Monday, October 17, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Miracle on 34th Street (1947) - "Platinum Unicorn"; Multiple POV

[Quick Summary: The real Kris Kringle is hired to be Macy's Santa, but doubters try to get him institutionalized at a court hearing.]

I rarely stumble across a unicorn like this script.

I'd consider it "a unicorn" for any one of the following reasons: *

- It's a double Oscar winner for story AND script.
- It's an Oscar winning comedy.
- It's a strong ensemble comedy.
- It's a funny, fun, deep, four quadrant page turner that reads extremely fast.
- It's got it all: comedy, adventure, romance, suspense, heart, uplifting message.
- It's stood the test of time: a beloved, almost 60 yr. old film that's still shown.

One thing that sets this script apart is its creative use of the ensemble:

1) It isn't limited to one point of view, i.e., we are not always with the protagonist.

2) Despite multiple POVs, there is unity: They all are about Kris Kringle.
- ex. In chambers, the judge speaks to a supporter about the Kringle case.
- ex. In the post office, two postal workers talk about all the mail to the Kringle. 

3) Each point of view is chosen for a reason (reaction, counterpoint, etc.)

- ex. Kringle has been advising customers to go to other stores for hard-to-find toys.  Now we switch to Shellhammer's POV (the manager).

Why do we switch?
a) To show the reaction and effect of Kringle's actions.
b) AND amazingly enough, it also furthers the story.

"INT. SANTA CLAUS FLOOR - DAY

...KRIS'S VOICE: - oh yes we have skates and they're very good - (Shellhammer smiles) - but they're not quite what your boy wants - (Shellhammer frowns) - I'd suggest that you go to Gimbel's, they have exactly what you're looking for.

At the mention of Gimbel's, Shellhammer immediately goes into a state of shock. He stands rigid, dumbfounded - sending customers to their arch rival Gimbel is too much for the human mind to comprehend. He begins to tremble and mutter "Gimbel's" unbelievingly to himself. Now, as the full impact of it all hits him, he moves forward with murder in his heart.

ANGLE - DAIS. Kris and a woman in f.g. Shellhammer is seen coming around the corner of dais menacingly. Shellhammer is all set to commit Santacide but realizes it's impossible in front of so many witnesses. He stalks off, frustrated and angry.

ANGLE - Shellhammer walking - Trucking shot. He is still muttering "Gimbel's" to himself furiously. Now the character of the Mother (we have seen previously with Kris) stops him.

MOTHER: Pardon me, but the guard over there said I was to speak to you. You the head of the toy department?

SHELLHAMMER: (he hasn't got time) Yes madam, but at the moment I'm --

MOTHER: (going right in) I want to congratulate you and Macy's on this new stunt you're doin'. (Shellhammer looks puzzled) Imagine sending people to other stores - I - I don't get it. It's - it's -

SHELLHAMMER: (weakly) It certainly is.

MOTHER: You said it. To think that a big store like this puts the spirit of Christmas ahead of commercial - it's - it's wonderful I never done much shopping here but believe me from now on I'm a regular Macy customer!"
  
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: My whole day changed after reading this script. Amazing.

Also, I was never confused or lost, despite the multiple POVs.  I credit that to a strong unifying center, and well-chosen POVs.    

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Written and directed by George Seaton
Adapted from an original story by Valentine Davies

*Since this script is ALL of the below, I deem this a "platinum unicorn."

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