Opening next week on our Opera House stage is Miracle on 34th Street, a holiday classic adapted from the 1947 film. Based on an original story by Valentine Davies, the film was written and directed by George Seaton and starred Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and an 8 year old Natalie Wood. The movie ranks #9 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time.
The story takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in New York City and focuses on the impact of a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real deal, and who eventually requires a lawyer and a little girl to prove it.
Legend has it the idea for the script came while Valentine Davies was struggling through Christmas shopping crowds, disillusioned by the commercialism, and wondering what would happen if the real Santa Claus walked into a department store in the middle of December.
A notable Hollywood screenwriter of the 1940’s and 50’s, Valentine Davies penned scripts with a marked fondness for nostalgia, fantasy and unabashed sentiment. Some of his most significant work was in partnership with producer William Perlberg and writer-director George Seaton. Miracle on 34th Street was their first collaboration and ultimately most enduring achievement. Davies also published a novella of the story in conjunction with the film’s release. Miracle on 34th Street earned him the Academy Award for Best Writing: Original Story, (the category was later eliminated in 1957) and George Seaton the Academy Award for Best Writing: Screenplay.
The film also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle), and was nominated for Best Picture, which puts Miracle on 34th Street into the elite category of only 3 Christmas films ever considered for the Academy's top prize. The other films being The Bishop’s Wife and It’s a Wonderful Life.
The story has resonated significantly with audiences over the years, being remade for film and television four times, most notably in 1994 with John Hughes taking the helm as co-writer and director. Rosebud Theatre’s production is adapted from the original Valentine Davies’ story by New Brunswick native, Caleb Marshall, Artistic and Executive Director for the Sudbury Theatre Centre, with additional writing by Erin Keating.
The timelessness of the tale relies on its generosity of spirit and disarming ability to fill audiences with hope. It’s a lovely and familiar reminder of the triumph of faith and human connection. Or as Newsweek notably cited, “An enduring Christmas vision that never fails to fill the most jaded child with wonder.”