When I watched Miracle on 34th Street when I was a kid, at first I got into its story of a man named Kris Kringle who, thanks to the drunken antics of the guy they’d hired to be Santa, gets to play the part in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, then takes up the duties as Macy’s Santa and becomes a sensation even as he freely claims to be the real St. Nick.
I stayed in it all the way up until Kris gets in trouble over bopping somebody on the noggin with his cane, which in turn leads Kris’ “victim” into making false accusation which exaggerates what happens, which in turn sends him to Bellevue Mental Hospital and, finally, into … a court of law?!
At that, the film completely lost me.
Santa Claus travels all over the globe north, south, east and west every Christmas Eve. The last place on earth you’d expect to find him is in court. But there Kris goes into the courtroom of a New York Supreme Court judge where, after much lighthearted hijinks that climaxes with Kris’ lawyer bringing in 21 bags of letters to Santa before the judge to prove his point that Kris is the real deal (much to the uproarious delight of the courtroom spectators) Kris is out of the nut ward and back into the joyous Yuletide where he belongs.
All in all, Kris’ “trial” causes in the movie as much a sensation as the so-called “Monkey Trial” of teacher John T. Scopes over illegally teaching evolution did in real life, especially when Kris’ lawyer goes for broke on the publicity angle despite the contrary wishes of Macys.
Yes Edmund Gwen, Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, et al, are superb, and yes it can be considered a “holiday classic,” but I am no fan of Miracle on 34th Street thanks to the courtroom twist that, while admittedly original, only served to gum up the works for me, because –with the exception of Andersonville, Paths of Glory, Twelve Angry Men, The Caine Mutiny, and Breaker Morant – movies that go to court are not my cup of tea, and even the presence of Santa in Miracle on 34th's celluloid court visit could not turn it into a cup of Christmas tea.
Now a movie in which a certain food additives genius puts thousands of imported Italian twinkle lights on his house for Christmas, on the other hand …