Miracle on 34th Street

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The day before Easter seems an odd time to do a post on a Christmas movie.  But this is the time the DVD came from the library from my hold request I put in back in November.

Unfortunately, or so I thought at first, it turned out to be the 1994 remake and not the original with Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn from 1947

But I finally went ahead and watched the remake, and wasn’t disappointed as I expected. I still like the original better. In fact, one of the things I like about the original VHS tape we own is the original theatrical trailer. Which I’ll tell you about first, before getting into the movie itself.

The original has the producer being shown a trailer for the movie. It claims the movie has everything. This does not impress the producer.

“What do you make a trailer for? to give the public an idea what type of movie to expect? How can it be all those things?

Follwing that we see the producer head out to the lot, where he runs into the studios top stars. Rex Harrison tells him he doesn’t know what the women will think, but “it’s a great man’s picture!” Anne Baxter, who just won an oscar, doesn’t know what the men will think but “the things that got me were the tears, so warm and charming … its a great woman’s picture.” Then he almost gets run over by Peggy Ann Garner driving a car.  She talks about how “groovey” the movie is. Dick says “Moving pictures have to move for me, and this in the most unusuall picture I’ve seen, and the last 20 minutes had me on the edge of my seat.”

 

The trailer ends with him coming up with the same idea as his publicity department — that it has it all — but he adds “groovey” to the list as well.

And truly, the original movie had it all, and the remake had almost everything.

Both movies start with the Thanksgiving Day Parade. The original has the actual Macy’s parade, while the remake has a fictional Cole’s parade in NYC. And the remake has thematic items about economic hard times.

Both have Kris showing the parade Santa how to use the sleigh whip, and both have the parade Santa drinking. The original focuses more on Kris and his concern for the children, while the remake focuses on comedic slapstick.

Each version has items that it does better than the other. They both are worth a watch. The original comes from what we might think of as a simpler era; the remake tries to make some items of the plot more complex.

But what I think really separates the two movies is that the remake focuses much more on the meaning of Christmas — by which I mean the abstract concepts of peace, goodwill, generosity, etc.In contrast, I think the original hit all those themes by concentrating on Kris himself, as well as Susan, Mrs. Walker and the other characters.

Both films have excellent scenes with secondary and “cameo” characters. Each of them has an excellent actress who plays a mother of a child referred to a different store, and how they say they now will shop at Macy’s/Cole’s because of the heart the store/Santa is showing.

Both versions have a trial scene. The original is much more humorous — the remake much more suited to a modern courtroom. The remake version couldn’t have occurred at the time of the original; the opposite might have been possible. I did miss the Postal Service scene in the remake, but the “I believe” campaign was a good interpretation.

 

In each movie Susan tests Santa to get her something for Christmas, though in the remake Susan ups the ante from what is asked in the original. And the conclusion delves more into physical humor in the remake. The original centers on the magical, and keeps the question about Kris as Santa there in suspension.

The remake is more realistic, and the original more magical.

I will say that the actress who plays Mrs. Walker in the remake did a very good job, and made the role her own, instead of just copying Maureen O’Hara. It would be had to follow O’Hara in any role. Where there are similar lines, you see how she does a good job of it.

The love interest in both was acted well also, though once again, the remake cast someone more “Latin lover” type sensual, more smolder from him than the original. Once again, I’d say a sign of the times, though that sensuality actually harkens back to a similar era as the original.

So, go see both, and see how they encourage you to think about the spirit of Christmas.

 

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