Christmas in May 1947

Just for a Filler Clip™, here’s the original trailer for my favourite Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street. Most people who make movies about the Christmas Spirit, including people who have made remakes of Miracle, try to pump up the sentimentality and teach us about the true meaning of the season. But George Seaton, writer-director of Miracle, made an uplifting movie that is cynical about humanity. Every “miracle” that happens in the movie happens because people act selfishly (the judge trying to be re-elected) or apathetically (the mail guys have to find something to do with the kids’ useless letters to Santa, so they might as well send them to this crazy guy they read about in the papers). And the whole movie makes perfect sense whether you think Edmund Gwenn really is Santa Claus or just some crazy old man. It’s somehow more genuinely uplifting and inspiring to see Maureen O’Hara melt and learn to have faith in a world where she’s actually, for the most part, right to be cynical. She and the other leads rise above the rest of the world and make it better.

(Another cool thing about the movie is that it was able to portray the leading lady not only as a career woman, but a divorcée who doesn’t get re-married to her first husband. The Catholic Legion of Decency had been trying to keep a lid on that sort of thing, and their power finally started to crumble in 1947 when Fox released two films — this and Gentleman’s Agreement — where the heroine is divorced and the hero isn’t the man she’s divorced from.)

Anyway, the trailer of Miracle famously had to conceal the fact that it was a Christmas movie, because it was released in May. (Not because the studio didn’t have faith in it, but because they did, and Christmastime was a not a good time to release a movie with box-office potential.) So the trailer contains testimonials about what a wonderful and charming and funny movie it is, but fudges on what it’s about and when it takes place. Peggy Ann Garner, who had just starred in Fox’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, also demonstrates in the trailer that “Groovy” — or as it’s spelled here, “groovey” — was already familiar teenage slang in the ’40s.


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