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A touch labored but lovable. THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET opens during Manhattan's Christmas Parade as Macy's executive Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) finds the Santa Claus for the store float so drunk he can't stand up. Chiding Doris for employing such a derelict is a kindly, white-bearded
man who, when she asks his name, tells her it's "Kris Kringle." Ignoring this, she pleads with him to replace the drunk, and he proves such a crowd-pleaser that she hires him as Macy's resident Santa for the holiday rush. This sets in motion a series of events in which Kris touches the lives of
many, teaching them a lot about faith and the true meaning of Christmas. Among those touched are Doris, her sophisticated little girl, Susan (Natalie Wood), who thinks the very idea of Santa Claus is ridiculous, Doris's suitor Fred Gailey (John Payne), and dozens of Macy's customers who are
pleasantly surprised when Kris directs them to competitors to get the gifts they seek. Unfortunately all are not smitten with this kindly man, particularly the store's amateur psychologist whose contention that Kris is unbalanced leads to a trial in which the court must decide the weighty matter
of whether or not there is a Santa Claus. Gwenn won an Oscar for his role, and for many, his charming, endearing performance has been identified with the spirit of the Christmas season ever since the completion of this sentimental production. Wood is wonderful in MIRACLE; it's interesting to
ponder what happened along the way to transform her into a usually synthetic actress.