Maureen O'Hara sadly passed away a month or so ago... yet while the sad news was widely reported across the media, it hardly seemed to raise much of a murmur on social media. Zilch. Diddly. Zip.
Why? Is the lack of a glitzy showbiz name to blame? No offence to anyone out there called Maureen, but it's hardly an eye-catching name causing gasps of excitement when included in a headline now is it? Maureen Lipman aside. Or did people simply not know who the former 95-year-old actress was? She was a star of a bygone era after all. Erm... yes, probably the latter. And this quickly brings me to my key point here, are young people these days thence being deprived of the magical joys of the original Miracle on 34th Street? Sadly, as the somewhat muted reaction to Maureen's death amongst my peers indicated, probably, yes.
My main goal for this article is therefore very simple; get Netflix to stream Miracle on 34th Street! Aside from this gesture being a timely tribute to the exceptionally gifted talent of Maureen O'Hara by making one of her most iconic roles easily accessible to the masses, the 1947 Christmas film's strong moralistic and anti-commercialisation plotline (Yes, even back in the 1940s!) would also be the perfect heart-warming anecdote to the depressingly horrible I'm a Celeb-loving/tax credit-threatened/Kalashnikov-wielding world that we all currently reside in in 2015.
Miracle on 34th Street is about a gentle old man called Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) who's hired as a last minute replacement to play Santa by O'Hara for the Macy's department store's annual parade... and did such a fine job he's then asked to take over the role in the store's instore grotto! However, Kringle is later institutionalized for being doolally after claiming to be the actual Santa Claus (oh no!), with a young kind-hearted lawyer called Fred (John Payne) deciding to defend Kris in court by claiming that he is indeed the real deal.
O'Hara plays a cynical realist called Doris Walker who believes in being honest with children, teaching her own daughter (played by a young Natalie Wood, who of course tragically died in mysterious circumstances in 1981) not to believe in daft fictional fairytales such as Santa Claus and Jack and the Beanstalk. Yes, it's an old sentimental tear-jerker that (spoiler alert!) eventually sees O'Hara won over and everybody's faith in the legend of Santa Claus restored. Hurrah! But while sentimental movies often cause eye-rolling and audible scoffing, this is a movie that has aged remarkably well, demonstrating surprising depth and originality alongside the heartwarming seasonal sentimentality.
Watch the film's hilariously dated trailer below:
If you're watching the film for the first time this year (hopefully via Netflix), it might be interesting for you to keep an eye out for how the film defies the norms of 1940s Hollywood. For example, Doris is working in a senior management position at Macy's flagship store in New York, while Fred is often seen rolling-up his sleeves around the house in a swap of the traditional gender roles of the time. The film, which has a 'U' rating from the BBFC, famously picked up a pretty severe 'B' rating (morally objectionable in part) from the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency at the time simply because Maureen O'Hara's character was a scandal-inducing divorcée!
A 2013 article from Salon went as far to claim that Miracle on 34th Street is in fact a true "feminist classic" because Doris is kicking ass as a single working divorcee mother. I agree. Thelma & Louise, eat your heart out! Doris Walker didn't need to drive a car off a cliff or shag Brad Pitt to inspire womankind, she achieved this by hard work and being damn good at her job. And with Fred stepping up as a caring step-father (and casually being a prototype for the complete modern man), these two perfectly imperfect protagonists are kinda demonstrating the qualities and hard working ethics that we should all be instilling into our children, right? Indeed.
Of course, Netflix will undoubtedly read this and immediately secure the rights to stream the movie on their platform, largely on account of my compelling argument. However, I would urge them to stream the colourised version rather than the black and white original. WHAT? SACRILEGE! Why am I risking the wrath of angry cinephiles and film snobs everywhere? Well, I'd prefer to see the coloured version added for the following three reasons:
1) The film won't appeal to the majority of young audiences if it's streamed in black and white. Sorry. That's just the way the world is these days. Deal with it.
2) Santa Claus in black and white? Pfft. He sadly loses a bit of his magical allure if you're forced to try and imagine his bright red suit all by yourself.
3) O'Hara's stunningly beautiful red hair also deserves to be seen in colour. It took years for me to realise that she was actually a fiery Irish red-head lass, rather than an American brunette.
Watch the trailer for the colourised version of Miracle on 34th Street:
But anyway, Netflix, please use your power and influence to introduce one of the greatest Xmas films ever to a new fresh-faced generation! I beg you. Or people can just buy the DVD. Do it for Maureen.