Having been affected by Miracle on 34th Street and the Annual Macy's Day Parade (which is a seminal part of the film), author Robert Grippo decided to celebrate his passion by writing the book (co-written with Christopher Hoskins) Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. On the eve of a new release of the classic holiday film, Grippo sat with us to discuss the importance of both the parade and Miracle on 34th Street in today's uncertain times.
Why do you think Miracle on 34th Street is so special even today?
Robert Grippo: The big reason is the fantasy element. The film is played straight. It's a perfect blend of reality and fantasy. You really start believing at the end of that movie that this guy might be the real Santa Claus. It's the fact that the actors were phenomenal. The contract with Fox was great at this point. The grouping of the actors Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, William Frawley, how many movies did you see this guy in over and over? Yet, his role in the film stands out. It's not done as camp. It's really done straight on. It's great.
What were your first impressions when you originally saw the film?
Robert Grippo: You totally get caught up in this. Again, it mixes fantasy and reality so well. Ed Gwenn in this part, you actually start believing this guy is Santa Claus. He seems almost childlike at times in the role. As the film progresses you really start thinking, "This is Santa Claus." You kind of wish that that was the real Santa Claus. I love the Macy's Parade. Growing up I watched it constantly, every year. It was such a tradition. Here's a film that shows you the parade. Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) works on the parade. That was part of the appeal to it.
Would you describe Miracle on 34th Street as movie ultimately about faith?
Robert Grippo: Oh yeah. It definitely brings out everybody's faith in heart. You have to have heart, you know? You just can't be like a Scrooge kind of character. You have to come from faith. You have to try living with faith. You have to believe in things you might think... "It's impossible." Maybe if you have faith the impossible becomes reality. We can make miracles happen if we have faith.
What is the biggest change that you've seen in the Parade over the years? Or, is the beauty of the Parade the fact that it hasn't changed?
Robert Grippo: That's a great question. The organizers of the Parade have really come to a wonderful conclusion. People want to see certain things every year. Yet, they want to see innovation. They want to keep on being surprised, they want to keep on being like "Wow, this is great. This is magical. Look at this great balloon. Look at this great float." Yet, the people want to see the Turkey Float be in the parade down the street. In 2001, after the World Trade Center tragedy Macy's, for that Parade, they moved the Turkey back and they put the Statue of Liberty up front, but we wanted to see the Turkey Float; it's part of the Parade. Today, the Turkey Float is right up front. Look at Underdog, he was in 20 plus parades. Look at Smokey the Bear, the Happy Dragon, so we grew up watching the original Bullwinkle balloon. Every year, just like you're gonna have a turkey dinner, the feast that night, you saw Bullwinkle in the parade. It has been a wonderful mix of nostalgia, childhood memories, but yet, we are innovating.
Macy's brought something into the parade recently called a balloonicle. It's a great new element. It's like an inflatable balloon around a vehicle that basically drives down the parade route.
What is it about the parade that piqued your interest so much to get as involved with the Macy's Day Parade as you have?
Robert Grippo: Growing up, my first Parade memory was four years old, and seeing Underdog come down that Parade route on the television. As a four year old I used to watch the Underdog show, it just was something. Here you see Underdog as a bigger than life character coming down Broadway in Herald's Square. I remember Barry Manilow on top of the juke box singing "It's A Miracle." Sammy Davis Jr. singing "Candy Man" on the Big Apple Float. Recently, Macy's basically broke a lot of great acts. Macy's broke the Backstreet Boys in 1997. They were big in Europe. Macy's put them in the Parade and they became huge. The same thing with 'N Sync, the same thing with Christina Aguilera.
What the Miracle on 34th Street DVD is presenting is a classic film you can watch any time of the year... seeing that film, seeing the great performances, seeing the film colorized (although, I go for the black and white, I'm a classic film lover) enables Fox to bring a lot of the kids to the film because kids supposedly do not like black and white films. They're gonna get older, they're gonna go right to the black and white version. They're preserving a classic film for generations.
Miracle on 34th Street comes to DVD November 21 from Fox Home Entertainment.