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The Miracle on 34th Street: 05/24/08
Continuing on the theme of books and films and their on again, off again relationship, I bring you the cross media collaboration. Most often a film or a book will come first (and more often than not, it will be the book that inspires the film). There are exceptions to that rule where there is no first and instead the book and the film are created at the same time. Among this set of collaborations are: Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and this little gem, The Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
In the dedication of the novel Valentine Davies explains he was inspired to write the screenplay version first and only after his work on the film was done did he feel ready to "invite" Mr. Kringle "within the covers of a book." Miracle on 34th Street, though, is not a quick novelization of a film as say Hook by Terry Books is. Novelizations tend to be more descriptive than these collaborations whereas the collaborations are terse on description and more focused on getting into the heads of the characters.
Miracle on 34th Street is a short piece, exactly 120 pages, so it's not much longer than the companion film (which clocks in at 97 minutes). It like the film follows a man going by the name Kris Kringle who finds himself in a bit of a pickle just before Christmas; he faces eviction from his retirement home room because he insists that he is Santa Claus. Needing a new place to live he goes to an old friend to ask for a place to sleep while he finds a more permanent solution. On his way he stumbles into the job of being Santa for the Macy's parade (Macy's being at the corner of Broadway and 34th, hence the title). He's such a good and convincing Santa that he ends up revolutionizing the whole Christmas retail experience that year: placing the emphasis on customer happiness rather than sales. Of course ultimately Kringle's sanity (resisting the urge to quote A Night at the Opera here) is called into question.
The film and the novel are both cozy, heartwarming things to experience. As a child growing up, the film was a yearly event in our house just as>It's a Wonderful Life (1947) is for so many. My favorite character then and now is Susan Walker (portrayed so perfectly by Natalie Wood in the film). Susan is the daughter of woman at Macy's who gives Kris his job. She's a smart, head strong child of a single mother who learns in the course of the story how to have a little more fun. As a once child of a single mother, I can completely relate to her and to the miracle of the house.
Most of the books I read these days I have plans for either to give away on my blog or to release through BookCrossing but this is one book that is a beloved member of my permanent collection.