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Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

20th Century Fox

Cast: Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood.

Rating: G.

Run time: 96 mins..

Genre: Christmas.

Verdict: Brilliant (see rating system)

Edmund Gwenn deservedly won an Oscar for his wonderful turn as a Macy's store Santa in this Christmas classic. After A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life, this is third on my list of the Best Christmas Movies.

I'm usually with the puritans when it comes to the issue of colourizing old black and white movies, but I have to admit the technicians have done a great job here - it really does look even better than the superb original. However, if you don't even want to look at it in colour, the good news is that Fox has packaged both the original and colourized versions in a two-DVD set from 2006 that also includes some great extra features.

The story is deceptively simple, but winningly creative: Kris Kringle (Gwenn), a dapper gent out walking in New York City, comes across a drunken Santa about to star in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He complains to parade organizer Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), who begs Kringle to substitute in the parade rather than disappoint the children.

Kringle does such a great job that Walker persuades him to be the store Santa for the Christmas season. There's just one problem: Kringle not only looks like Santa - he believes he IS Santa. That leads to complications with Walker's daughter (Natalie Wood), who is being raised to disbelieve myths and fairy tales like Father Christmas.

Kringle is soon in bigger trouble when the store psychologist has him committed for his beliefs. John Payne is the lawyer in love with Doris who goes to court to prove the impossible - that Kringle is the real deal.

A fine cast, intelligent script and great remastered picture and sound (in either version) make this a winner. A fascinating documentary on the production, an audio commentary by Maureen O'Hara and a featurette on the Macy's parade are among the extras.

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