Genre: Christmas, Comedy, Drama.
Starring: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, Porter Hall, William Frawley, Jerome Cowan.
Year Of Release: 1947
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Director: George Seaton
Synopsis: “When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.” IMDB
Spawning 3 remakes (2 film and 1 TV movie), the original here stands the test of time as one of the first and best Christmas films embodying all that relates to the season; good-will to all men, festive cheer and the gift of believing in Christmas magic. And it does it all without the current run of slapstick farce and pulse-pounding soundtracks.
As is the way from this golden era of film-making, it’s all very simple in design and style, made more nostalgic by the black and white colouring, and focuses on character relationships over anything else. Edmund Gwenn is a fine Santa Claus here, brimming with a fluffy white beard and a wide-eyed warmth (worthy of the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award), and his co-stars Maureen O’Hara and John Payne are those well-spoken, clean cut and pretty middle-class folk who are just one of many who can’t deny the appeal of Christmas and the joy it brings when you stop trying to fight the “what ifs”.
Young Natalie Wood is on fine form as Susan, and her time with Gwenn is really sweet, as are most of Gwenn’s scenes either promoting his identity of Santa or taking part in the well shot Macy’s NYC parade.
With a nefarious plot to bring down Kris Kringle and the belief in Santa, it paves the way for a nice courtroom drama to end things, and it’s another example of family friendly film-making that doesn’t need silly violence, crude comedy or swearing. It’s a film with very simple morals and a very simplemessage that looks nice and festive outside, with lots of festive cheer on the inside too.