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.
This film is known as a Christmas classic and it’s easy to see why! It’s a story with a lot of heart and a real uplifting feeling, but without being too sickly. I haven’t seen the later versions so I can’t comment on them but this first one made in 1947 really should be on people’s list to watch if you enjoy a feel good film that surprisingly makes you get quite emotional! Well…I became emotional anyway…
The film centres around Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) as they encounter Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) who claimed to be the real Santa Claus. Doris is a realist and has raised Susan similarly, thus she doesn’t believe in Santa or any kind of fairy tales. Their neighbour Fred Gailey (John Payne) has been taking Susan under his wing and been trying to open her mind up to greater imagination. This only intensifies when Kris Kringle enters their lives as the Santa in Macy’s (where Doris works). He’s a hugely popular Santa, with kids, parents, and eventually Macy’s too. However, the issue that Kris Kringle said he was the real Santa Claus concerned some, particularly Doris as she worried about his influence on Susan, which ultimately meant he was mentally tested by Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall). Eventually it resulted with Kris Kringle being institutionalised. There is then a court case, with Gailey as Kris Kringle’s defence, that tries to prove he is not insane as he is in fact Santa.
This film really does capture the ‘true spirit of Christmas’ whatever that is! Kris Kringle as the Macy’s Santa was one of my favourite parts of the film as it really showed what Christmas should mean. He rejected the over commercialised nature of it which was all about Macy’s selling their stock, and he focused on giving the kids what they wanted, which sometimes meant sending them to other stores. The best part was when a Dutch refugee who spoke no English visited him and together they spoke Dutch and it made the girl so happy. It was that moment that Susan started to belive him, and as a viewer when we saw that Christmas was not all about making money and presents. For me, these sections were my favourite, as other stores like Gimbel’s took Macy’s lead in renouncing commercial competitiveness (though it was still for selfish reasons as they didn’t want to look bad in comparison). There was humour in Macy’s staff response to Kris Kringle, but it was also heartwarming too!
The trial was also good to watch as it contained lots of humour. My favourite was the prosecutor’s son stating in court that his own dad (who was saying Santa did not exist) had told him that Santa was real. Moments like these, and seeing the judge struggle to know what to do as he realised the implications of saying Santa didn’t exist, were really funny! It is unbelievable that such a case would ever happen, but it is still a pleasure to watch and even though we know Santa isn’t real (sorry believers) we still want Kris Kringle to prove he is Santa! The scene where the evidence that finally proved it was revealed was fabulous to see! It is a bizarre scenario to be in when you want Santa’s existence to be confirmed, but it’s Christmas so this kind of film chimes perfectly with the mood of everything!
The ending of the film was also a final heartwarming moment as Susan gets what she wanted and Doris and Fred get what they want too. It’s a nice way to finish a great film and, though I hate saying this kind of thing, it does make you feel warm inside! Overall, it’s a great Christmas movie, one my favourites even though I’ve only seen it once, and I would recommend everyone seeing it over Christmas, whether you like these kind of films or not. I was sceptical of it at first (a court case to prove Santa’s existence sounds a bit too weird) but I am now a full supporter of it! It shows ‘the true meaning of Christmas’ and what Christmas should be, and combats the cynicism and commercialism that has developed around it. It shows you Christmas does have a meaning that is worth something!