Arts & Culture

‘Miracle on 34th Street’ returns to big screen before Christmas

Edmund Gwenn, with Natalie Wood, won an Oscar for his role in Miracle on 34th Street.
Edmund Gwenn, with Natalie Wood, won an Oscar for his role in Miracle on 34th Street. Turner Classic Movies

It’s one of the most beloved Christmas films ever made.

Yet few people today have actually seen Miracle on 34th Street where it was meant to be screened: in a movie theater.

Turner Classic Movies host and historian Robert Osborne hopes to help change that this week.

The 1947 holiday favorite — starring Maureen O’Hara, a young Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn (as Santa Claus) — gets a special two-day re-release Sunday and Wednesday in theaters nationwide (including more than a half-dozen locations throughout Tarrant County).

“Movies like this were intended to be seen in theaters,” Osborne says. “They look different on the big screen. They feel different. And it’s a different experience watching them with a lot of other people, as opposed to seeing them alone on your living-room couch.”

TCM, a cable network that caters to living-room movie lovers, has teamed up with Fathom Events to bring Miracle on 34th Street back home.

Osborne filmed a TCM-style introduction for the screenings. “I love the idea of this movie getting an opportunity to be seen and appreciated again in this way,” he says. “I would have begged to be part of this if they hadn’t asked me first.”

The movie is about a beloved Macy’s department store Santa who claims to be the real Kris Kringle, a jaded mother and daughter who are reluctant to believe him, and a headline-making courtroom hearing to determine whether Kris should be hospitalized as mentally unfit.

The feel-good film won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Gwenn. It was nominated for Best Picture but lost to Gentleman’s Agreement.

“It wasn’t a raging hit or a big blockbuster,” Osborne says. “But it was a movie that touched a lot of people who would never forget it.”

Osborne, whose career as an entertainment journalist spans five decades, knew several of the stars and had the opportunity over the years to discuss the film with them.

“I knew John Payne. I knew Natalie Wood — a grown-up Natalie — very well. And I knew Maureen O’Hara, who I just did an interview with last year,” he says. “At the time that they made it, they thought it was a charming movie and they had affection for it and they were proud of it.

“But it wasn’t necessarily at the top of their lists. Like, it wasn’t the same to Maureen O’Hara as The Quiet Man or How Green Was My Valley, which won the Oscar for Best Picture.

“But as time went on and as it began to be shown on television and people starting ranking it as one of their favorite Christmas movies, then it became very important to them.

“In her later years, when people would talk to Maureen O’Hara about the classics she was in, Miracle on 34th Street was always one of the first movies she would mention. As it became such a Christmas tradition in this country, her appreciation for it deepened, too.”

Osborne is unable to single out a favorite scene because there are many great ones: Kris speaking Dutch to the girl who doesn’t speak English — and the wide-eyed reaction from young Susan (Wood); Kris and Susan’s bubble-gum mishap; and the post office filling the courtroom with bags of letters for Santa.

“Almost any scene that Edmund Gwenn was in is just terrific,” Osborne says. “He was such a wonderful character actor. And charming. I love all the courtroom scenes.

“But mostly I just love the ambiance of the movie. There are no villains in it. There is no one trying to be mean to anybody. It’s just nice people caught up in a situation. And it’s delightful to see how it plays out.

“There’s a very good reason it became a classic.”

Miracle on 34th Street

  • Sunday and Wednesday
  • Cinemark Alliance Town Center, Hulen Movie Tavern, and United Artists Fossil Creek 11 in Fort Worth; AMC The Parks at Arlington 18; Cinemark North East Mall 18 in Hurst; Cinemark Tinseltown in Grapevine; and Cinemark Mansfield 12.