Filmsite Movie Review
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
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The Story (continued)

The Commencement of Courtroom Hearings on The "Sanity" or "Lunacy" of 'Santa Claus' (Kris Kringle):

At the very commencement of the courtroom hearing to determine Kris Kringle's state of mind and whether he should be committed or not, State's District Attorney Thomas Mara was convinced he could win the case by calling his first witness to the stand to testify - Kris Kringle. He was able to have Kris decisively declare that he was Santa Claus:

District Attorney: Do you really believe that you're Santa Claus?
Kris Kringle: Of course.
District Attorney: The state rests, your honor.

Mara rested his case and asked the Judge to rule that Santa didn't exist. When the Judge thought that Kringle had misinterpreted the question, and had been employed to play 'Santa Claus,' Kringle affirmed that he had correctly and perfectly understood the question.

As Kringle's lawyer, Fred explained to the Judge how he would conduct his defense of his client: "All these complicated tests and reports boil down to this: Mr. Kringle is not sane because he believes himself to be Santa Claus....If he is the person he believes himself to be, just as you are, then he's just as sane....I intend to prove that Mr. Kringle is Santa Claus." Fred was adamant that Kringle was not insane because he really was "Santa" and he would prove it.

Doris' and Fred's Brief Falling-Out Over His Decision to Defend Kringle:

When the "common-sense" Doris learned that Fred was legally defending the "nice old man" Kringle, she became upset - especially after being told that Fred had unrealistically quit his prestigious NY law firm job (at Haislip, Haislip, Mackenzie, Sherman, and Haislip) in order to fulfill his ideals and defend Kris in the "impossible case":

Look darling, he's a nice old man, and I admire you for wanting to help him, but you've got to be realistic and face facts. You can't just throw your career away because of a sentimental whim.

Doris and Fred had a brief falling-out, when Fred proposed to defend Kris and prove that it was wrong to vilify Santa Claus or others that were bullied. Fred even had faith that he could start his own law firm office and described the kinds of cases he might try to the disapproving Doris: "Probably a lot of people like Kris that are being pushed around. That's the only fun in law anyway. I promise you, if you believe in me and have faith in me, everything will... - you don't have any faith in me, do you?"

She disagreed with him when he replied 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). She argued that reason and common sense revealed that the "intangibles" he was talking about were of lesser value:

Doris: It's not a question of faith. It's just common sense.
Fred: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.
Doris: Oh Fred, you're talking like a child. You're living in a realistic world! And those lovely intangibles of yours are attractive but not worth very much. You don't get ahead that way.
Fred: That all depends on what you call getting ahead. Evidently, you and I have different definitions.
Doris: These last few days, we talked about some wonderful plans. Then you go on an idealistic binge. You give up your job, you throw away all your security, and then you expect me to be happy about it!
Fred: Yes, I guess I expected too much. Look, Doris, someday, you're gonna find out that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn't work. And when you do, don't overlook those lovely intangibles. You'll discover they're the only things that are worthwhile.

DA Mara was also facing dissension in his own household from his wife (Ann Staunton) and young son Tommy Mara, Jr. (Robert Hyatt), who complained that he was cruelly "persecuting" the kindly old man Kringle. Mara felt obligated to fulfill his thankless duty to commit Kringle: "But it's too late now, and there's nothing I can do about it. It's up to the state of New York. I'm just their duly appointed legal representative. Kringle has been declared a menace to society by competent doctors. It's my duty to protect the state of New York, and see that he's put away. No matter what they may say about me, I've got to do it."

The Continuing "Insanity" Hearing in the New York State Supreme Court:

Fred's first witness was R.H. Macy who firmly testified that he believed that his 'Santa' employee Kris Kringle was "truthful" and "of sound mind." However, he briefly hesitated when asked twice by DA Mara: "Do you really believe that this man is Santa Claus?" Mr. Macy paused, imagined damaging headlines portraying him as controversial: "MACY ADMITS HIS SANTA CLAUS A FRAUD," and recalled Kringle on the Macy's Day float waving to smiling children, and then answered affirmatively: "I do."

As he was dismissed from the stand, Macy walked over to his employee Mr. Sawyer on the bench and harshly reprimanded him: "Psychologist - where'd you graduate from, a correspondence school?", and then as he walked away, he turned and promptly ordered: "You're fired."

In his private chambers during a short recess, Judge Harper was dissuaded from making a serious and decisive ruling on the case by his political adviser Charley Halloran. He warned that it would be disastrous for his political re-election to 'kill' Santa Claus:

Halloran: I don't care what you do with old whisker puss, but if you go back in there and rule that there's no Santa Claus, you better start looking for that chicken farm right now. We won't even be able to put you in the primaries.
Judge: But, Charley, listen to reason. I'm a responsible judge. I've taken an oath. How can I seriously rule there is a Santa Claus?
Halloran: All right, you go back and tell them that the New York State Supreme Court rules there's no Santa Claus. It's all over the papers. The kids read it and they don't hang up their stockings. Now what happens to all the toys that are supposed to be in those stockings? Nobody buys 'em. The toy manufacturers are gonna like that, so they have to lay off a lot of their employees, union employees. Now you got the CIO and the AF of L against ya, and they're gonna adore ya for it, and they're gonna say it with votes. Oh, and the department stores are gonna love ya, too and the Christmas card makers and the candy companies. Ho ho, Henry, you're gonna be an awful popular fella. And what about the Salvation Army? Why, they got a Santy Claus on every corner, and they're taking a fortune. But you go ahead Henry, you do it your way. You go on back in there and tell 'em that you rule there is no Santy Claus. Go on. But if you do, remember this: you can count on gettin' just two votes, your own and that District Attorney's out there.

Harper quipped: "The district attorney's a Republican." He decided to postpone a decision, hear further evidence, and keep an open mind before making a ruling: ("The question of Santa Claus seems to be largely a matter of opinion. Many people firmly believe in him. Others do not. The tradition of American justice demands a broad and unprejudiced view of such a controversial matter. This court, therefore, intends to keep an open mind. I'll hear evidence on either side").

Next, with a showstopping, clever strategy to take on "the burden of proof," Fred asked three major questions of the District Attorney's young son Tommy Mara, Jr. on the witness stand:

  • "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
  • "What does he look like?"
  • "Why are you so sure there's a Santa Claus?"

The boy answered affirmatively that his dad had told him so: ("My daddy wouldn't tell me anything that wasn't so! Would you, Daddy?"). It was a winning maneuver proving that Santa Claus actually existed, since DA Mara conceded that he had indeed confirmed that there was a Santa. But then, Mara demandingly challenged Fred to provide confirming, "authoritative proof" of Kris' identity as "the one and only" true Santa - on the next day of the trial at 3 pm (on Christmas Eve).

The Transforming Opinions of Both Doris and Susan About Kringle:

As the hearing proceeded, both Susan and Doris began to wonder if their doubts about Kris Kringle were unfounded:

Susan: I've got a feeling he is Santa Claus....But he's so kind and nice and jolly. He's not like anyone else. He must be Santa.
Doris: I think perhaps you're right, Suzie.

To cheer up Kris Kringle during the insanity hearing, Susan suggested writing an uplifting letter to him - it was printed in CAPITAL letters:


(Doris added a postscript, in cursive): "I believe in you, too."

The mailed letter ended up in the busy NYC postal sytem, where postal worker mail-sorter Al (Jack Albertson) saw the New York County courthouse address on Susan's envelope. He had the idea, suggested to his supervisor Lou (Guy Thomajan), to clear out the dead letter storeroom by proposing to send the thousands of dead letters addressed to Santa to the courthouse:

Lou: There must be about 50,000 of 'em. Bags and bags all over the joint. And there's more comin' in every day.
Al: Yeah, hey, uh, hey Lou, it would be kinda nice to get rid of 'em, wouldn't it, huh?
Lou: Yeah, but - hey, that's a wonderful idea!
Al: I mean, after all, why should we be bothered with all that stuff, huh? Why don't ya get a couple of trucks up here? Big ones, right away. Load 'em with all that Santa Claus mail and deliver it to Mr. Kringle down at the courthouse. Let somebody else worry about it, huh?

In the stirring finale, Kris Kringle received Susan's delivered letter in the courtroom on Christmas Eve and he was very touched. However, Gailey seemed despondent that he could not substantiate his case with a "concrete piece of evidence" from the mayor or governor. However, after being briefly called away, Gailey returned and announced to the Judge that the US federal government agency's recognition of three letters in particular addressed only to "Santa Claus" was authoritative and "positive proof" of Santa Claus' existence.

And then, Fred made a dramatic display and presentation of further US Postal Service mail "evidence" in the courtroom - there were 21 mail bags and stacks of over 50,000 pieces of forwarded post office letters addressed to Santa Claus. They were brought into the court from the 'dead letter' section of the New York PO, and deposited onto the Judge's desk as instructed - he was partially hidden behind the huge pile of mail dumped there. Gailey proudly rested his case:

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!

Judge Henry Harper summarily dismissed the case: ("Uh, since the United States Government declares this man to be Santa Claus, this court will not dispute it. Case dismissed"), and Kringle was released - on Christmas Eve.

After winning the case, Kringle invited Doris and Susan to a Christmas morning breakfast celebration at the Brooks' home on the following Christmas morning. She also invited Kris to dinner immediately, but he reminded her that he would be too busy: "It's Christmas Eve!"

Christmas Morning - Wishes and Dreams Coming True:

On the next day, Christmas morning, Susan, Doris and Fred celebrated with Kris and many others at the Brooks' Home, decorated with a beautiful tree. Kris presented Dr. Pierce with an X-ray machine purchased with his bonus check from Macy's. Susan, however, was distraught when there was nothing from Kris for her. She then stated to her mother that she didn't believe in Santa. When Kringle apologized to Susan ("I tried my best"), she told him how she had lost all her trust in him:

You couldn't get it because you're not Santa Claus, that's why. You're just a nice old man with whiskers like my mother said, and I shouldn't have believed you.

Doris admitted: "I was wrong when I told you that, Suzie." She tried to encourage her daughter to hold to her beliefs and have faith even if common sense told her otherwise:

Doris: You must believe in Mr. Kringle and keep right on doing it. You must have faith in him.
Susan: But he didn't get me the --- . That doesn't make sense, Mommy.
Doris: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.
Susan: Huh?
Doris: I believe just because things don't turn out the way you want them to the first time, you've still got to believe in people. I found that out.
Susan: You mean it's like - 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again'? I thought so.

In the concluding scene, the white-bearded Santa was instrumental in assisting the romantic relationship between Doris and her attorney/neighbor Fred Gailey, with whom he was staying. Susan repeatedly tried to persuade herself to have faith that Santa existed: "I believe. I believe. It's silly, but I believe."

In their car as they followed route directions given by Kris Kringle to presumably avoid traffic, Susan suddenly shouted out: "Stop, Uncle Fred! Stop!" 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. Kringle had fulfilled Susan's Christmas wish for a beautiful dream house. She exited the car and ran up the home's front lawn and entered the front door. After wildly and ecstatically running upstairs inside the vacant house, she exclaimed to Fred and Doris:

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!

She then ran to check if there was a swing in the backyard and screamed: "There is one! There is one!" Susan's joy helped to persuade them to think about purchasing the house and also confirmed her belief in Santa/Kringle. During all of the excitement generated by Susan, Fred kissed Doris and they both agreed to purchase the house (Fred: "We can't let her down"). When Doris professed that she never doubted him, Fred proposed to her in their future home. Fred then reflectively boasted about brilliantly and successfully winning the impossible case to defend the eccentric old man named Kringle, and proving that he was Santa:

It even makes sense to believe in me now. I must be a pretty good lawyer. I take a little old man and legally prove to the world that he's Santa Claus. Now, you know that...

And then both of them noticed Kris's red cane leaning against the wall by the fireplace. She doubted its ownership: ("Oh no, it can't be. It must have been left here by the people that moved out"), but Fred reevaluated his winning defense with an anti-climactic statement, about how it had been proven that it was acceptable to be eccentric, but that he probably shouldn't take the credit:

Maybe, maybe I didn't do such a wonderful thing after all.

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