Filming In An Actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Meant Long Nights For The Miracle On 34th Street Cast

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Halloween has drifted off like a ghost in the night, and most of us have recovered from the piles of food we ate at Thanksgiving. That means it’s time to build snow sculptures, hang up the twinkling lights and stockings, and watch some holiday classic films like 1947’s “Miracle on 34th Street.” Oddly enough, it was released in June of that year because 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck thought people saw more films in the summer, according to the Turner Classic Movies website. Despite the warm breezes blowing as ticket holders waited to check out this story of a man who might very well be Santa Claus, it wasn’t filmed in the summer. In fact, the scene at the big parade was filmed during the actual 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in November. 

The cast had to sneak in some shots during the real festivities and parade performances because they couldn’t shut down the Macy’s event. That meant a lot of time out in the cold. According to star Maureen O’Hara’s 2004 autobiography “‘Tis Herself” (via TCM.com), the scenes set in the actual store also meant some really long nights shooting with her fellow actors. 

‘She Was Allowed To Stay Up Late’

For the day shoot, director George Seaton arranged for actor Edmund Gwenn, who plays Kris Kringle, to ride in the actual Santa Claus float in the parade. Maureen O’Hara says in her autobiography (via TCM.com) that “It was bitterly cold that day, and Edmund and I envied Natalie [Wood] and John Payne, who were watching the parade from a window.” 

However, the scenes in the actual Macy’s in Herald Square had to be done at night after the customers and staff had gone home for the day. The store was all decorated for Christmas, and O’Hara writes that it was a wonderful experience with the young Natalie Wood, who played her character Doris Walker’s daughter Susan. 

Wood was eight-years-old when they were filming and, like most kids, had an early bedtime. That meant that the shoot let her stay up until the wee hours. O’Hara says, “Natalie loved this because it meant she was allowed to stay up late … I really enjoyed this time with Natalie. We loved to walk through the quiet, closed store and look at all the toys and girls’ dresses and shoes.”

As an eight-year-old, it must have been wonderful to shop with a famous actress way past your bedtime in a closed store, all lit up for the holidays, sleepy or not. Add to that the fact that in Suzanne Finstad’s book “Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood” (via cheatsheet.com) the actress reveals that she actually believed Edmund Gwenn was Santa Claus. She said, “I had never seen him without his beard because he used to come in early in the morning and spend several hours putting on this wonderful beard and mustache.” 

‘Natalie Had To Go To Bed, But We Didn’t’

The long nights weren’t all work, though. There was some fun as well. According to Maureen O’Hara’s book, the adults in the cast used their downtime during the Macy’s shoot to wander the streets of New York City to see the Christmas decorations. O’Hara says: 

“Edmund Gwenn, John, and I went for a walk up Fifth Avenue. Natalie had to go to bed, but we didn’t. We stopped and window-shopped at all the stores, which were beautifully decorated for the holidays. Edmund especially loved those nights and acted more like the kid who might be getting the presents instead of the Santa who would be giving them. I got such a big kick out of seeing the expressions of window dressers when they saw Edmund peering in at them–I knew then that he was going to make a big splash as Santa Claus.”

That’s especially adorable, knowing that Natalie Wood thought he was the real Santa. It sounds like the holiday magic of the film sort of rubbed off on the stars. 

If this is getting you in the holiday spirit, you can watch both the original “Miracle on 34th Street” and the 1994 remake right now, as they’re both streaming on Disney+. 

Read this next: The 50 Best Christmas Movies Of All Time, Ranked

The post Filming In An Actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Meant Long Nights For The Miracle On 34th Street Cast appeared first on /Film.

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