Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments



Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

 



Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions
Screenshots

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 marvelous character of the charming NYC Macy's Santa 'Kris Kringle' (Edmund Gwenn), an older white-whiskered, kindly gentleman who was given the job of the toy department's Santa when the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade Santa Claus was discovered to be intoxicated; Kringle was hired by special-events parade organizer and divorced, workaholic single mother Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) to be the store's new Saint Nick; the emergency in-house replacement - the new, grandfatherly jolly fellow from the North Pole, proved to be a smash hit following the parade
  • the scene of toy department boss Mr. Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge) urging 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")
  • Macy's event director Doris Walker, a single divorcee, urged Kris Kringle to tell her delightfully skeptical young 2nd grade daughter Susan Walker (Natalie Wood) that Santa didn't exist: ("Would you please tell her that you're not really Santa Claus, that there actually is no such person?"); Kringle insisted that he really was Saint Nick: ("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' skeptical 6 year-old daughter 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
  • Doris made the shocking discovery that Santa was recommending that shoppers go elsewhere if they couldn't find toys that they wanted at Macy's; also Doris 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; however, there were psychiatrists from Bellevue Hospital who threatened to have Kringle committed and put away in a mental institution, although Kringle's twinkly-eyed earnestness and wholesomeness removed the doubts of even the skeptical Doris and Susan
  • Kringle engaged in a concerned conversation with Doris 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")
  • while children stood in line to see and speak to Santa, 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) while Susan watched from the side and was impressed
  • in the stirring finale set in the NY Superior Court on Christmas Eve, a battle between lawyers was to determine Kris' sanity or lunacy; 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")
  • in the courtroom scene, handsome bachelor lawyer Fred Gailey (John Payne), Doris' love interest and next-door neighbor, proposed to defend Kris in an 'insanity hearing'; as a clever strategy, he asked questions of the District Attorney's young son Tommy (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
  • 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, 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; when Kris Kringle's red cane was found inside, it confirmed her belief in Santa/Kringle; 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 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")


Kris Kringle with Toy Department Boss Mr. Shellhammer


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


Kris Kringle's Address


Kringle with Dutch Girl



Believers in Kris


'Insanity' Court Hearing

Bundles of Letters Addressed to Santa

100's of the GREATEST SCENES AND MOMENTS

Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z