Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two Small Miracles For The Holidays






One of the most enduring Holiday classics must certainly be A Miracle on 34th Street, which since it was first produced in 1947, has been remade a number of times.   


We have two versions available to us in the public domain.



Original movie poster



The original movie starring Maureen O'Hara and John Payne, alas, is not in the public domain, although their radio performance of the movie on LUX RADIO THEATRE is. 


First, a bit of background. 


Miracle on 34th Street, also know as  The Big Heart in the UK, was written by Valentine Davies, and was released in 1947 by 20th Century Fox.  


It not only became an instant classic, it won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn), Best Writing, Original Story, and Best Writing, Screenplay.   It was nominated for best picture, but lost out to Gentleman's Agreement.


The story, which takes place immediately following the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, concerns a department store Santa who believes he really is Kris Kringle.  


Before the movie has ended, a great number of people who at first thought he should be committed, grew to believe he was right.


This delightful, and enduring classic, can be heard on the 1948  Christmas week edition of Lux Radio Theatre.


Lux_48-12-20_Miracle_on_34th_St.mp3       14 MB



A lesser known remake appeared on the 1955 20th Century Fox Hour television show, which ran on CBS from 1955 to 1957.  The show aired at 10pm on Wednesday evenings, and was shown on alternate weeks. 


The US Steel Hour, another anthology show, shared the time slot.


Starring Teresa Wright, McDonald Carey, and Thomas Mitchell, this 1955 remake runs only 45 minutes, but retains a good deal of the warmth and whimsy of the original. 



click to play movieclick to play movie
click to play movieclick to play movie



The Miracle on 34th Street - Jules Bricken
The Miracle on 34th Street (1955) (TV) Produced by Jules Bricken Director: Robert Stevenson Writers: Valentine Davies (story) John Monks Jr. (teleplay) Release Date: 14 December 1955 John Abbott ... Dr. Albert Sawyer Don Beddoe ... Mr. Macy Sara Berner ... Woman Shopper Whit Bissell ... Dr. Pierce Macdonald Carey ... Fred Gaily Ray Collins ... Judge Harper Hans Conried ... Mr. Shellhammer Sandy Descher .....


Another TV version would be made in 1959, this time in color, starring Ed Wynn as Kris Kringle.   The original appears to have been lost, although a Kinescope was recently discovered among a large group of videos donated by NBC to the Library of Congress.



In 1963, a Broadway musical version, written by Meredith Wilson, entitled Here's Love, would appear. It ran for 334 performances at the Shubert Theatre, and starred Laurence Naismith, Janis Paige, Craig Stevens, Lisa Kirk, Fred Gwynne, Michael Bennett, and Baayork Lee.


In 1973, a TV movie would be made, starring  Jane Alexander, David Hartman, Roddy McDowall,  and Sebastian Cabot.


And in 1994, a feature film starring Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, and Dylan McDermott would be produced, although certain elements of the movie would be changed.   Macy's and Gimbels are replaced by  `Coles' and `Shopper's Express', and the  movie took a much more serious tone.


No matter what version, more than sixty years after it was first produced, this Christmas miracle still touches the hearts of children of all ages. 

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