Filmsite Movie Review
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Doris' Shock That Kringle Truly Believed He Was 'Santa Claus':

Afterwards in her store office, Doris tried to tamp down Susan's amazed enthusiasm for 'Santa' who was miraculously bilingual: "Susan, I speak French, but that doesn't make me Joan of Arc." When Kris Kringle arrived, she urged Kris 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, to her surprise, Kringle responded that he was truly the genuine thing - Saint Nick - and his real name was 'Kris Kringle':

Kris: 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: No, no, no, you misunderstand. I want you to tell her the truth. What's your name?
Kris: Kris Kringle.

Doris became more concerned, and asked her secretary Miss Adams (Jean O'Donnell) to retrieve Kris Kringle's employment card. She then urged Kringle to quit pretending: "Please don't feel you have to pretend for Susan. She's a very intelligent child, and always wants to know the absolute truth." When handed Kringle's employment card, Doris was shocked that Kringle had carried out the facade of being Santa from the North Pole, whose reindeer were listed as his next of kin. His application revealed that the old man was a harmless nursing home resident, whose address was the Brooks' Memorial Home for the Aged in Great Neck, Long Island, NY - an old folks home:

ADDRESS: Brooks' Memorial Home for the Aged, 126 Maplewood Dr., Great Neck, Long Island
DATE OF BIRTH: As old as my tongue and a little bit older than my teeth.
PLACE: North Pole
NEXT OF KIN: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen

[Note: The actual name of one of the reindeers was spelled "Donder," not Donner.]

Problems arose when Kringle kept claiming that he was the real Santa Claus. Doris now considered firing him before he did any more harm: ("I'm sorry, but we're going to have to make a change"). In the midst of laying off Kringle, Doris was called into store owner R.H. Macy's 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. She was praised (with Shellhammer) for initiating an unofficial new "policy" of promoting other rival businesses as a gesture of good-will:

Imagine Macy's Santa Claus sending customers to cannot argue with success. Look at this. Telegrams, messages, telephone calls. The governor's wife, the mayor's wife, over 500 thankful parents expressing undying gratitude to Macy's. Never in my entire career have I seen such a tremendous and immediate response to a merchandising policy...

If we expand our policy, we'll expand our results as well. Therefore, from now on, not only will our Santa Claus continue in this manner, but I want every salesperson in this store to do precisely the same thing. If we haven't got exactly what the customer wants, we'll send him where he can get it. No high pressuring and forcing a customer to take something he doesn't really want. We'll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store, the store with a heart, the store that places public service ahead of profits. And, consequently, we'll make more profits than ever before.

As a way to personally thank Doris and Shellhammer, store owner R.H. Macy offered both of his employees generous Christmas bonuses.

Tests and Exams to Determine Kringle's State of Mind:

Outside Mr. Macy's office, a worried Doris told Shellhammer that she had already initiated Kringle's lay-off:

Doris: He's crazy. He thinks he is Santa Claus.
Shellhammer: I don't care if he thinks he's the Easter Bunny. You've got to get him back.
Doris: He's insane, I tell you.

Shellhammer was concerned that Doris would defy their boss, and expressed his sudden changed opinion of Kringle's sanity:

You heard what Mr. Macy said. We've got to keep him....maybe he's only a little crazy, like painters or composers or, or some of those men in Washington. We can't be sure until he's been examined. If you fire him, and we find out he wasn't really crazy, Mr. Macy will have us examined and fired.

Doris agreed that they would have the store's incompetent psychologist and bad-tempered personnel director Mr. Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall) administer psychological exams and thorough testing, to determine if Kringle was harmful or not.

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:

You see, Mrs. Walker, this is quite an opportunity for me. 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.

He then remarked that she and her daughter Susan were a "test case" for him - the two doubters were going to be a challenge for him to convert and convince: "You're sort of the whole thing in miniature. If I can win you over, there's still hope. If not, then I guess I'm through. But I'm warning you, I don't give up easily."

The very next morning, a nervous and twitchy Mr. Sawyer administered a series of factual questions to Kris Kringle, who antagonistically reversed roles and noted that the questioner was quite nervous, pulled on his right eyebrow, and bit his fingernails - symptoms that suggested underlying insecurity. He even asked: "Are you happy at home?" After the exam concluded, a call from Sawyer's wife Gladys revealed that he had a troublesome marriage to his pestering wife, and had other family issues with his unemployed brother-in-law.

A meeting was held in Doris' office with the resident physician Dr. Pierce (James Seay) of the Brooks' Home for the Aged, with Sawyer and Shellhammer in attendance. The ego-bruised Sawyer recommended - after his alleged "comprehensive" testing session - that Kringle should be dismissed immediately and institutionalized, because he "lacked concentration" and asked too many questions. Dr. Pierce disagreed with Sawyer and claimed that 'Kringle' was only slightly delusional, but not dangerous to himself or to others:

People are only institutionalized to prevent them from harming themselves or other people. Now, Mr. Kringle is incapable of either. His is a delusion for good. He only wants to be friendly and helpful....Why, there are thousands of people who have similar delusions, living perfectly normal lives in every other respect.

He compared Kris' unfounded and firm belief that he was Santa Claus to another delusional Hollywood restaurant owner (the famed Michael Romanoff of Romanoff's) who thought he was a Russian prince. Geriatrics expert Dr. Pierce 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: "If you tell Kris there is no Santa Claus, I grant you he'll argue the point, but he'll not become violent." Doris was faced with the very tough choice of deciding how to responsibly handle Kringle's case. Dr. Pierce assured her: "Kris has no latent maniacal tendencies."

Housing Recommendations and Arrangements for Kringle:

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 back and forth from Great Neck) and rent a room from someone who worked at the store so that they could ride to and from work together. Shellhammer proposed that he offer his wife (Lela Bliss) double-strength martinis before dinner to convince her to agree to rent their son's room while he was away at school: "I'll call you as soon as my wife's plastered, feeling gay." Meanwhile, Doris agreed to take Kringle to her place for dinner.

That evening in Doris' apartment as Fred and Doris prepared dinner in the kitchen, Kringle discussed the power of imagination to Susan after she told him how she detested the "silly games" other children played when pretending to be animals:

Sounds like a wonderful game to me. Of course, in order to play it, you've got to have an imagination...To me the imagination is a place all by itself, a separate country....The Imagine Nation. It's a wonderful place. How would you like to be able to make snowballs in the summertime? Hey! Or drive a great big bus right down 5th Avenue? How would you like to have a ship all to yourself that makes daily trips to China and Australia? How would you like to be the Statue of Liberty in the morning, and in the afternoon, fly south with a flock of geese? It's very simple. Of course, it takes practice. Now, the first thing you've got to learn is how to pretend.

Then, he taught her how to imaginatively pretend to be a monkey. The young little girl was told about the joy of imagination, and it was her first step in beginning to witness things that were not easy to explain rationally. She also unconsciously began to consider that Kringle might be Santa Claus after all.

Fred offered a spare twin bed in his Manhattan apartment to Kringle since he was supportive of the positive effect Kringle was having on Susan. And then he proposed that Kris could ride to and from work with Doris to Macy's. A few minutes later, Mr. Shellhammer called to report that the triple-strength martinis had successfully convinced his drunken wife to offer a room. [Note: On the table, there were nine toothpicks from the olives in her martinis - had she actually downed 9 triple-strengths martinis?]

However, Kringle informed Doris, to her shock, that he had already decided to room with Fred.

Later that evening as Susan was being put to bed, 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. She then stated: "If you're really Santa Claus, you can get it for me. And if you can't, you're only a nice man with a white beard like mother says." He tried to reason with her: "Now wait a minute, Susie. Just because every child can't get his wish, that doesn't mean there isn't a Santa Claus." Susan then described her dream house that she could live in with her mother: "I want a backyard with a great big tree to put a swing on." 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."

As they prepared for his first night in Fred's apartment, Kringle suggested a pact between them to soften up both Doris and Susan's cynicism: "Those two are lost souls. It's up to us to help them. I'll take care of Suzie if you take care of her mother." Kringle's twinkly-eyed earnestness and wholesomeness would soon remove the doubts of even the skeptical Doris and her equally cynical, wide-eyed, precocious daughter Susan.

The Spreading Spirit of Good-Will Between Department Stores:

During the upcoming Christmas holiday season, all of the major department stores (Bloomingdales, Hearns, Gimbels, Macy's, Sterns, and McCrerrys) were in full-advertising mode, with extended shopping hours. All of the rival stores responded in kind to emulate Macy's policy of good-will by recommending products in other stores. In particular, Mr. Gimbel (Herbert Heyes) of Gimbels, who wanted to avoid looking greedy in comparison, established a new 'referral policy' directive for his subordinates to implement in all of their stores:

It's the greatest good-will policy I ever heard of. Every shopper in New York City suddenly thinks of Macy as a benevolent soul, thinking only of the welfare of the public. And what does that make Gimbel? Nothing but a profiteering money-grubber. Well, two can play at this game. From now on, if we haven't got what the customer wants, send him back to Macy's. And what's more, we'll do the same thing in our stores in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh. Now get to work on it right away.

Macy's responded by following suit and upping the ante by providing selfless customer service at more of its branches throughout the country. Previously-feuding store owners Mr. Gimbel and Mr. Macy were photographed shaking hands in front of Good ol' Saint Nick to the delight of customers. Mr. Macy also handed Kris a large check - he chose to help purchase an X-Ray machine for one of his kind doctor friends. A bidding or dueling war was initiated when Mr. Gimbel gladly volunteered to "make up the difference" in the actual cost with his own donation. Mr. Macy blurted out: "Buy it through the store. Get 10% discount," as Gimbel added: "I can get it for cost" before both shared a laugh.

Further Threats Against Kris Kringle's Character:

Soon after during lunch in the Macy's cafeteria, Alfred told Kris that he was upset after Sawyer told him that anyone who 'played' Santa was possibly mentally ill and unstable and had deep personality issues (i.e., a "guilt complex") - for acting unusually kind-hearted and generous. Kris left to confront Sawyer and disagree with his psychoanalytic interpretation of Alfred's problems - he called him a "meddling amateur" who wasn't qualified to dispense analysis or advice:

You ought to be horse-whipped, taking a normal, impressionable boy like Alfred and filling him up with complexes and phobias....Just because the boy wants to be good and kind to children, you tell him he has a guilt complex.

Sawyer counter-reprimanded Kris for also being delusional: "Sharing his delusion, you couldn't understand. Alfred is definitely maladjusted, and I'm helping." Enraged by the "malicious" accusations against Alfred and Sawyer's "heartless" demeanor and lack of "humanity," Kris rapped Sawyer over the head with his cane/umbrella. The jealous, nasty and mean-spirited Sawyer embellished his injury and what had happened during the violent encounter to Mr. Shellhammer and Doris, to frame his fellow-employee Kris for the assault. Doris was urged to have Kris examined further and possibly institutionalized at Bellevue Hospital. Doris was highly reluctant to damage Kris' reputation any further:

I won't do it. I've grown very fond of him. And this would be like coming out and telling him that I thought he was insane....This is going to hurt Kris deeply, and I don't want to be the one to do it!

Sawyer continued to plot with Mr. Shellhammer to remove Kris from the store, to avoid further potential harm to the children. Kris was tricked and deceived when Shallhammer convinced him to leave the store to have publicity pictures taken that afternoon at City Hall with the mayor. Once outside and in an awaiting car, Sawyer ordered the driver to take them to Bellevue Hospital. Kris was shocked after he asked: "Did she know about this?" and was told (falsely) that Doris had agreed to his incarceration in a mental institution.

While working in his law-office, Fred was contacted by phone by a psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital who threatened to have Kringle committed and put away: "I'm afraid I shall have to recommend commitment." Disbelieving cynics were intent on institutionalizing Kringle and declaring him delusional and insane. Kris was subjected to more competency tests, and he deliberately failed the tests because he no longer thought that Doris was supportive of him. Fred visited Kris in the asylum and asked why he had given up. Kris answered that he had lost hope: "I had a feeling Doris was beginning to believe in me. And now I find out she was only just humoring me all the time." Fred partially cleared things up - Doris knew nothing about publicity photos, since it was all Sawyer's idea. Kris explained his reasoning to fail his tests - as a self-fulfilling prophecy:

There's Mr. Sawyer. He's contemptible, dishonest, selfish, deceitful, vicious. Yet he's out there and I'm in here. He's called normal and I'm not. Well, if that's normal, I don't want it. That's why I answered the questions incorrectly.

Fred promised to help and encouraged Kris to not give up, and not let down those who were beginning to believe in him. He had come to know that Kringle didn't deserve to be held at the hospital, and agreed to help him to acquire his release:

What happens to you matters to a lot of other people. People like me, who believe in what you stand for, and people like Suzie, who are just beginning to. You can't quit. You can't let them down.

Kris affirmed that Fred was right: "Even if we can't win, we can go down swinging." Fred promised: "I'll do everything I can, Kris," but said that it would take some time to get him freed.

Back in Mr. Macy's office, the incensed head boss pressured Mr. Sawyer to get the matter of Kris' insanity dropped without any further negative publicity: "That's a lot of nonsense! Dangerous, my foot! I don't care if he failed ten examinations. You had no right to do it! Now, you get the case dropped tomorrow, or you might have another lump to match the one that Kris gave you!"

Fred's Objective - To Prove That Kris Was Actually Santa and Not Insane:

In the law office of Justice Henry X. Harper (Gene Lockhart), the Judge was reading a petition drawn up by Mr. Sawyer regarding the "Alleged Mentally Ill" condition of Kris Kringle. The official statement from the Department of Mental Hygeine in the State of New York had been submitted to the Supreme Court of the State under the Justice's jurisdiction. According to the State's District Attorney Mr. Mara (Jerome Cowan), they were only "routine commitment papers, cut and dried." Before the Justice signed the document to fully commit Kringle to Bellevue, Fred was ushered into the office to represent his client's interests, and to convince the judge to hold a public hearing on the case - with witnesses. Fred was granted a hearing beginning on Monday morning at 10 am. Sawyer realized that it was now too late to drop the case, and that further "cheap publicity" would be generated.

Sawyer rushed to Gailey as he was leaving the Judiciary Building, to beg for him to "put this matter through quietly" to avoid any unnecessary "publicity." Fred thanked Sawyer for the "interesting" suggestion: "Publicity. Hmm. You know, that's not a bad idea. You know, if I'm gonna win this case, I'm gonna have to have public opinion and plenty of it. And publicity's just the way to do it. Thanks, Mr. Sawyer." One of Fred's objectives was to encourage publicity, because it would cause a major backlash if there was a ruling against Kris Kringle.

New York newspapers printed sensational headlines, such as:

  • Doctors Doubt Sanity of Santa Who Launched Good Will Campaign
  • Macy's Santa Has Lunacy Hearing
  • Kris Kringle Krazy? Kourt Kase Koming 'Kalamity!' Kry Kiddies

Since Judge Harper was up for re-election, he was cautioned by his political advisor Charley Halloran (William Frawley) to avoid the case: "You're a regular Pontius Pilate the minute you start" - for putting 'Santa Claus' on trial for lunacy. Halloran didn't want to hurt the Judge's chances by alienating a block of the voters (parents with children) for 'persecuting' Santa Claus. Although placed in an awkward position, Judge Harper had agreed to officiate in the hearing.

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