Miracle on 34th Street

Critics Consensus

Irrefutable proof that gentle sentimentalism can be the chief ingredient in a wonderful film, Miracle on 34th Street delivers a warm holiday message without resorting to treacle.

96%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 47

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 47,517
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Movie Info

Edmund Gwenn plays Kris Kringle, a bearded old gent who is the living image of Santa Claus. Serving as a last-minute replacement for the drunken Santa who was to have led Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, Kringle is offered a job as a Macy's toy-department Santa. Supervisor Maureen O'Hara soon begins having second thoughts about hiring Kris: it's bad enough that he is laboring under the delusion that he's the genuine Saint Nick; but when he begins advising customers to shop elsewhere for toys that they can't find at Macy's, he's gone too far! Amazingly, Mr. Macy (Harry Antrim) considers Kris' shopping tips to be an excellent customer-service "gimmick," and insists that the old fellow keep his job. A resident of a Long Island retirement home, Kris agrees to take a room with lawyer John Payne during the Christmas season. It happens that Payne is sweet on O'Hara, and Kris subliminally hopes he can bring the two together. Kris is also desirous of winning over the divorced O'Hara's little daughter Natalie Wood, who in her few years on earth has lost a lot of the Christmas spirit. Complications ensue when Porter Hall, Macy's nasty in-house psychologist, arranges to have Kris locked up in Bellevue as a lunatic. Payne represents Kris at his sanity hearing, rocking the New York judicial system to its foundations by endeavoring to prove in court that Kris is, indeed, the real Santa Claus! We won't tell you how he does it: suffice to say that there's a joyous ending for Payne and O'Hara, as well as a wonderful faith-affirming denouement for little Natalie Wood. 72-year-old Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his portrayal of the "jolly old elf" Kringle; the rest of the cast is populated by such never-fail pros as Gene Lockhart (as the beleaguered sanity-hearing judge), William Frawley (as a crafty political boss), and an unbilled Thelma Ritter and Jack Albertson. Based on the novel by Valentine Davies, Miracle on 34th Street was remade twice: once for TV in 1973, and a second time for a 1994 theatrical release, with Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Edmund Gwenn
as Kris Kringle
John Payne
as Fred Gailey
Maureen O'Hara
as Doris Walker
Natalie Wood
as Susan Walker
Porter Hall
as Mr. Sawyer
Gene Lockhart
as Judge Henry X. Harper
William Frawley
as Charles Halloran
Jerome Cowan
as District Attorney Thomas Mara
Philip Tonge
as Mr. Shellhammer
Jack Albertson
as Post Office Employee
Harry Antrim
as Mr. Macy
Lela Bliss
as Mrs. Shellhammer
Thelma Ritter
as Peter's Mother
James Seay
as Dr. Pierce
Mary Field
as Mother
Anne Staunton
as Mrs. Mara
Robert Hyatt
as Thomas Mara Jr.
Jeff Corey
as Reporter
Anne O'Neal
as Secretary
William Forrest
as Dr. Rogers
Alvin Hammer
as Mara's Assistant
Ida McGuire
as Drum Majorette
Percy Helton
as Santa Claus
Jane Green
as Mrs. Harper
Marlene Lyden
as Dutch Girl
Guy Thomajan
as Post Office Employee
Robert Lynn
as Macy's Salesman
Jean O'Donnell
as Secretary
'Snub' Pollard
as Mail-Bearing Court Officer
Herbert Heyes
as Mr. Gimbel
Robert Gist
as Window Dresser
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Critic Reviews for Miracle on 34th Street

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (10)

Audience Reviews for Miracle on 34th Street

  • Dec 24, 2013
    Perhaps it is a crime to rate this with only three stars on Christmas Eve but it seems appropriate. While the story is holiday cheery, it is also a bit time locked rather than timeless. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why attempts to remake it in a more modern period have fallen on their heads.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 06, 2013
    Fred Gailey: Faith is believing 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. "Capture the spirit of Christmas with this timeless classic!" Miracle on 34th Street is every bit the timeless holiday classic I had heard it was, and is now easily my second favorite Christmas film behind only It's a Wonderful Life. This is a heartwarming and smart film that stays away from all the normal cliches that most holiday films get wrapped up in. It's original in every way, but what you have to love about it is the way it makes you feel. It makes me want to believe in Santa Clause. A man arrives in New York sporting a long white beard and claims his name is Kris Kringle. He is hired on as Macy's Santa Clause when he successfully replaces a drunk Santa Clause for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. A few people begin to think that Kris is insane because of his belief that he is Santa Clause and he is soon brought to trial for commitment to a insane asylum.  The cast is fabulous in this one. Maureen O'Hara is terrific as a mother who doesn't want her daughter believing in any fantasies such as Santa Clause. John Payne gives a good performance as the neighbor of O'Hara's character and Kris's lawyer. Natalie Wood plays Susan, the daughter who doesn't believe in Santa Clause in one of her first roles and her first major role. And Edmund Gwenn is delightful, embodying the very essence of what we would think Santa Clause to be in an Oscar winning role.  Miracle on 34th Street is definitely going to be a new tradition for me around the Christmas season. I'm just a little disappointed that this wasn't always a holiday tradition for me. My parents screwed up there I guess. It's a must see movie, that has wonderful heart and beautiful and witty sense of humor. This is definitely a movie to put on your must see list. 
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 21, 2012
    Miracle on 34th Street is a brilliant and charming Christmas classic about a department store Santa. This movie has a delightful tone and characters to it, and the performance from Edmund Gwenn was astonishing. His kindness and heart is what makes the movie so perfect and memorable. I loved this film and its really a heartwarming experience.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 12, 2012
    Now here is a Christmas movie. There's no BB guns, kids outsmarting criminals, angels getting wings, or Will Ferrells dressed as elves. There's just pure Christmas spirit. Don't get me wrong, those films I referenced are all good and a couple even classics, but I question whether I would put any other holiday movie ahead of this one. This film is synonymous with the spirit of Christmas. As Kris Kringle states in the film, "Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind." That line, along with plenty of other lines and scenes in this film, never fails to get me in the festive mood. It also never fails to give me that warm feeling that only Christmas brings. It isn't quite the same as the goosebumps I get at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, but it's a great feeling nonetheless. One of the biggest things about this film is how simple it is. There is no intricate plotting or deep characters, but it works so well. The actors are all memorable (Edmund Gwenn IS Santa Claus in my mind) and the lines all quotable. If your looking to get in the cheerful spirit of the holidays, look no further than this well acted, funny, and fully enjoyable masterpiece of a film that is among the best (if not THE best) Christmas films out there.
    Drew O Super Reviewer

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