The other other other Miracle on 34th Street

I’m a big fan of the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street – perhaps surprisingly so, considering how much I’m in accord with the beliefs that the mother holds toward the beginning of the film. So when I saw a DVD of Miracle on 34th Street for sale at the 99 cent store for their now-standard desperation price of 99.99 cents (that’s an awful lot of effort to up your prices 1%!), I had to give it an extra look. A great and popular film like that isn’t that likely to end up on those shelves there, particularly in a cheap package. It’s not a public domain film. The manufacturer was one I’d bought cheap animation disks from before, but they seemed like a legit company; I didn’t think it was a knock off. Taking a closer look at it… a run time of 47 minutes? And wait, what’s this cast? I would’ve noticed immediately if it were either of the color remakes (the 1990s workmanlike John Hughes remake, or the gawdawful drained-of-all-magic 1970s telefilm.) But… that cast, that’s not the Miracle cast. No Natalie Wood. And Hans Conreid is listed!

So naturally, I invested the dollar (they don’t give you back that hundredth of a penny, the cheapskates!)

There is a slight changed title (It’s “The Miracle on 34th Street”; the original had no “The”). a couple of altered scenes, and a few stray changed lines (“Macy’s sending other people to other stores?” – which has to be a messed up line delivery – and “The district attorney’s Repulican” come to mind) to the degree that my memories can note, but for the most part it’s just the original edited down for length. The result feels a bit like a speed-through reading of a play, but overall is acceptable, except when contrasted with the original. The story is good enough that it survives the lost of the comfortable building of the reality of the work. And the couple of plot changes (such as the mom suggesting to the post office how they might clear out some of their dead letters) are, though not necessary, defensible and not significantly destructive (in contrast to the 1973 attempt.

Doing a bit of research, it turns out this was a 1955 TV adaptation (as I expected from its length), which was presented as an episode of The 20th Century-Fox Hour. This was actually one of two hourlong TV versions of the 1950s; the 1959 version stars Ed Wynn in the Kringle role.

This isn’t a must-see and certainly not a replacement for the 1947 film, but it’s an interesting curiosity for the Miracle fans out there. It was worth my 99.99 cents, and they can keep the change! (The disk is even padded out with a bonus cartoons;: a washed-out print of an English redubbing of a short by Soviet animation house Soyuzmultfilm

Published in: on December 20, 2008 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Life gets tougher

Just think how much tougher it is to pull off a Ponzi scheme now than when Charles Ponzi was doing it. “This feels like a scam of some sort, but I just can’t name it!”

Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 2:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Now you can say it

The Electoral College has voted. And the winner is: Barack Obama! You can now call him “President-Elect” without risk of me correcting you. But only for a little more than a month…

Published in: on December 15, 2008 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Prices slowly coming down

You can buy a reasonably modern, compact 16″ television for $229.

You would’ve paid $239 a reasonably modern, compact 16″ TV… 49 years ago.

I always like things like that. For the first 20-some years of my buying personal computers (basically, until I switched to laptop Macs), my new computers (including monitors) always cost $800, give or take $100. This goes back to using bar mitzvah bucks to help buy the family our Commodore PET in ’78. It would’ve been just $600, but we wanted the full 8 kilobytes of RAM.

Published in: on December 15, 2008 at 6:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Broadway coming events

With the economy winding down, lots of the biggest shows on Broadway are closing next month.

The good news is, soon visitors to New York will have their choice of half a dozen different casts performing Love Letters!

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Today's Wikipedia find

That there was a historical event known as The Great Disappointment .

Published in: on December 13, 2008 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

the plan

(Note: this post was accidentally left unposted from two months back.)

I was listening to a radio report yesterday. Apparently, California will have a new ballot initiative during a special election next year, aimed at changing how the lottery works, with the goal of taking long term money out of the lottery and using it to help deal with the current budget crisis. According to the report, Schwarzenegger’s plan is to borrow money from Wall Street, and pay it back with lottery money

Funny, that was always my plan!

Published in: on December 13, 2008 at 3:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Leno winners

There is a considerable talk about an apparently about-to-be-announced deal to give Jay Leno a Tonight-like show five days a week, 10 to 11 on NBC. This move would have some obvious losers, such as anyone who is making primetime drama for NBC, and Conan (who instead of taking over the big show, will now appear to be merely keeping the second-fiddle seat.) But it does have a lot of winners:

  • Jay, obviously, who gets to keep doing what he likes (and it seems to me that he’s a guy who does what he likes and likes what he does), makes a lot of money, gains support and exposure beyond even the vast resources which were already behind him.
  • NBC. This is cheap, brand-name fare. It may not up their overall 10 PM ratings, but it should keep a good chunk of them while decreasing the overall price.
  • The major cable networks. The challenge has always been to find places to put their cable original dramas at a time when people were watching in general but where the networks weren’t putting in tough competition. This is lovely for them; it opens up an audience at 10 PM on weeknights. (Sure, it costs them some in the rerun season where some of them were targeting, but it seems to me that that is less of a factor.) So expect to see Leverage, Army Wives, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and all that sort of thing staking out their 10 PM slots and getting their audience from that.
  • Stephen Colbert. There will be some people who, having just watched Jay before the news, aren’t going to want to watch the official Tonight Show or Letterman’s pseudo-Tonight right after (not everyone, mind you, or there wouldn’t be an audience for Conan and Kimmel today.) While The Colbert Report is not of a completely different category from those shows, it’s of sufficiently different texture that it should make a good post-news change of pace
Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 1:28 pm  Comments (2)  


If you turn to TNT’s new series Leverage looking for a deeply meaningful drama about an insurance investigator (Timothy Hutton) coping with the loss of his son, you’d be disappointed. Not that that isn’t part of the plot, but really, it’s just the excuse for setting up a con man series, an American Hustle. The small serious overtones is just an excuse for setting up a con man A-Team, and they’re willing to be a bit cartoony rather than realistic.

But once you accept that, the initial episode, at least, is okay. The fact that they brought in Saul Rubinek as a guest star is nice… he’s not the sort of big name that grabs press and brings in ratings, but he is a good screen presence, nicely respectable. Dean Devlin, of the American Godzilla (among other things) is the producer who directs the first episode, so it has a reasonably slick feel. But that also limits how well one can judge by the first episode. How well will it look and feel once they’ve moved on to the ongoing episodes. Nothing was good enough that it will resist ruining if handled badly. In fact, they need to up their game if they want to keep the exaggeration of the supporting members of the con team from leaving it repetitive and silly.

(I checked the TNT TV website to see if there was an online copy of the pilot to steer you toward. Found a couple odd things. One is that the only shows they give you full episodes of at this point are reruns of Charmed and Angel. The other is that, for some reason, some are Windows-only. A surprising limitation.)

Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nat on the radio

I was on the radio the other night, a late-night show syndicated out to a couple dozen stations across the nation, talking about graphic novels and my book on the creating of same.

The MP3 of the show is now here. My segment starts 2 minutes in, although they don’t bring me up until 7 minutes in, and I’m not heard until 8:51. (And some of the things that they say about me are exaggerated versions of my the-better-part-of-a-decade-since-I-updated-it personal website, or things said about me on Wikipedia. I’m an award nominee, but not a significant award winner, and the IRS didn’t reach out to me as an expert – I contacted them with a way of simplifying one mathematical calculation, which they then implemented on future forms.)

Published in: on December 5, 2008 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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