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Well, Christmas is nearly upon us, and in that spirit, I have a few Christmas films lined up to watch. Second on the list (after watching Holiday Inn last weekend) was Miracle on 34th Street – the original 1947 version (although the 1996 remake is on my list too). Edmund Gwenn plays Kris Kringle, a department store Santa, who insists that he is in fact the real Santa Claus. He befriends a young woman and her small daughter (Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood respectively), who don’t believe in fairy tales of any kind, but who start to believe that Kris could be telling the truth.  His influence spreads further when he encourages the large department store where he is employed (Macy’s in NYC, where the store scenes were actually shot) to be more altruistic and enter into the true spirit of Christmas.  But then the authorities get involved, and Kris has to take his case to Court to try and prove that he is who he says he is…

It’s easy to see why this film has become a Christmas classic! It’s one of those films that appeals to people of all ages, and really makes you want to believe in Santa! Edmund Gwenn is terrific as Kris Kringle, who may be the real Santa, or may simply be a nice but delusional old man. Maureen O’Hara was beautiful and brilliant as Doris Walker, and nine year old Natalie Wood shows that the acting talent and beauty that she had as an adult was also there as a child. John Payne rounded out the main cast as Doris’s neighbour, lawyer Fred Gailey, who not only falls for Doris, but also agrees to represent Kris in court.

The ending is lovely (but I’m not giving anything away).  This is definitely a movie to watch with a mince pie and maybe a glass of mulled wine in hand!  Just lovely.

Year of release: 1947

Director: George Seaton

Writers: George Seaton, Valentine Davies

Main cast: Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne

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Click here for my review of the 1994 movie.

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In this comedy from 1962, James Stewart plays Roger Hobbs, a happily married man who is looking forward to spending a month off work getting away from it all with only his wife Peggy (Maureen O’Hara) for company.  But Peggy has other ideas, and she rents a beach house to which she invites their entire family, including sons-in-law and grandchildren!  Problems arise when the beach house turns out to be dilapidated – but that’s nothing to the problems caused by a voluptuous fellow holidaymaker who seems to take a liking to Roger; the marital problems of one of the daughters; the son’s obsession with western movies; and the youngest daughter’s determination not to enjoy herself!

I’m surprised that this film is not better known – after all it stars one of Hollywood’s best loved actors, Jimmy Stewart (a man who I’m convinced is impossible to dislike).  Here, Stewart is terrific, totally depicting Roger’s love for and frustration with his family.  And his facial expressions and little mannerisms are perfect – I found myself sympathising with him, even while laughing at his predicaments!

Maureen O’Hara is also perfect as his wife Peggy (and she looks amazing).  She is the perfect foil for Roger, and the love between the two of them comes through perfectly, even though they get annoyed with each other two.

Laurie Peters shines as the youngest daughter, and Minerva Urecal is great as the maid, Brenda.  In all honesty the two older daughters and sons in law are pretty forgettable, but that doesn’t detract from the film, as Stewart and O’Hara are terrific in every scene.  The scene when they first arrive at the house to discover that it is run-down and probably dangerous, is a hoot!

If you haven’t heard of this film, I’d definitely recommend it.  Lots of laughs and two very likable main characters make it well worth watching.

Year of release: 1962

Director: Henry Koster

Writers: Edward Streeter (book), Nunnally Johnson

Main cast: James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, Lauri Peters

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