A Miraculous MovieWritten by Stephen Schochet
It was originally called The Big Heart. Daryl Zanuck shrewd head of Twentieth Century Fox couldn't buy image of Santa Claus in a court room. But like so many ventures Miracle On 34th Street (1947) came about because of passion, in this case that of Director George Seaton who had gone to New York on his own and made arrangements with real Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel to film inside their department stores. Impressed by Seaton's commitment Zanuck gave show a green light. Who would play little girl who didn't believe in Santa Claus? Seaton agonized over it, until assistant director remembered an amazing child prodigy from Santa Rosa, California who could cry on cue. Her name was Natasha Nikolaevna Gurdin renamed Natalie Wood after director Sam Wood . The same Natalie Wood who would later go out on a hotel room ledge and threaten to jump when her boyfriend Elvis Presley ignored her to play poker with Memphis Mafia. The same girl who would infuriate fellow cast members of West Side Story (1961) with her tardiness, her refusal to learn simple dance steps and her insistence on long lunch breaks to visit with her analyst. But seven-year-old Natalie had none of typical child star precocious behavior, she gained respect of her co-stars on Miracle set with her professional demeanor, earning nickname One-Take-Natalie.
Like all filmed on location movies there were logistical problems. The sequence where Santa was taken to Bellevue was done without permission. The famous hospital would not cooperate with Hollywood because they had been portrayed badly in earlier films, they were not swayed by sight of a sickly, freezing cold Santa Claus (Edmund Gwenn) bundled up under blankets in a car, waiting to shoot his scenes. The filmmakers were forced to shoot only car approaching building's entrance and edit rest later. Another difficulty was getting permission to shoot Macy's parade from apartment dwellers on 34th street which had to be done right first time, there could be no retakes. The film crew paid ladies of house to place cameras in their windows. Then their husbands came home, complained about inconvenience and demanded their own equal share. Most difficult to film was sickly but determined Edmund Gwenn who would win an Oscar for playing Kris Kringle. He suffered from a bladder control problem but couldn't stand thought of someone taking his place in parade. The children who stood on sidewalk waving at Santa never saw long tube under his cloak.
Mrs. DisneyWritten by Stephen Schochet
Warren Beatty once observed," That if you get married in Hollywood, you should always do it before noon. That way if it doesn't work out, you don't kill your evening." But in 1925 Walt Disney, still getting his feet wet in Tinseltown was not interested in pampered starlets. His eye was on a employee of his named Lillian Bounds, originally from Lewiston, Idaho who worked for him as ink paint girl making fifteen dollars a week. She reminded him of hard working girls he knew growing up in Missouri. For her part she found him charming, way he grew a mustache to look older in business meetings, and how he refused to call on her until he could afford a new suit. Since he was more gentile around women than men, she was spared from temperamental swearing that he did around his animators. Walt later joked," I didn't have enough money to pay her, so I married her instead."
Early in their marriage Lillian loved going to movies with him and would listen attentively as he criticized his competitor's cartoons and shared his own exciting ideas. But as time went by she became more challenging. Perhaps she understood he needed a sounding board, he was surrounded by yes men who were frightened of him. I don't like name Mortimer, she told him in 1927. Why don't you call your mouse Mickey? She agreed with his business partner and brother Roy in 1934 that making first feature length cartoon, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs would ruin them. When it turned out to be a smash hit, Walt took great pleasure in hearing Lillian admit she was wrong. But then he scared her again. "Why would you want to build an amusement park?" She asked him. "Amusement parks are dirty. They don't make any money." His reply didn't make her feel better. "That's whole point. I want a clean one that will." But she was at Disneyland night before it opened with a broom, sweeping up dust off Mark Twain Steamer.
Walt was a good provider for Lillian and their two daughters even if he had to be in debt to do it. It pained her when he had to sell his Mercedes during depression to meet studio payroll, or when old friends would call on him for a loan and he was so tapped out he had turn them down. They were both content to spend evenings at home avoiding publicity glare of Hollywood parties. When times were better she put up with Walt called his "one sin" owning six polo ponies, which he paid for dearly by taking a nasty spill. He became a life long scotch drinker to dull reoccurring pain in his neck. His next hobby annoyed her more, a miniature railroad in backyard that ran through her flowerbed. She gave in only because it seemed to give him a release from studio pressures. Sometimes she thought maybe he was using rides to hide out and avoid facing overwhelming problems. Later, Disneyland would provide him with a bigger train giving Lillian more peace at home.