The Redford Theatre kicks off its Six Weeks of Christmas on Friday with the original 1947 version of the classic “Miracle on 34th Street”. A 35mm archival print straight from the 20th Century Fox vault will be shown.
The perennial Christmas favorite stars Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, who enters the lives of Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) on Thanksgiving Day when he becomes the last-minute replacement for an intoxicated Santa Claus for Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. He is such a big hit with the crowds that he is hired as the Santa for Macy’s flagship New York City store in Macy’s Herald Square.
Kris ignores requests from management to encourage parents to do all their shopping at Macy’s. He directs several shoppers to Macy’s biggest rival, Gimbles instead.
Doris’ handsome attorney neighbor Fred Gailey (John Payne) offers to take Susan to see Kris. Doris has raised her to not believe in fairy tales, but Susan’s lack of faith is shaken when she sees Kris speaking fluent Dutch to a shy adopted girl who cannot speak English. Doris asks Kris to tell Susan that he is not really Santa Claus, but Kris insists he is. Doris decides to fire him, over fears that he is delusional and might cause harm to a child. But Kris has generated so much positive publicity and goodwill for Macy’s that a delighted R. H. Macy (Harry Antrim) promises Doris a generous bonus.
Gimbels then implements the same referral policy Kris Kringle gave at Macy’s. Eventually, Kris accomplishes the impossible: he reconciles bitter rivals Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel (Herbert Heyes).
To alleviate Doris’s misgivings, the staff psychologist (Porter Hall) gives Kris a “psychological evaluation”. Kris passes with flying colors, but antagonizes Sawyer by questioning Sawyer’s own mental health. When Kris later has a raucous encounter with Sawyer, the incompetent psychologist has Kris committed to Bellevue Hospital, where he deliberately fails a mental examination out of despair.
But Fred won’t give up on Kris, who made a deal with Fred to work on Susan’s disbelief on Santa Claus if Fred worked his charms on Doris, who became disillusioned with marriage after a bitter divorce. He resigns from his job at a law firm to represent him in the fight to secure his release. To achieve that, Fred arranges a formal hearing in which he argues that Kris is sane because he is in fact Santa Claus. But the odds are stacked against him, and it will take Fred a miracle to prove Kris Kringle really is Santa Claus…
When Gwenn won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the film, he said “Now I know there’s a Santa Claus!”
Show times are Friday, November 20 at 8 P.M., and Saturday, November 21 at 2 and 8 P.M. At the Saturday evening screening there will also be a performance by the Casali Holiday Dancers from the Casali School of Dance in St. Clair Shores. Santa Claus himself will be present at all screenings, and the Redford Theatre will also have their holiday miniature railroad trains on display. Tickets are $5, and may be purchased in advance at the theater’s website.