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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Floating in History (2006)

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21 November 2006 (USA)  »

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History and film clips of the 1946 Macy's parade
26 December 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

For many years when I was growing up, my family turned on the TV for the Macy's parade. It became part of our tradition on Thanksgiving. I continued the tradition for some years after I had my own family. For many years, NBC has broadcast the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

This short documentary film gives a little history of the parade, with film clips. But, its main focus is on the making of "Miracle on 34th Street" and the 20th Century Fox shooting of the parade and in Macy's department store. An unnamed woman narrates this short film and only two people are interviewed. They are Robert M. Grippo, author of a 2004 book, "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," and John Straus who worked on the parade for 22 years. The Straus family owned Macy's at the time, and Straus began working there after the work. From 1958 to 1968 he was vice president of Macy's New York.

There isn't much substance to this short. It has some scenes of the 1946 parade and of the Fox film crew shooting scenes in Macy's. They had to shut down one of the 12 elevators to run special electric cords up to supply the power needs for all the lights. The film shows clips of Edmund Gwenn who played Kris Kringle in the movie. He actually was the Santa Claus for the 1946 parade. Toward the end of the movie, it shows him getting off the float and climbing up to the Macy's balcony to wave to the throngs below. No one knew Gwenn's identity at the time because the studio didn't want to publicize that it was making a Christmas movie then. The next day, a small blurb in the New York Times said actor Edmund Gwenn had climbed out of the Santa float onto the Macy's balcony.

In the summer of 1946, Fox decided that it had to shoot much of the film on location in New York. And, on Nov. 28 that year, thy had to get the parade right, because there was no way of stopping it and backing it up. The "Miracle" movie has a couple of lines that this short covered a little more. Fred Gailey (John Payne) and Susan Walker (Natalie Wood) are watching the parade from above through a window in his apartment. Fred says, "Looks like they're having a little trouble with the baseball player (balloon). Susan replies, "He was a clown last year. They just changed his head and … my mommy told me." That's true – when the parade resumed in 1945 after the war, it had five all new giant balloons. The biggest one was Bobo the Hobo a clown. In 1946 he was changed to the baseball player we see in the film. A couple of others from the previous year are shown in the film, including the Ice Cream Cone.

The most interesting part of this short is its shot of three posters that Macy's used to advertise its parade over the years. The times of the parade differ over the years, the start point changes, and even the parade name seems to have changed. The 1945 poster read, "Macy's Parade, Rain or Shine, Parade Starts at 106th Street and Central Park West at 11:45. Will arrive at Macy's at 1:30 p.m." Another one, undated, reads, "Here It Comes, Macy's Mammoth Mirthful Thanksgiving Parade. Rain or Shine at 10 a.m., with scheduled arrival at Macy's at 11:15." But this last poster is the most interesting. There's no date on it, but it reads, "Macy's Fifth Annual Christmas Parade, Weather permitting, Through the Heart of New York, and on Broadway, 110thto 34th Street, 1 to 3 p.m." So, was this the same parade? Did Macy's used to have a Christmas parade instead? Or both, Thanksgiving and Christmas parades? Or, had it changed the name to "Thanksgiving Parade." Further, if it was the one and same parade, then that poster would have been from 1928, since the parade began in 1924.

Wrapping up this short, author Grippo says, "The whole idea of the parade is to welcome the Christmas holiday to New York City. And Santa Claus is the hero to every child and every kid along the parade route." (Sic) This film has very little about the history of the parade, which would have made it much more interesting.


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