Moppets in Film: Natalie Wood, Miracle on 34th Street

19 Dec

Image from Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

Recently someone found their way to this blog by searching for ‘moppets in film.’  And that made Moppet think.  They were to be disappointed: thus far The Misadventures of Moppet has contained nothing with regard to moppets in film.  But that’s going to change.

This will be the first in a series of posts honouring the greatest moppet film performances.  First up: Natalie Wood’s classic performance in Miracle on 34th Street as Susan Walker, the little girl who learns to believe in Santa Claus.

34th Street is the home of Macy’s, the workplace of Susan’s mother, Doris (Maureen O’Hara).


Natalie Wood with screen mother Maureen O'Hara

Embittered by her divorce, Doris has brought Susan up not to believe in fairy tales or happy endings.  As a result Susan, a solemn and cynical child, is unimpressed by the Santa (Edmund Gwenn) hired by the store, and attempts to pull off his beard.

But – could this be the real Santa?  He appears to have special powers.  Confronted with a little Dutch girl, he talks and sings to her in her own language.  Natalie’s reaction shots are priceless:

Before long it’s not just Susan sitting in judgment on Santa’s true identity: in fact this becomes the subject of a court case.  But this is a 1947 family film, so it will come as a surprise to no-one that Susan at least does eventually decide to believe in Santa, convincing herself with the following mantra:

I believe, I believe.  It’s silly, but I believe.

The film was promoted with a creative trailer:

which, while roping in stars such as Rex Harrison, Rosalind Russell, Anne Baxter, Peggy Ann Garner (another former moppet best known for her performance in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and Dick Haymes, carefully omits any mention of Christmas – the film being released, for reasons best known to 20th Century-Fox, in July.

Miracle on 34th Street, eight-year-old Natalie’s fourth film, proved to be a perfect vehicle for her talent.  Unlike many other moppet actresses, she would successfully make the transition to adult star in films such as Rebel Without A Cause, Gypsy and Splendor in the Grass.



Additional source: Gavin Lambert, Natalie Wood: A Life


The Odienator reviews Miracle on 34th Street


5 Responses to “Moppets in Film: Natalie Wood, Miracle on 34th Street”

  1. Misfit December 19, 2009 at 02:31 #

    Is she just not the most beautiful woman ever? There is a picture of her and RJ on the way to their wedding that just smokes between the two.

    Don’t miss her in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir though.

    • Miss Moppet December 19, 2009 at 13:15 #

      She is so beautiful – and yet she can do that character actor thing of always looking different. I have to rent The Ghost and Mrs Muir as I think I’ve seen it once but I don’t really remember it. The Gavin Lambert biography says Natalie was filming The Ghost and Miracle concurrently, going from one set to the other. The studio certainly made her work hard!

      • Meneldur December 19, 2009 at 19:51 #

        Isn’y Lady Moppet more beautiful? And won’t King John try to execute those who say otherwise?

      • Oscar Fitzroy December 19, 2009 at 21:10 #

        My Mummy is the most beautiful Mummy EVER and anyone who says she’s not, I am going to kill dead.

        Dictated to my scribe.

      • Johannes Rex December 19, 2009 at 21:19 #

        That goes double for me.

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