It’s a “Miracle” This 1973 Adaptation Is So Good

“I love the city at Christmas,” Kris Kingle shouts before grabbing Karen by the arm and squiring her through New York City’s tourist destinations (Rockefeller Center, the ice skating ring, 5th Avenue). I prefer a brisk walk through my borough’s Christmas tree stands, but I couldn’t agree more.

Sometimes we watch a made-for-TV movie hoping for the best and getting the worst. Sometimes we watch a Christmas movie with our family hoping to do our homework and get a charming 1973 remake instead. The only problem is that you can’t stream it on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. (I have found what appears to be a YouTube upload, and embedded it below.)

The original Miracle on 34th Street was released in 1947. It starred Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. The holiday classic told the story of how single mom Doris, a Macy’s event director, and her skeptical daughter Susan, believe in Christmas when the real Santa takes the place of an old drunk in the Thanksgiving Day parade. Susan wishes for a father and a house in the suburbs, a test Kris Kringle ultimately passes, following a trial to challenge his identity as Santa Clause. Which he is. There is no conspiracy theory, Kris Kringle is Santa. The 1994 remake, which remains popular 22 years later, is fairly faithful to the original, and the 1973 made-for-television film is too!

Jane Alexander stars as working woman Karen Walker. Child star Suzanne Davidson is her daughter; Davidson has no IMDb credits beyond 1979. Handsome attorney neighbor, who gets Kris Kringle’s win in court is David Hartman. Sebastian Cabot is the cheerful, heartwarming Kris Kringle. Tom Bosley is our surprise casting, as the judge.

I’ve always felt weird about how the film wraps up. What kind of child wants to settle in Long Island when she has New York City at her disposal? The film’s unapologetic treatment of Karen, who never apologizes for her work, and the B-roll footage of New York in the ’70s almost makes up for it.

My copy of the film was taped to Betamax in 1983. It included commercials for Downy, the Washington Capitals, and the Smurfs. The embedded video, regrettably, does not include advertisements of the era.

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