Best Courtroom Movies – Miracle On 34th Street
Most present-day law students are probably unfamiliar with the late actress Natalie Wood who gained success and popularity as a child and adult actress before her untimely death in a drowning accident in 1981. Wood was given a starring role at the age of 8 in 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street which involves a young attorney asserting in court that a Macy’s Department Store Santa Claus is the real Santa Claus. Her assertion that this man, known as Kris Kringle “IS Santa Claus” is just one of the movie’s many highlights.
The film, released in May because studio head Daryl F. Zanuck believed “more people go to the movies in warm weather was shot on location in New York City, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade sequences filmed live as the 1946 parade took place. As a result, the production had one and only one opportunity to shoot many of the scenes.
Much of the latter half of the movie occurs in the courtroom as attorney, Fred Galley, the boyfriend of Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood’s mother in the film, tries to convince the court, and the world, that the new Santa Claus hired by Macy’s is the one and only St. Nick. Amusingly, The Catholic Legion of Decency gave the movie a “B”, “morally objectionable in part” rating because Maureen O’Hara portrayed a divorcée.
- Maureen O’Hara as Doris Walker
- John Payne as Fred Gailey
- Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle
- Gene Lockhart as the Hon. Henry X. Harper
- Natalie Wood as Susan Walker
- Porter Hall as Granville Sawyer
- William Frawley as Charlie Halloran
- Jerome Cowan as District Attorney Thomas Mara
- Philip Tonge as Julian Shellhammer
- Jack Albertson as “Al”, the Post Office Mail Sorter
- Thelma Ritter as Peter’s Mother
The reactions and facial expressions of the judge, played by Gene Lockhart, mother of Lost in Space’s June Lockhart, are also some of the film’s finer brief comedic moments. It would truly be a challenging, entertaining, and potentially head-scratching experience to hear a case that attempts to prove the existence of one of the most beloved fictional characters in history.
The film is considered to be one of the best films of 1947 and currently holds a 96% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle with charm and wit, won an Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay.
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