Originally it was called El Gran Corazón. Daryl Zanuck, the wily boss of Twentieth Century Fox, couldn’t buy the image of Santa Claus in court. But like so many adventures, Miracle On 34th Street (1947) was born out of passion, in this case that of director George Seaton who had gone to New York alone and arranged with the real Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel to film inside their homes. department store. Impressed by Seaton’s commitment, Zanuck greenlit the show.

Who would play the girl who didn’t believe in Santa Claus? Seaton agonized over it, until the assistant director reminded an amazing Santa Rosa, California whiz kid that he could cry on cue. Her name was Natasha Nikolaevna Gurdin and she was renamed Natalie Wood after director Sam Wood. The same Natalie Wood who would later step onto a hotel room ledge and threaten to jump when her boyfriend Elvis Presley ignored her to play poker with the Memphis Mafia. The same girl who would infuriate her West Side Story (1961) castmates with her tardiness, her refusal to learn simple dance steps, and her insistence on long lunch breaks to visit her analyst . But seven-year-old Natalie didn’t have the typical precocious demeanor of a child star. She earned the respect of her co-stars on the set of Miracle with her professional demeanor, earning her the nickname One-Take-Natalie.

Like all films shot on location, there were logistical problems. The sequence in which Santa was taken to Bellevue was done without permission. The famous hospital would not cooperate with Hollywood because they had been portrayed poorly in previous movies. They were not swayed by the sight of a sickly, freezing Santa Claus (Edmund Gwenn) wrapped in blankets in a car, waiting to film his scenes. . The filmmakers were forced to film only the car approaching the building entrance and edit the rest later. Another difficulty was getting permission to photograph the Macy’s parade from the apartment dwellers on 34th Street, which had to be done right the first time, there could be no retakes. The film crew paid the ladies of the house to place the cameras in their windows. Then their husbands came home, complained about the inconvenience, and demanded their own fair share. The hardest thing to film was the sickly but determined Edmund Gwenn, who would go on to win an Oscar for playing Kris Kringle. He suffered from a bladder control problem, but he couldn’t bear the thought of someone taking his place in the parade. The children who stood on the sidewalk waving to Santa never saw the long tube under his cape.

Overcoming his initial reluctance, Daryl Zanuck, famous for his memos, made suggestions to improve the film’s story. The mother Doris, played by Maureen O’Hara, was too cold, she would scare a man like Fred (John Payne), she had to be warmer with the audience explaining that she had been burned by a previous relationship and because of it. she didn’t want her daughter to believe in Santa Claus. Zanuck also felt that scenes in which Macy’s employees recommend their customers go shopping at Gimbels should not be overdone, just a simple dialogue was enough to get the point across. But despite loud cheers from preliminary hearings when Santa Claus was declared sane in the courtroom scene, Zanuck never had full confidence in the film. He put it in theaters in July, the busiest time of year for moviegoers, and told his marketing people to hide from the audience that the movie was about Christmas.

One reference in the Miracle script that is now dated was when Kris Kringle’s psychiatrist mentioned a man in Hollywood posing as the Russian prince who owned a restaurant. It was a dig at Mike Romanoff, a colorful fraud whose Rodeo Drive restaurant was a fun sanctuary for Hollywood’s most notorious figures. One night, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover was dining at Romanoffs when he was approached by a real jewel thief named Swifty Morgan. “Would you like to buy these gold cufflinks?” Amused, Hoover offered $200. “Oh come on John, the reward is more than that!”

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