If you have yet to see this movie, and you want to believe that human beings can be good, decent people, please do so. Don’t bother with made-for-tv versions or theatrical remakes years later. Go for the real deal. Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Natalie Wood.
If you’re unfamiliar, I’ll give you the gist – a white-bearded, jovial man who happens to be in the right place at the right time, is a last-minute replacement for a drunken Santa at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He’s such a hit, he’s hired to be the department store Santa. So ‘goodwilled’ is he, that when Macy’s doesn’t have the toys kids are looking for, he sends them to rival department stores. The head of Macy’s loves it and instructs all employees to recommend other stores that carry products they’re out of. It’s the goodwill gesture and PR event of the century. Other stores jump on board and commercialism seems to be thrown out the window. Until a grumpy store psychiatrist doesn’t care for Kris Kringle and pushes to have him committed on the grounds that if he claims to be Santa, he must be insane.
A hearing and then a trial ensues, where a plucky young lawyer sets out to prove the impossible, that the man in court is in fact, the one and only Santa Claus. He does so too, in a wonderful, spectacular way.
The court wants proof from a ‘recognized authority’ that this man is Santa? Well, leave it to a disgruntled postal employee to set the wheels in motion. The Santa trial is making headlines and with lots of letters to Santa needing somewhere to go, the postal service has them all delivered to the NYC-based courthouse where the trial is being held.
The U.S. Postal Service – a recognized government entity, therefore acknowledges (as it is a crime to willfully misdirect mail) that the man in the courtroom receiving those letters is Santa Claus. How can the county court disagree with that?
It’s a spectacular and charming scene and every single time it happens, every time the case is dismissed, and young, cynical little Susan believes, it just give me reason not only to believe in the spirit of old St. Nick, but in how good people can be.
It’s the type of movie I can’t wait to show my son one day. I look forward to watching each year, and sometimes, a few times during the year. Not because of Christmas (in fact, it was originally released to theaters in the summer!), but because it’s about hope, about believing.
As lawyer Fred Gailey says in the film of Kris Kringle: “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
Forget the presents, forget church and religion. For me, that is what the entire season is about – believing in the goodness of people, believing and hoping for a better world, where people treat and help each other all year-long like they show they can during those few weeks of the holidays.
As Kris Kringle himself says: “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind… and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here, maybe I can do something about it.”
I’m a sentimental sap, I know.
But hey, it keeps me believing. And I’m 33.
In 1934, a great detective duo made their way into American pop culture, swigging drinks and jabs at each other like no married couple on screen before.
Five years later, in 1939, a great detective who offered up jabs on the chins of criminals would make his debut, dressed in an outrageous costume that resembled a bat.
40 years later, the three would meet, albeit briefly, and The Thin Man would come face to face with The Bat-Man.
Nick Charles was a hard-drinking, fast-talking, retired detective, who, with his beloved wife Nora at his side, constantly found himself pulled back into the crime solving business. Unlike any other couple on screen at the time, The Charles’ comedic rapport and crime solving adventures were such a hit, that they were featured in five sequels over the course of 13 years.
While the original novel that the first film was based on, “The Thin Man” by Dashiell Hammett was referring to the suspect in its title, “The Thin Man” quickly became synonymous with the character of Nick Charles (played by William Powell). It was so synonymous that it was used in the titles of all the sequels: “After The Thin Man,” “Another Thin Man,” “The Thin Man Goes Home” and “Song of the Thin Man.”
While the films blended comedy, adventure and mystery, they usually culminated with Nick Charles gathering everyone involved in the case in a room, and running through every motive and likelihood until the killer was revealed.
A favorite among move fans for decades, the original Thin Man film was added to the National Film Registry and Roger Ebert added it to his list of Great Movies in 2002.
In 1939, just a few years after William Powell and Myrna Loy left their indelible mark on Nick and Nora as well as pop culture, Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced a very different type of detective in the form of Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy by day and a man who dresses like a bat and hunts criminals at night.
To try and sum up Batman’s place in pop culture could not even be contained to one article, let alone a single paragraph, as full books have been written on the topic. So it isn’t too surprising that, even if it was four decades after Batman’s debut, that the Bat-Man would cross paths with Nick and Nora Charles.
It was the late 1970s in Detective Comics #481, during the time when The Batman Family was prominently displayed on each cover of the comic, highlighting an adventure for everyone. Among those is “Ticket to Tragedy,” a tale written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by the great Marshall Rogers. In it, Batman promises Alfred’s cousin, a renowned doctor in England that he can track down a killer and restore the doctor’s faith in humanity before he burns up his notes for a new technique in heart transplants.
Batman accomplishes his mission, of course, but along the way, while chasing the killer on a train bound for Gotham City, he comes across none other than Nick and Nora Charles. Nora instantly recognizes Batman and Nick asks Batman if he has a moment to compare crime solving notes. In typical loner fashion, Batman gives Nick the brush off.