Follow TV Tropes


Film / Miracle on 34th Street

Go To

"Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to."

That other famous heartwarming Christmas movie from The '40s, after It's a Wonderful Life.

It's December in New York City, and Macy's has hired a quiet but charming old man named Kris Kringle to be their store Santa for the holidays. Thing is, Kris clearly sees himself as something far more than a mere seasonal employee; he tells customers where to find a better price on a toy (even if it means sending them to competing stores), converses with immigrant children in their own languages, and even claims to be the real Santa Claus!

R.H. Macy is incensed... until he sees just how much goodwill Kris is building with the store's customers, and with the public at large. Everyone soon becomes content to let Kris have his harmless fantasies; everyone, that is, save the store's resentful staff psychologist, who attempts to have him committed to the psychiatric ward. Things subsequently come to a head in a big, showy trial, where the defense decides to argue that Kris is not insane even though he claims to be Santa Claus—because he is Santa Claus!

An important subplot revolves around Doris Walker, the store's PR manager who hired Kris, and her young daughter Susan. Susan has never believed in Santa Claus, due to her bitter divorced mother not wanting her to indulge in fantasies, but encountering Kris causes both of them to start wondering. There's also a romance subplot between Doris and Fred, Kris's defense attorney.

The original film version, released in 1947, was directed by George Seaton and starred Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, Maureen O'Hara as Doris Walker, Natalie Wood as her daughter Susan, and John Payne as lawyer Fred Gailey. It was a big box-office success, won three Academy Awards (for Gwenn's supporting role, Seaton's screenplay, and Valentine Davies' original story), and is shown on television around Christmas each and every year.

(Gwenn was later a charter member of the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame!)

Due to the success of the original film, the story has been adapted three times for television and once as a Broadway musical (Here's Love). The most notable television version was produced in 1973 and starred Sebastian Cabot as Kris, Jane Alexander as Mrs. Walker (renamed "Karen"), David Hartman as lawyer boyfriend Bill Schaffner, and Roddy McDowall as the psychologist Dr. Sawyer, with a lot of smaller roles being filled by 1970s TV mainstays such as Tom Bosley playing the judge. There was also a theatrically-released remake in 1994, written by John Hughes; Richard Attenborough was cast as Kris, with Elizabeth Perkins as Dorey Walker, Mara Wilson as Susan, and Dylan McDermott as lawyer boyfriend Bryan Bedford.

Contains examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes common to multiple versions: 

  • Adaptation Name Change: Multiple characters have different names across the remakes.
    • Doris Walker is Karen Walker in 1973 and Dorey Walker in 1994.
    • Fred Gailey is Bill Schaffner in 1973 and Bryan Bedford in 1994.
    • Granville Sawyer is Henry Sawyer in 1973 (but he's still largely just called "Sawyer" in both)
    • Julian Shellhammer is Horace Shellhammer in 1973 and Donald Shellhammer in 1994 (but again still referred to most of the time as "Mr. Shellhammer")
    • Because the 1994 version couldn't use Macy's or Gimbels, it used fictional department stores and thus the executives were now C.F. Cole and Victor Landbergh.
    • The nameless drunken Santa from the parade is now Tony Falacchi in 1994 (since he got a character arc.)
    • Prosecutor Thomas Mara from 1947 and 1973 is Ed Collins in 1994. His wife changed to Rebecca Collins to match the new name.
    • Judge Harper's grandchildren go from Terry and Alice in the original to Rebecca and Lindsey in the 1974 version, with one also having a Gender Flip
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Susan, who speaks as if she were a fully-grown grade-school teacher due to Doris raising her to have almost no imagination.
  • Alcohol Hic: The Santa that was originally supposed to be in the parade. He got this way under the excuse that he was using it to "keep warm".
  • Alliterative Name: Kris Kringle.
  • Artistic License – History: R.H. Macy died in 1877 and the Macy family sold the stores to a different ownership in 1895. The films that kept the Macy's license all depicted a fictionalized R.H. Macy alive in the present day.
  • Bad Santa: The drunken Santa at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade who Kris replaces.
  • Bags of Letters: Used to help Kris win his trial, and also used in every adaptation save the 1994 version due to the fame of the original sequence. The 1947 version of the scene is also a frequent target of parody.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Kris is normally a very nice man... but Mr. Sawyer manages to provoke him into attacking him with his cane in the original. In 1973, this was diminished to a pie to the face.
  • Fantasy Forbidding Mother: In all versions, Ms. Walker is the reason her daughter doesn't believe in Santa Claus. This is a much more positive example of this Trope; she only wants her daughter to see things practically and not grow up to be naive.
  • Courtroom Drama: The second half of the plot plays out mostly in court.
  • Disappeared Dad: Susan was raised by her mother alone since the parents got divorced when she was a baby.
  • Hollywood Law: Shows up in some form in each adaptation.
    • In 1947, since Fred was out of the room when the postal workers were talking to him, no judge would have let the prosecuting attorney present final arguments with the defense absent.
    • In 1994, Bryan wouldn't need to prove that Kris isn't crazy to keep him from being committed. The Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that you can't involuntarily commit someone unless he's a danger to himself and others. The debate over the existence of Santa Claus would have been immediately ruled irrelevant as even if Kris wasn't Santa, it didn't mean he was a violent lunatic who needed to be locked up. Notably, this fact blew up in Fred Gailey's face in the 1947 version, as Fred initially claimed that Kris couldn't be crazy because if he was Santa Claus, it made sense that he'd keep getting violent or confrontational when people kept insisting that he wasn't. The prosecutor finally calls his bluff by conceding the existence of Santa Claus but pointing out that it wasn't relevant if they couldn't prove Kris was Santa Claus. In reality, the only real legal basis for arguing to commit Kris in the 1994 version was his attack against the rival CEO's henchmen, but that would have been blown because of a line in the movie indicating that the pair had admitted to intentionally provoking a physical confrontation.
    • The judge in 1994 version takes it a step further when he rules that no hard evidence is necessary to prove Kris himself is Santa, instead deciding that faith alone is enough because all money in the United States has "In God We Trust" stamped on it. He then declares on his own that he believes Kris is Santa Claus. This doesn't fly, because the government's endorsement of God does not endorse a specific person as being God, which the judge was being asked to do in the case of whether Santa was real and whether Kris was Santa and even whether Kris being Santa meant he wasn't a danger to himself or others. The film acknowledges that the case's logic is very weak and easily challenged, but nobody will stand up to it because of the terrible press they'd get.
    • For all versions, a law was passed three years before the original film which has remained on the books ever since, preventing the judicial system from passing a concrete judgement on religious matters, which it could easily be argued applies to the true identity of Santa Claus.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: There's a few floating around.
    • The store executive is always portrayed as money-hungry, but good at heart. While the 1994 movie's C.F. Cole barely appears, he's portrayed as good person going up against the evil Victor Landbergh. The R.H. Macy characters of the 1947 and 1973 versions are always motivated to go along with goodwill campaigns when they realize they're making money hand over fist, and they both stick up for Kris in court.
    • In the 1947 and 1973 versions, the executive of their chief rival, Gimbels, decides to up the ante when he learns of Macy's "goodwill" campaign and tries to outdo him by conducting the same campaign nationwide. This leads to essentially Macy and Gimbel spending an entire Christmas legitimately putting the needs of their customers ahead of their own profits (though they obviously profit more since this makes the customers more likely to shop.) In 1947, this went a step further as it leads to an appearance together to prove the power of goodwill had led them to burying the hatchet...which then leads into an exchange where both men try to outdo each other at being generous when Kris reveals he'd like to buy a new x-ray machine for his nursing home.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Subverted: while the film never conclusively establishes whether Kris really is Santa Claus, he is clearly not a danger to himself nor to anyone else even if the truth is that he is just delusional.
  • Kids Play Matchmaker: Susan wants a father for Christmas and encourages Kris Kringle to help her get one. In the modern version, she is much more personally active in trying to set up her mother and the nice neighbor.
  • Mall Santa: Played with, since Kris clearly believes himself to be Santa. The 1994 version also included a scene at a bar late in the Christmas season filled with drunk mall Santas off-shift.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: None of the films ever explicitly confirm Kris as the actual Santa, though the 1947 and 1973 versions hint at it via The Stinger, when Kris' cane appears in the new house that he shouldn't have ever been able to visit. The 1973 happy couple just laughs it off, but in 1947, Fred about has a heart attack. The 1994 version is much more leaning towards the "magic" than the "mundane", and also delivers a line from Kris to the prosecutor at the end of the trial that is basically an admission of it ( he asks if the prosecutor did anything about his TV antenna, since Kris tore his pants on it last Christmas.)
    • The 1973 version also watches Kris go into some detail about some obviously obscure details about a certain character's childhood.
  • Meaningful Name: Kris Kringle is, of course, another name for Santa Claus.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: All three films have a scene where Kris finally snaps and strikes out at the person who antagonized him. The antagonist then pretends to be far more seriously hurt than they really are to get Kris arrested and committed. All that really changes is the antagonist and the method of striking out:
    • In 1947, Kris thumps Sawyer in the head with an umbrella.
    • In 1973, Kris shoves a pie into Sawyer's face. And for some strange reason, despite there being witnesses that saw Sawyer needlessly provoke Kris and nobody in their right mind would suspect serious injury from a cream pie...they still believe Sawyer's crocodile tears.
    • In 1994, the character of Sawyer is dropped altogether. Instead, Kris strikes Tony Falacchi, who was the drunken Santa at the beginning of the film. Wanting revenge against Kris for taking his job, Tony conspires with the agents of a rival store to get rid of Kris. He baits Kris into attacking him by accusing him of being a pedophile (yes, really).
  • Napoleon Delusion: Kris is assumed by the other characters to be suffering this.
  • Psycho Psychologist: The Mr. Sawyer character of the 1947 and 1973 versions is a rather mild case compared to others in this category.
    • In 1947, he's simply employed by Macy's to give employment tests, but envisions himself as a great psychiatrist and enjoys using that status to bully others. He quickly comes to hate Kris due to his passing the psychiatric exam and then turning it around on him, and later tries to have Kris committed both as revenge on him and also to prevent him from telling Mr. Macy about Sawyer's practicing psychiatry without a license on the premises. He gets his comeuppance when Macy just fires him anyway during the trial.
      • In this version he's counterbalanced by the much-nicer and more level-headed Dr. Pierce, who, while an MD and not a Psychologist, specializes in Geriatrics and is an expert on senility and dementia.
    • In 1973, he just thinks Kris is a fascinating case study and when his first exam doesn't go well, he plots to have Kris committed so he can have another chance to perform a psychiatric examination on him. Kris turns this around on him by deliberately failing the exam to force him into a public trial where he can prove his ideals to the world. Sawyer gets fired again.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Invoked by Kris on the intended Macy's parade Santa, who was drunk at the time despite it being disallowed.
  • Romancing the Widow: Or the divorcée, at least. In the 1947 version, Fred Gailey admits he was spending so much time with Susan because he hoped being friendly to her would help him to meet her mother. Bill Schafner in 1973 doesn't have any ulterior motives in befriending Susan, but does start to romance her mother once they meet up. In 1994, although Bryan and Dorey are already dating before the movie begins, we do get evidence that this trope is still in effect — especially given Dorey's sudden cold shoulder when Bryan proposes marriage. All three films portray the romance as necessary for the divorcee to learn to love and believe in others again.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: All versions are on the side of Romanticism, of course. In particular, Susan and Mrs. Walker always start off on Team Enlightenment before their Character Development converts them to Team Romanticism.
  • Santa Ambiguity: While Kris wins his trial, it's left up in the air whether or not he actually is the genuine article... although the State of New York is forced to concede the existence of Santa Claus, and the U.S. Post Office at least regards Kris as worthy of receiving Santa's mail.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: The story begins on Thanksgiving Day, with Kris being pressed into service for the store's holiday parade.
  • The Unreveal: Surprisingly, the movies do not definitively answer whether or not Kris is really Santa Claus.

    The 1947 original provides examples of: 
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • When asked by Doris to fill in for the drunken Santa at the Thanksgiving parade, Kris objects that he's "not in the habit of substituting for spurious Santa Clauses".
    • As the trial to determine Kris's sanity looms, a newspaper headline blares:
  • Amoral Attorney: Averted with the prosecutor on Kris's case, who doesn't exactly want to lock up a sweet old man, but it happens to be his job. He concedes the existence of Santa Claus (knowingly giving the defense a huge step toward winning) just because he didn't want to declare otherwise when his son was watching. There's even a scene where he complains about how newspapers covering the case are making him out to be a heartless monster.
  • Benevolent Boss: R.H. Macy, who gives a bonus to his employees for coming up with a successful marketing stunt and sticks up for Kris in court.
  • Big Applesauce: The "miracle" of this movie is how the jaded New Yorkers all somehow end up doing the right thing when their motivations are selfish, cynical, or downright petty. The bags of mail that save Kris, for example, come from postal workers who decide to foist all their undeliverable Santa letters off on him.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Shellhammer's reaction when Doris informs him that she's fired Kris, right after Mr. Macy got done congratulating them on hiring him.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Kris's unsubtitled conversation with the Dutch orphan, for Dutch speakers. Included in full on the Heartwarming Moments page.
  • Bland-Name Product: Averted, big time. Kris works at Macy's, while Real Life rival Gimbels was the antagonist. The latter department store was not pleased at being depicted as the villain.
  • Blatant Lies: Sawyer insists he's quite happily married and has been for years. The minute Kris is out his door, he's on the phone arguing with his wife about money.
  • Brick Joke: After the prosecutor Thomas Mara's son Tommy testifies on the stand, he reminds Kris he asked for a football helmet for Christmas. After the case is over, Mara remembers he still has to buy the helmet and quickly leaves the courtroom so he can get it in time.
  • Broken Bird: Doris raises Susan without fairy tales or fantasies of any kind due to the heartbreak of her own failed marriage.
  • Brooklyn Rage: In one scene with Kris, a harried woman shopper (played memorably by Thelma Ritter) is about the most "New Yawk" character in 1940s film: she has the accent, brusqueness, and short temper down to a science.
  • Camp Straight: Mr. Shellhammer is married to a woman with a college-age son, but if you didn't know that detail you'd swear he was as gay as they could get away with making him in a 1940's movie.
  • Cane Fu: The shrink is concerned that Kringle may be using his cane as a weapon. He turns out right on this one.
  • Cigar Chomper: Charlie, Judge Harper's campaign manager, is never seen without a cigar in his mouth (though, as he points out to the bailiff in court, it isn't lit).
  • Covers Always Lie: Early pressings of the Blu-Ray had covers promising a new, colorized version inside. The disc actually contains only the original black-and-white version, as well as some extra features. (20th Century Fox had previously sold colorized versions on VHS from American Film Technologies and DVD from Legend Films.)
    • Despite the film taking place around the Christmas season, Fox executive Darryl Zanuck was pushing this film for a May release due to his belief that films got better box office grosses during the summer months. As a result, the posters for the film were mainly centered around the romance between Doris and Fred, which isn't even hinted at until near the end.
  • Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Nixon: In the opening scene, Kris Kringle notices mistakes with the reindeer in a shop's Christmas decoration which he then points out to the decorator. Apparently, the positions of Cupid and Blitzen are mixed up and Dasher is on the left instead of the right-hand side.
  • Disaster Dominoes: When hashing things out in private, Charlie gives Judge Harper a theoretical scenario about what'll happen if he rules there is no Santa Claus. He reasons that kids won't put up their stockings, which means their parents won't buy toys, which will in turn means the companies that make the toys and other goods will lay off workers, who will in turn complain to their unions about all this. As Charlie says, Harper will become "popular" with all kinds of people who vote.
  • Escalating War: Appropriately for a Christmas icon, Kris manipulates Gimbel's and Macy's into an Escalating War of goodwill. Kris's campaign of putting customer needs before profits (even sending parents to buy toys at competing stores as long as it's what they want) gets Macy's such good PR that Gimbel's decides to put it into practice in all their stores across the country. Macy's responds in kind. Flash forward and soon the two bitter rivals are shaking hands under Kris's guidance, and handing him large amounts of money to help him buy much-needed medical equipment for a home for the elderly. All so they can prove they're each more generous and benevolent than the other.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: The beginning of the film briefly shows a black housekeeper named Cleo preparing the Thanksgiving dinner when Dorothy returns from the parade. Cleo was played by an uncredited Theresa Harris, who had a long career that included many roles as maids.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Sawyer openly believes that the only reason Alfred likes playing Santa, or that Kris claims to be Santa, is because they are both delusional. As far as he's concerned, anyone who's that nice has to be harboring a severe guilt complex.
  • The Faceless: Kris is first introduced this way during the opening credits, with the camera following him from behind as he walks through the streets of Manhattan.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Mother, in Doris's case. But her motivation is sympathetic: she wants Susan to be intelligent and level-headed so she can avoid the foolish mistakes Doris made when she was younger. Notably, while many adults criticize Doris' methods of shutting Susan off from fantasies and fairy tales, they do applaud her for raising such a smart child.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The card with Kris's employee details would probably be this in a modern film, but it's averted. The shot showing what's written on the card is held for a few seconds so that the audience can easily read it all, even though it is mostly gags that aren't necessary to the plot. Freeze framing was, of course, impossible for viewers in 1947.
  • Gum In Hair: Kris asks Susan if he can have one of her bubble gums. He then tries making a bubble, only to rapidly pop it. Cut to him in front of a mirror, picking pieces of gum out of his beard.
  • Hate Sink: Mr. Sawyer, an amoral shrink who forces his opinions on others and believes no-one is genuinely altruistic, making poor Alfred more and more neurotic with every visit. He's so bad Kris reaches breaking point and bops him on the head. (Funnily enough, while this is what gets Kris committed, no-one actually holds it against Kris.)
  • Heroic BSoD: Finding out Doris supposedly signed off on having him committed makes Kris deliberately fail the tests Bellevue give him.
  • Honorary Uncle: By the end of the movie, Susan calls Fred "Uncle Fred".
  • How Many Fingers?: It's one of the questions Kringle gets asked by the shrink to determine his sanity.
  • I Warned You: By his own admission, Charlie doesn't care either way about the results of the trial; he's solely focused on Judge Harper continuing to be in office, which is why he keeps warning him how badly he'll be perceived by the public if he declares there is no Santa Claus. As if on cue, Harper's own grandchildren and wife chastise him for Kris being on trial. Charlie's response is a simple question: "See what I mean?"
  • Inherent in the System: Judge Harper's campaign manager argues that he can't declare there is no Santa Claus, not because of what it will do to kids, but because the Santa myth is the underpinning of a large part of the US economy, from department stores and the Salvation Army to toy and candy manufacturers and their unionized employees.
  • In Mysterious Ways: Santa's ways prove to be less mysterious than you'd think, if Kris is any indication.
  • Insistent Terminology: When Fred Gailey has R.H. Macy on the stand, and asks him if it's true that he's the owner of one of the biggest department stores in New York, Mr. Macy corrects him: "The biggest."
  • Irony: Kris comments on the unfairness of his being labeled crazy by a psychologist who is an unstable and unpleasant Jerkass.
  • Jerkass: Mr. Sawyer, the supposed psychologist.
  • Just in Time: Played with — the Postal Service contacts Fred Gailey literally during the final arguments.
  • Kick the Dog: Sawyer berating his wife for not being able to live on the money he sends her clues you in to what an asshole he is.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Doris, even at the beginning of the film, despite her cynicism and skepticism, ultimately still believes in doing things the right way and making people happy. Even though she's no longer an idealist, she never gave up her idealism entirely to become a Straw Nihilist. You can see this in the opening of the film when she fires the first Santa for being a drunk who didn't care about anything but a paycheck.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Mr. Shellhammer comes up with the idea of getting his wife drunk to make her more receptive at taking in Kris as a boarder, and tells Doris he'll call when his wife is "plaster–, feeling gay".
  • Mistaken for Fake Hair: The Dutch girl pulls on Kringle's beard believing it to be fake.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Famously, the film's original trailer reveals nothing about the actual film — not even that Santa Claus is a major character! Because the movie came out during the summer box office season, in hopes of making more money, the advertisers had to make sure not to include any out-of-season Christmas imagery. Promotional posters from the time also barely show Kris at all, appearing to portray the film as a simple romantic comedy. One can only wonder what 1947 audiences thought when they actually saw the final movie, but it famously paid off because the film was such a smashing success it actually ran through Christmas.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Mr. Sawyer's insistence that Macy's avoid bad publicity for committing Kris to the insane asylum gives Fred Gailey the idea to rally public opinion behind his client.
  • Novelization: Adapted by Valentine Davies from his original story and published in conjunction with the 1947 film.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Doris has this reaction after Mr. Macy has heartily congratulated her on hiring Kris. She'd just gotten through firing him.
    • The last scene of the movie is Fred and Doris, having just found a house that matches Susan's dream house exactly and just happens to be for sale, seeing a very familiar cane sitting in the corner. They try to tell one another it must just be a coincidence, but they're clearly not buying it.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When Doris is angrily berating them for having Kris taken away, Maureen O'Hara's natural Irish accent can be heard.
  • Pretty in Mink: Doris has a fur coat.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Both the prosecutor and the judge are reluctant to convict Kris and potentially disprove there is a Santa Claus. The prosecutor regrets having ever taken the case and has no problem with losing.
  • Puppet Shows: In 2010, the Macy's store in New York premiered a 30-minute marionette musical based on this movie. Interestingly, it added a Framing Device with an elderly Susan recalling her encounters with Kris, and addressed the Hollywood Law issue mentioned above by having the postal workers assist Fred in his final testimony.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Dr. Pierce, the geriatrician who runs the assisted-living home Kris stays in at the beginning of the movie. While he doesn't believe Kris to be Santa Claus, and is upfront about the fact that this belief is a delusion brought on by senility, he points out that this delusion doesn't make him dangerous or dysfunctional, and Kris is capable of holding down a job. Curiously, this is one of the bigger narrative hints that Kris might actually not be Santa (all other authority figures who say he's not are strawmen you're meant to disagree with) and he's absent from most other adaptations.
    • R.H Macy who gently chides Doris and Shellhammer for not consulting with the advertising department beforehand, but congratulates them for the success of their (actually Kris's) goodwill policy and expands it, giving them and Kris a generous bonus as well. He's furious when Sawyer has Kris committed and stands up for Kris in court, firing Sawyer for his malicious actions.
    • Judge Henry X. Harper. He's a caring fellow who really does like Kris and would hate to incarcerate up, but as he points out, he's taken an oath as a judge and cannot rule in favor of such a supposedly absurd claim out of favoritism. With that said, he does agree to hear Fred out to see if he can provide proof that Kris is indeed Santa on the basis of taking an unbiased view to the matter. He also shows further lack of bias towards Kris, as when the prosecutor requests that Fred use "competent authority" as testimony rather than just personal opinions, the judge admits that is a fair request and he has to agree.
    • Even the prosecutor qualifies, to be honest. It is obvious he hates the fact that he's having to prosecute such an obviously kind and harmless man as Mr Kringle, but feels that he's in too deep to stop now.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Right before smacking Sawyer, Kris delivers one to him after learning he intentionally forced a Guilt Complex on Alfred just for trying to be a Nice Guy.
  • The Runt at the End: At the climactic moment of the film, a parade of burly bailiffs stream into the courtroom, each toting two large bags of mail; the parade ends with a smaller bailiff carrying a single bag, to titters of laughter from the spectators.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: The story was musicalized in 1963 (by Meredith Willson, of The Music Man fame) as Here's Love.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!:
    • Though Fred genuinely believes Kris is the real deal and attempts to put up a legitimate case, he has nothing against using unprofessional guilt trips and manipulation of the sentimentality of Christmas to hinder prosecution (perhaps most blatantly his courtroom antics of using the opposing lawyer's own son to prevent him stating his claim). He ends up Hoist by His Own Petard by the ending, where he and Doris are left buying Susan's dream house thanks to Kris.
    • On his first day, Kris is given a list of overstocked toys that the store wants him to "push" on indecisive children. His biggest concern with this request is where to throw the scraps of paper away after tearing it up, and once on the job he immediately starts directing parents to buy the toys their children want (and only to buy them at Macy's if they genuinely have the best offer).
  • The Scrounger: Kris knows where to find anything. And not just toys — he delivers a rather expensive piece of medical equipment to a doctor who wanted it. Considering that both Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel had offered earlier to help Kris procure the medical equipment through their respective stores "at cost", this is not hard to believe.
  • Signature Item Clue: At the end of the movie, Kris's cane is seen inside the house that Susan insists is her Christmas present, convincing Fred that Kris really is Santa Claus.
  • Slave to PR: Complicates matters for several people at the public hearing over Kris' identity, since no one wants to claim Santa Claus doesn't exist, particularly not in front of children, and especially not this close to Christmas.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: With a holiday twist. Other than Fred and of course Kris himself, most of the film's characters are simply looking out for themselves. But what is actually pretty brilliant is the fact that a number of cynical and self-interested actors end up accidentally helping Kris out, for reasons of their own — R.H. Macy's desire to preserve his store's reputation, the judge's desire to be re-elected, the postal workers' desire to get rid of the Santa letters, and the NYC newspapers' desire for a juicy story. Without all those people's utterly self-serving actions, Fred would have lost the case.
  • Smoking Gun: Susan's mailed letter to Kris (as Santa Claus) draws the attention of the postal workers who sort it and come up with the scheme to save Kris.
  • Spinning Paper: When Mr. Macy is on the stand and is asked whether he believed Kringle to be Santa Claus, he has an Imagine Spot of a spinning paper reading "Macy Admits His Santa Claus a Fraud".
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: At one point, Kris instructs a frustrated woman who's been trying to find a fire engine toy for her son to check Schoenfeld's Department Store, as Macy's doesn't have any in stock. This seemingly breaks the cardinal rule of retail — never, ever give your competition business — and goes against the orders of Julian Shellhammer, the head of the toy department and Kris's boss. It seems like things will end badly for Mr. Kringle... until the grateful woman tells Shellhammer that she's so impressed with the store's "wonderful new stunt" (i.e., Kris's commitment to giving her son a good Christmas) that she'll be doing all of her shopping at Macy's from now on. By losing out on one sale, the store thus gains a loyal, lifetime customer, which is about the best gift any business can receive.
    • This trope is exaggerated with the "goodwill war" between R.H. Macy and Mr. Gimbel, the respective heads of their stores. Kris's policy of sending customers to other shops spreads throughout Macy's, and Gimbel retaliates by doing the same on a national level, with Macy responding in kind. Though the two are technically missing out on sales and helping their rivals, they also generate a massive amount of good publicity, which translates to massive profits from new, dedicated shoppers (something no amount of money could buy).
  • Take a Third Option: Twist on this: Fred's courtroom antics have put the prosecutor in the position of admitting before an open court and his son that there is no Santa Claus. The prosecutor responds by basically saying, "Okay, maybe there is a Santa Claus, but that's not the point. The point is this man claims to be Santa Claus. So, prove to this court that he is." In so doing, he actually manages to steer the case back on point and put Fred on the defensive. And he almost wins.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: When Fred's law firm orders him to drop the case, he walks out on the spot. He justifies it to Doris as wanting to open his own practice soon regardless.
  • Think of the Children!: A mild example; when Doris first asks Kris to substitute for the drunken Santa whom she had just fired, he initially refused, then pauses and says, "The children mustn't be disappointed," before agreeing to become Macy's new Santa.
  • Undisclosed Funds: When Macy gives Kris a bonus, the amount is not mentioned, but Kris does a double-take and says, "Ooh, that's quite a lot of money!" Gimbel looks at the check and remarks, "I didn't think you were that generous."
  • We Help the Helpless: Fred believes Kris is the real deal to the point of quitting his law firm rather than give up on him. When Doris questions this, Fred declares he'll start his own office and says there are lots of people out there getting pushed around who have no one to fight for them.
  • Winning Over the Kids: Fred befriends Susan to help him get into Doris's good graces.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: After Kris angrily swats Sawyer on the head, Sawyer malingers in order to frame Kris as a violent maniac who deserves to be institutionalized.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Averted. Multiple people make a point of observing that Kris and his outfit are a cut above Macy's usual run of store Santas. Even little Susan, after seeing him in the Thanksgiving parade, tells her mother "He's much better than last year's."

    The 1973 remake provides examples of: 
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: This remake was close enough to the original to have to credit the original film's screenwriter, but sometimes it introduces plot points from the original version without explaining them at all.
    • Susan makes Kris promise to get her a house without him even asking her to get him an unusual present. She also never explains why she wants it, though she eventually asks Kris if he can hook up Bill with her mother so they can share the house together.
    • The little girl that doesn't speak English and is reached out to by Kris is now a child of Spanish-speaking parents. However, as even the film points out, a man who speaks Spanish in New York City (especially when the Spanish-speaking residents were sky-rocketing) isn't that unusual, whereas a man speaking Dutch in 1947's New York was. Yet this is still treated as something truly remarkable and as possible evidence that Kris really is Santa.
    • Susan's practical attitude and lack of imagination are never explained. Karen talks about the "Santa Syndrome" once, but the idea that she was deliberately shielding her daughter from fairy tales or fantasies for her own good is dropped.
    • Mr. Sawyer exaggerating the injuries in an attempt to get Kris committed made more sense in the original movie than it does here. In the original, their confrontation happened when they were alone, and Kris hit Sawyer over the head with an umbrella, so it's understandable that people gave his story credence and believed his head injury was more serious than it actually was. Here, multiple other people were present for their dispute, and Kris's retaliation is downgraded to a Pie in the Face. This plan should have been harder to pull off in this version than the original, partly because there were witnesses who were there to see Sawyer needlessly provoke Kris, and partly because nobody in their right mind would suspect serious injury from a cream pie. Yet people still take Sawyer's claims seriously.
  • Anachronism Stew: Several elements of this remake are taken completely from the original film but with no explanation for why they exist in the 1970s. Most notable is Dr. Sawyer, who is still in this version and is the "store shrink" decades after this position ceased to exist. The rivalry between Macy's and Gimbels had also died down by this time, as Gimbels was in severe financial straits by the 1970s and was sold off the year this movie aired.
  • Artistic License – History: This movie, like the 1947 version, depicts a fictional R.H. Macy in the present.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: Mr. Macy reveals his knowledge of the store's new Santa sending people to other stores in a loud rant that makes him seem angry, only to eventually reveal that if anything he is upset that no one else came up with the idea sooner.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: While Mr. Macy comes off as much more profit obsessed than he does in the original, he still behaves in the same way - once its pointed out to him that he can actually increase his profits through customer goodwill, he is enthusiastically behind it. He also supports Kris in much the same way.
  • Large Ham: David Doyle is cartoonishly over the top as Mr. Macy in this version.
  • Theme Tune: Being a TV movie, there's a theme tune over the credits now, simply entitled "Miracles."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Early in the movie, when Karen meets Bill for the first time, she and Susan quickly leave when they meet Celeste, a friend of his that's clearly interested in him romantically and gives them the cold shoulder. Celeste is never seen or mentioned again and Kris later states to Susan that he doesn't believe Bill has any other women in his life.
  • When You Coming Home, Mom?: In this version, Karen Walker is constantly berated for the amount of overtime she works and the lack of time she spends with her daughter. Quite a feat in a film created in the 1970s when working moms were increasingly common, especially compared to the 1940s.

    The 1994 remake provides examples of: 
  • Adaptation Name Change: Once again, the names changed up.
  • Amoral Attorney: Unlike the original, the prosecutor in this film is in the pocket of Victor Landberg. Thus he spends all of his time openly belittling Kris, to the point where he causes Susan to have an outburst in the middle of the courtroom over his over the top nastiness.
    • Although he curiously becomes a Punch-Clock Villain the instant everything is resolved, even somewhat nicely requesting Kris makes sure he stops by on Christmas Eve, suggesting that - much like Landberg's henchmen - he was merely doing what he was doing because he was employed to.
  • Ascended Extra: While in the other versions, the drunk Santa the Kris replaces is a nameless comic relief that only appears in one scene, in this version he is promoted to the role of being a minor antagonist hired by Landbergh to stop Kris.
  • Brand X: The department store is changed to the fictional "Cole's" in this version of the film as Macy's, which was already having financial troubles at the time of production, refused to have their name used in the film when they discovered that the store's financial problems were an important plot point. Likewise, because Gimbels closed their store in 1987, the rival department store was also fictional.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: After the drunk Santa had just been attacked by Kris, he winks at the camera then pretends to be injured.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The elderly man with his grandson Kris meets crossing the street in the first five minutes of the movie would end up being the judge of Kris' trial.
  • Comically Small Bribe: Averted. To avoid any allegations he was bribed by the one dollar Susan had put into her Christmas card for him, he announces to the court the dollar will be returned.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Unlike the original film and its remakes, in which Kris was really up against the cynicism of modern society, this movie drops that entirely and provides this type of character as a straight-forward villain. Here, the Lex Luthor-esque chief executive of Shopper's Express, Victor Landberg, wants nothing more than to buy out his rival Cole's and close them down and will stop at nothing to crush all who oppose him. This includes such evil acts children toys for free! Oh, and staging a ridiculously elaborate plan to have Kris framed for assault and committed. He even tries to buy the court off by bribing the prosecutor and implying that he tries to buy off the judge.
  • Darker and Edgier: In this version, rather than the psychiatrist with a grudge taking Kris down, the rival store hired the old Santa - the one Kris replaced after he was fired for public drunkenness - to goad him into attacking him. One of the tactics the man uses is accusing Kris of pedophilia.
    • On the other hand, the trial plot is played more idealistically than the original, with a more blatant Black-and-White Morality. The satire of using the innocence of Christmas for guilt trips or to serve more cynical or selfish ends is underplayed greatly in favour of the court and public genuinely believing in Kris. The ending is also less comedically bittersweet than the original, with Fred and Doris being given the house as a gift from Kris rather than being exasperated into buying it themselves out of guilt.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Bryan privately berates the Judge over how the case against Kris is going, and the likelihood Kris is going to be put into the asylum, Bryan holds up money declaring greed has destroyed the idea of Santa Claus. The judge coolly states his hands are bound by the law and would take an out if presented, but he cannot. When he walks away, Bryan notices the phrase "In God We Trust" placed upon the money and sees the legal out he can give the judge.
  • Expospeak Gag: A lot of the prosecution's case involves translating the Santa mythos into pompous-sounding legalese to attempt to discredit it.
  • Foreshadowing: At the bar where the drunk Santa is hired to help conspire against Kris, there's a close-up of the "In God We Trust" on the money. This is the Deus ex Machina in this version.
  • Middle-Management Mook: Victor Landbergh has a pair of flunkies to do his evil bidding of framing Kris. However, at the end of the film, its shown that they quietly had a change of heart when they both flash "I Believe" buttons at each other.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: At the end of the film, Victor Landbergh realizes that his plan to make a scandal out of Kris backfired and made New York show even more support for Kris and Cole's.
    "This is going to blow up in my face, isn't it? I lost bigger than I ever thought I'd win."
  • Not His Sled: The "proof" of Santa isn't hard proof at all, but instead a point that because the US Government endorses God on its money simply through faith in his existence, the judge is able to proclaim Kris is Santa through faith alone as well.
  • Not So Above It All: After the boy Daniel says in court that the prosecutor Mr. Collins can't be Santa because "Santa don't got a grumpy face!", the judge briefly breaks into laughter along with the rest of the courtroom before calling for order.
    • Later, after Brian questions Mrs. Collins, the judge asks Mr. Collins "Do you want to cross examine... (Beat) your wife?"
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The Dutch little girl of the 1947 film was an orphan from World War II, which wouldn't work for a remake set in The '90s, so she's replaced by a deaf little girl. Kris's hidden talent to surprise the girl and make her happy, that is being able to speak Dutch, is now signed language.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The ending of the film implies that Landbergh's lackeys are these (or else that they did a Heel–Face Turn) when they reveal their "I Believe" buttons to each other, indicating their support of Kris.
  • Remake Cameo: Alvin Greenman, who played the character of Alfred in the original film, appears in a scene as a hotel doorman. His character doesn't actually appear in this remake.
  • Saving the Orphanage: This version has saving Cole's as a subplot, whereas in the other versions Mr. Macy certainly wants a successful Christmas shopping season, but the store isn't actually in any kind of trouble. The inclusion of this plotline led to the real Macy's not wanting its name used in the film as the chain was already going through serious real-world financial problems at the time and was not eager to have a movie call further attention to that.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The film never really addresses if Cole's financial situation was resolved or not. One good Christmas would hardly be enough to save it, and Kris not going to Bellevue wouldn't save the store. It would, at best, delay a hostile takeover from Shopper's Express. Although, the woman who first alerts store staff to their Santa sending parents elsewhere for toys does state that she will be shopping at Cole's for everything she needs from now on. Presumably, others feel the same kind of store loyalty.

Alternative Title(s): Miracle On34th Street