Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas at the Academy: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

It's been a busy few weeks in the run-up to Christmas, hence my not being able to blog as often as I'd like recently. I've now wrapped up work for the year and hope to have several posts up over the next few days.

One of the really fun events which has been part of this busy month took place earlier this week: A 70th Anniversary screening of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Two years ago we attended the Academy's Christmastime screening of REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940) at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater. We had such a good time at that event that we bought tickets almost as soon as we heard about the showing of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.

In December 2015 I had also attended a local Fathom Events screening of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, with a nice digital print, but the promise of seeing a brand-new 35mm print was enough to draw us to Beverly Hills last Tuesday night!

As was the case with the 2015 program, the evening kicked off with a very enjoyable reel of Christmas movie trailers playing as the audience arrived.

The main program began with color home movies donated to the Academy by John Payne's family. Payne and Gloria DeHaven's daughter Kathleen, known as Clancy, was present in the audience. Footage included Payne, Arleen Whelan, Frank Faylen and more on a publicity tour for PASSAGE WEST (1951) and Payne playing in a swimming pool with his kids; he was also seen diving at a hotel pool. That was fun as I've seen any number of publicity photos of the athletic Payne posing at pools over the years, such as seen in this post.

We also saw newsreel footage of Edmund Gwenn receiving his Oscar from Anne Baxter, intercut with radio coverage of the ceremony. The competition in the Best Supporting Actor category that year was something else: Richard Widmark in his electric film debut in KISS OF DEATH (1947), Charles Bickford in THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER (1947), Thomas Gomez in RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1947), and Robert Ryan in CROSSFIRE (1947). Any one of those actors could have been a deserving winner. I don't think any acting category these days could ever hope to match the quality of performances and films listed here; all have stood the test of time for decades.

I had similar thoughts watching the movie, which I reviewed here back in 2008; what a miracle that a movie could populate its world with character faces such as Gwenn, Porter Hall, Jerome Cowan, Gene Lockhart, and William Frawley. Certainly there are good actors today but the depth of talent seen in a single classic-era movie, such as this one, never fails to amaze and even move me.

There was a packed crowd at the screening, where the evening concluded with Christmas cookies served after the movie. It was a lovely night, and we hope to attend Academy Christmas programs again in the future!

I assume all of my readers have seen MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET by now, but an acquaintance I ran into at the screening the other night was watching it for the very first time, so you never know! I highly recommend seeing it -- or seeing it again! It holds up well to multiple screenings, as evidenced by my seeing it twice in the past couple years, on top of countless additional viewings over the years.

My original review nearly a decade ago was lightly illustrated, so here's a gallery of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET stills for your enjoyment:

Merry Christmas!


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Such a gloriously satisfying film! There are, of course, a number of good Christmas films but nothing will ever come near this film and "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" for me.
A brand new 35mm print - how fabulous!

11:18 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

I've seen this classic more times than I know, I was watching it with my family before I was old enough to count (lol.)

I even made a music video for it this year, using a beautiful Katherine Jenkins song that begins like this:
"Where did I misplace my faith,
Where did I set it down?
Which one the day that I forgot
What this was all about..."

2:21 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

My attempts at hyperlinks never work :-(

2:39 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It really is so special! Thank you both, Jerry and Maricatrin, for your comments and the link, which I will check out soon!

Merry Christmas!

Best wishes,

10:49 PM  

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