Last night I dusted off my DVD of Miracle on 34th Street (1947) to give it its yearly viewing. Of the three greatest Christmas films I have seen, this one leads the way followed closely by The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).
There are other great Christmas films and I would be amiss if I didn’t mention A Christmas Story (1983) which as always will be shown for twenty-four hours over Christmas on WTBS. We all have our favorites and it’s comforting to watch them every year during the holidays.
Miracle on 34th Street is a great example of Hollywood’s use of the fine character actors of the day to produce a fine, heartwarming film about Christmas. The stars are John Payne and a beautiful 27 year old Maureen O’Hara with nine year old Natalie Wood playing her daughter. Edmund Gwenn stole the show and won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle.
Probably the most important thing to remember when watching the classic films is to watch them in the form in which they were originally intended. That means that if they were filmed in black and white, that is the way to see them.
Years ago when Ted Turner bought the libraries of the MGM and Warner Brothers films, he thought colorization of the black and white classics would be a genius idea. It wasn’t. A good example of the failure of colorization is what it did to the Jimmy Cagney classic Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney won best actor in1942 for his portrayal of George M. Cohan and to see him dancing across the stage in a powder blue jacket that looked like a poor excuse for a leisure suit reject, was incredible. Fortunately, viewers agreed.
I guess I am old fashioned about Christmas. Like all kids, I loved everything about the Christmas holidays and there was never any dissension about the day just because it was a Christian holiday. We would have a tree in our grade school classrooms and the schools would always have a Christmas show. Any kids who weren’t Christian went along for the ride with no concern about the Christian aspect. I think they and their parents figured "What the hell." The one thing we all agreed upon was how great it was to get off school at noon on December 24 if it landed on a school day.
Today is December 21 which is my wife’s birthday. That means a celebratory trip to the casino with dinner at the Orange Sky restaurant on the roof of the Talking Stick Resort. The views there are incredible. After that we might make a late night of it by turning on the Christmas tree lights and watching The Bishop’s Wife.
That may sound corny to some but I can’t think of a better way to end the day.
Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)