Miracle on 34th Street

You could fill a roster of the best Christmas movies just from the 1940s: Remember the Night, Holiday Inn, Meet Me in St. Louis, It’s a Wonderful Life, Tenth Avenue Angel… stop me right now, because this is a worst list. The decade also had a few Christmas clinkers, and one is writer-director George Seaton’s shrilly sentimental fable. Edmund Gwenn is the “real” Kris Kringle, who takes a job as a Santa surrogate at Macy’s department store, and for a time only adorable Natalie Wood, 9 at the time, and her gorgeous divorced mom Maureen O’Hara take him at rosy-cheeked value. “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to,” says divorced mom Maureen O’Hara. It’s faith, then, that accounts for the elevation of this ordinary little parable, in which Christmas legend and retail commercialism work hand in ho-ho-hand. (The 1994 John Hughes remake, with Richard Attenborough as Kris, was easier to take.)