - an older white-whiskered, kindly gentleman - was given the job of Santa Claus to ride on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float when the previously-hired 'Santa' was found to be intoxicated; afterwards, the new, grandfatherly jolly fellow from the North Pole, who proved to be a smash hit following the parade, was hired by special-events parade organizer and divorced, workaholic single mother Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) to be the store's new, in-house Saint Nick replacement
  • during the end of the parade, Doris joined her young 2nd grade daughter Susan Walker (8 year-old Natalie Wood) and her handsome neighbor, lawyer-attorney Fred Gailey (John Payne) to watch the parade from his apartment window. Fred had learned tha the delightfully-skeptical Susan had been taught to not be fooled by 'make-believe' myths, illusions or fairy tales ("My mother thinks they're silly")
  • as advice just before beginning his job at Macy's as 'Santa,' toy department boss Mr. Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge) urged Kris Kringle to memorize and push a list of overstocked toys on undecided children: ("Before you go up on the floor, I just want to give you a few tips on how to be a good Santa Claus...Here's a list of toys that we have to push. You know, things that we're overstocked on. Now, you'll find that a great many children will be undecided as to what they want for Christmas. When that happens, you immediately suggest one of these items. You understand?") - Kringle responded with disgust at X-mas commercialization: ("Imagine - making a child take something it doesn't want just because he bought too many of the wrong toys. That's what I've been fighting against for years, the way they commercialize Christmas")
  • instead of following his boss' advice, Kris told a frantic mother (Thelma Ritter) to shop elsewhere if they couldn't find what they wanted at Macy's; he reasoned why he would direct customers to other stores: "The only important thing is to make the children happy. Whether Macy's or somebody else sells the toy doesn't make any difference"; Shellhammer was aghast, dismayed and shocked when he overheard and discovered that Santa was recommending that shoppers go elsewhere; Shellhammer threatened to fire Kris for directing customers to other stores, until the mother congratulated him and thanked him for promoting a Santa who was honest and restored the Christmas spirit - she also vowed to be a loyal Macy's customer
  • meanwhile, Fred urged Susan to stand in line to speak to the new 'Santa Claus', and encouraged her to believe in him; although she did commend Kringle's authenticity, Susan didn't believe that the actual, warm-hearted, white-haired Kris Kringle was real, and pulled his beard to test him
Kringle with Skeptical Susan Walker
  • stepping aside with Fred, Doris told him she didn't want to encourage Susan's 'make-believe' trust in Santa's existence - since it might cause lasting developmental harm: "By filling them full of fairy tales, they grow up considering life a fantasy instead of a reality. They keep waiting for Prince Charming to come along"
  • while Susan watched from the side and was impressed, Kringle kind-heartedly spoke to a non-English-speaking immigrant Dutch girl/orphan (Ida McGuire) in her own native language (and performed a duet of a traditional Dutch carole with her)
  • after Susan's visit to the store, Doris urged Kris Kringle to tell Susan that Santa didn't exist: "Would you please tell her that you're not really Santa Claus, that there actually is no such person?"; however, Kringle responded that he was truly the genuine thing - Saint Nick - and his real name was 'Kris Kringle': ("Well, I'm sorry to disagree with you, Mrs. Walker, but not only IS there such a person, but here I am to prove it")
  • Doris soon found out that Kris Kringle's employment card revealed that his address was the Brooks' Memorial Home for the Aged in Great Neck, Long Island, NY, an old folks home; problems arose when Kringle kept claiming that he was the real Santa Claus. Doris now considered firing him; in the midst of laying off Kringle, Doris was called into store owner R.H. Macy's (Harry Antrim) office, with all of his department heads in attendance. She learned that the general tide of consensus was that Kris had increased positive PR and goodwill for the store, and had generated additional business; to her surprise, she was praised (with Shellhammer) for initiating an unofficial new "policy" of promoting other rival businesses as a gesture of good-will
  • Doris and Shellhammer agreed to keep 'Kris Kringle' on as the store's 'Santa Claus,' but submit him to testing by the store's incompetent psychologist and bad-tempered personnel director Mr. Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall); meanwhile, Kringle was grateful to Doris for restoring his job, and then entered into a concerned conversation with her about the loss of the real meaning of Christmas: ("For the past 50 years or so, I've been getting more and more worried about Christmas. Seems we're all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster and look shinier and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle....Christmas isn't just a day. It's a frame of mind. And that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad I'm here. Maybe I can do something about it")
  • after 'Kris Kringle was tested by Sawyer, a meeting was held in Doris' office with the resident physician and geriatrics expert Dr. Pierce (James Seay) of the Brooks' Home for the Aged; the ego-bruised Sawyer recommended that Kringle should be dismissed immediately and institutionalized; however, Dr. Pierce disagreed with Sawyer and claimed that 'Kringle' was only slightly delusional, but not dangerous to himself or to others; he also contested Sawyer's claim that 'Kringle' would become violent (and use his ever-present cane as a weapon) if his delusion was ever challenged
  • as Dr. Pierce was leaving, he recommended that Kringle live in the city (closer to his employment so he wouldn't face a train-ride from Great Neck) and rent a room from someone who worked at the store so that they could ride to and from work together; as it turned out, Fred offered a spare room in his Manhattan apartment to Kringle since he was supportive of the positive effect Kringle was having on Susan; and then, Kris could ride to and from work with Doris to Macy's
  • as Susan was being put to bed at Doris' place, she told Kris about her Christmas wish for a "real house" - and pointed out a picture of her idealized home that she had torn out of a magazine, with a tree-swing in the backyard; Kringle said he would attempt to acquire the home for her, but made no firm promises: "Well, it's a tall order, but I'll do my best"
  • in the Macy's cafeteria, Kris spoke to 17 year-old, slightly-chubby Alfred (Alvin Greenman) from Brooklyn, who was a janitor at the store and had been dressing up as Santa at his neighborhood YMCA for three years; he was angered that the store's psychologist Sawyer diagnosed Alfred as having a "guilt complex"; Kris left to confront Sawyer and disagree with his psychoanalytic interpretation of Alfred's problems; he also rapped him over the head with his cane/umbrella. The jealous, nasty and mean-spirited Mr. Sawyer embellished his injury and what had happened during the violent encounter to Mr. Shellhammer and Doris and framed his fellow employee Kris for the assault, and Doris was urged to have Kris examined further and possibly institutionalized at Bellevue Hospital
  • Kris was tricked and deceived, and taken to Bellevue, where in disgust, he deliberately failed all of his tests; Fred visited him, restored Kris' hope, and promised to help and encourage Kris to not give up, and not let down those who were beginning to believe in him
  • lawyer Fred Gailey, Doris' love interest, decided to quit his prestigious law firm position, and proposed to defend Kris in an 'insanity hearing'; Fred and Doris experienced a brief falling-out over his decision; she disagreed with him when he claimed that it was worthwhile and acceptable to have faith in him and in his commitment to the red-suited character (including the power of imagination and the Christmas spirit)
  • in the stirring finale set in the NY State Supreme Court, a battle between lawyers was set to determine Kris' sanity or lunacy and whether he should be committed or not; in one of the courtroom scenes, as a clever strategy, Fred asked questions of the District Attorney's young son Tommy, Jr. (Bobby Hyatt) on the witness stand: "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" and "Why are you so sure there's a Santa Claus?" - and the boy answered affirmatively that his dad had told him so. It was a winning maneuver proving that Santa Claus actually existed
  • Kringle's twinkly-eyed earnestness and wholesomeness removed the doubts of even the skeptical Doris and Susan; on Christmas Eve at the conclusion of the case, Susan wrote a letter to Kris Kringle to cheer him up while in court for his insanity hearing (with her mother's added postscript: "I believe in you, too"); their letter ended up in the dead-letter section of the New York post-office, where postal worker mail-sorter Al (Jack Albertson) who saw the courthouse address on Susan's letter, decided to clear out the storeroom by proposing to send all the dead letters addressed to Santa to the courthouse
  • Gailey also made a dramatic display of US mail evidence in the courtroom - 21 bags and stacks of thousands of letters addressed to Santa Claus, brought into the court from the 'dead letter' section of the PO, and proving that Kris was Santa Claus: ("Your Honor: Every one of these letters is addressed to Santa Claus. The Post Office has delivered them. Therefore, the Post Office Department, a branch of the federal government, recognizes this man, Kris Kringle, to be the one-and-only Santa Claus!"); NY superior court Judge Henry Harper (Gene Lockhart) agreed and dismissed the case, and Kringle was released

Arriving at Susan's Dream House

Kringle's Cane

Fred's Proposal to Doris
  • in the concluding scene on Christmas Day, Susan was in a car with Doris and Fred, repeatedly trying to persuade herself to have faith that Santa existed: "I believe" - and then she expressed overwhelming joy at driving up to the house of her dreams - a house (with a "For Sale" sign) that she had asked Santa to give to her; she told Fred and Doris after wildly running through the house: ("But this is my house, Mommy, the one I asked Mr. Kringle for. It is! It is! I know it is! My room upstairs is just like I knew it would be! Oh, you were right, Mommy. Mommy told me if things don't turn out just the way you want them to the first time, you've still got to believe. And I kept believing, and you were right, Mommy! Mr. Kringle is Santa Claus!")
  • in the ending, Fred kissed Doris and proposed to her in their future home; Susan helped to persuade them to think about seriously purchasing the house - but Fred then expressed his doubts about brilliantly winning the case: ("I must be a pretty good lawyer. I take a little old man and legally prove to the world that he's Santa Claus....Maybe I didn't do such a wonderful thing after all"); the discovery of Kris Kringle's red cane found inside forced them to reevaluate everything

Kris Kringle with Toy Department Boss Mr. Shellhammer in Locker Room

Divorcee Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) With Neighbor Friend Fred Gailey (John Payne)

Kringle with Dutch Girl

Kris Kringle's Address on His Employment Card

Susan and Doris - Believers in Kris

'Insanity' Court Hearing

Bundles of Letters Addressed to Santa


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