Miracle on 34th Street Celebrates 70 Years of Holiday Magic

Miracle On 34th Street, which celebrates the 70th anniversary of its release this year, first appeared in Theaters on June 4, 1947. That’s right, one of the all-time classic, most beloved Christmas films was released in the summer!  We suspect that most people reading this blog are familiar with this classic holiday story, so rather than summarize it, we figured we’d discuss some interesting aspects and behind-the-scenes stories about the movie.

Why was it released out of season?  It seems Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox Studios, believed more people went to the movies during summer months.  Miracle On 34th Street was promoted with no mention of its Yuletide-themed plot.  The original movie poster (seen at the top of this page) emphasizes the romance between Doris (Maureen O’Hara) and Fred (John Payne). Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwen) and Susan (Natalie Wood) are relegated to the background of the poster.

Miracle On 34th Street begins on Thanksgiving Day.  Kris takes on the role of Santa in the Macy’s Parade when the man hired to play Mr. Claus (Percy Helton) is too drunk to go on. Viewers of the film today might be surprised to learn that Edmund Gwenn actually did play Santa in the 1946 edition of the Macy’s Parade!

This is rare case of a 1940s film being shot on location.  This means we get to see actual vintage footage of the 1946 Macy’s Parade!

Character actress Thelma Ritter made her film debut in this movie.  She appears uncredited as a Macy’s shopper. While her role is brief, Ritter managed to make a nothing-role memorable and it lead to her being cast in more movies.  Ritter went on to a distinguished career, racking up six Oscar nominations, one Emmy nod and a win at the 1956 Tony Awards for New Girl In Town.

We love this film and watch it every holiday season, Edmund Gwenn is still the best movie Santa Claus seven decades after he won an Oscar for the role.

Please join us at the Byrd Theatre on Wednesday, December 6 at 7:15 for a 70th anniversary showing of Miracle On 34th Street! And check out the rest of our December lineup here.