BLOG #49 SERIES #8
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #49
VALENTINE DAVIES’ MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET
December 6, 2017
Once again, it’s time for our Christmas book of the year. Some of you Christmasaholics no doubt already have your Christmas shelf. But just in case you do not, here are the selections we’ve already featured:
- The Christmas Angel, by Abbie Farwell Brown – November 23, 2011
- The Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens – November 23, 2011
- Home for Christmas, by Lloyd C. Douglas, November 28, 2012
- The Other Wise Man, by Henry Van Dyke, December 4, 2013
- The Birds’ Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Wiggin, November 26, 2014
- Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl Buck, December 2, 2015
- The Man Who Found Christmas, by Walter Prichard Eaton, December 7, 2016
So now we come to our eighth selection.
Valentine Davies was born in August 1905, in New York City. After first studying at the University of Michigan and Yale, he became an actor. It was while serving in the Coast Guard during World War II that he became disillusioned with the commercialization of Christmas, and the idea for this film came to him. Unlike the normal sequence, the story became a movie first and a book second. Davies wrote in his “Author Note,” “Mr. Kringle’s personality and the chain reaction which it started originally took shape in my mind as a motion picture story. It was only after he had come to life on the screen that he was invited to appear within the covers of this book.”
Besides Miracle on 34th Street, Davies’ film credits include Chicken Every Sunday, It Happens Every Spring, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, The Benny Goodman Story, and The Glenn Miller Story. He also served as President of the Screen Actors Guild.
Derek Elley, in his Variety Movie Guild, of the 1947 20th Century Fox film, wrote, “So you don’t believe in Santa Claus? If you want to stay a non-believer, don’t see Miracle. Film is an actor’s holiday, providing any number of choice roles that are played to the hilt. Edmund Gwenn’s Santa Claus performance proves the best of his career…. Straight romantic roles handed Maureen O’Hara and John Payne as co-stars display the pair to advantage…. Gene Lockhart’s performance as judge is a gem, as is Porter Hall’s portrayal as a neurotic personnel director for Macy’s. Surprise moppet performance is turned in by little Natalie Wood as O’Hara’s non-believing daughter who finally accepts Santy. It’s a standout, natural portrayal. Gwenn won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. Also starring was Thelma Ritter. The film was honored for Best Original Story and Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture.
The 1994, 20th Century Fox re-filmed it with new actors. Richard Attenborough proved to be a superb Santa. Also starring were Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson, Robert Prosky, and J. T. Walsh. Producer John Hughes muddied the waters a bit by setting the story in the 1990s but doing way too little to contemporize the earlier screen treatment. The 1947 film remains the classic of the two.
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By the way, Davies’ Harcourt, Brace and Company’s print text is a splendid read!
My advice to you is to read the book first–then see the 1947 movie. Not without reason was the movie dubbed “A Twentieth Century Christmas Carol.”