- For the character from the 1994 film, please see Kris Kringle
Kris Kringle is the central protagonist of the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street. He was portrayed by Edmund Gwenn.
Walking through the streets of New York City on Thanksgiving Day, he stopped at a small store to tell the owner that he didn't have the reindeer lined up right. He came upon the floats lined up for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and saw the man portraying Santa Claus having difficulty with the reins and the whips. Stepping over to assist the man Kris realized the man was completely loaded. Angry that this man was giving Santa Claus a bad name, he found Doris Walker and informed her of the situation. She fired that Santa and convinced Kris to step in and assist. After the parade she and Julian Shellhammer hired Kris to play Santa during the holiday shopping season.
Kris was an immediate hit with the customers at the store, due to the fact that he was willing to send people to other stores to buy gifts if Macy's didn't have what they were looking for. Store owner R.H. Macy also approved of the idea, feeling it was better to send customers to places where they could get what they wanted instead of pressuring them to buy something they didn't want. Kris also became friends with a young man named Albert, who liked working with children and dressing up as Santa at Christmas time.
Doris Walker's neighbor Fred Gailey brought her daughter Susan to see Santa Claus. When she told Kris that she didn't believe in Santa Claus Kris resolved to prove to her that he was Santa Claus. Susan saw him speaking to a young Dutch orphan in her native tongue and was quite impressed by the feat. Doris wasn't too happy about the meeting, feeling that it would confuse a daughter
When Kris told Doris he really believed he was Santa Claus Doris decided to dismiss him from employment, but changed her mind upon learning how impressed Mr. Macy was with him. Doris and Shellhammer sent Kris to see store psychologist Granville Sawyer. The arrogant Sawyer took an immediate dislike to Kris and recommended he be fired. However Doris and Shellhammer had also reached out to Dr. Pierce - the man in charge of the home where Kris lived. Pierce was convinced that Kris was harmless. He did think it was best that Kris stay someplace close to his work so that Macy's staff could keep an eye on him. Shellhammer got his wife very drunk so that she'd agree to that, but Fred convinced Kris to stay with him.
Kris was a frequent visitor to Walker's apartment after moving in with Fred. He spent a lot of time getting to know the mother and daughter. Doris became very fond of Kris - considering him a nice old man. Kris was able to learn what Susan really wanted - a nice home of their own with a swing in the back yard.
One day Kris joined Albert for lunch but Albert was quite upset. This was because Dr. Sawyer was paying extra attention to him, and saying that Albert needed extra analysis because of the fact that he liked working with children. This upset Kris, who confronted Sawyer. Sawyer became aggressive and Kris tapped him on his head with his cane. Sawyer played up his injury and forced Doris and Shellhammer to agree to a competency exam for Kris. Feeling betrayed Kris deliberately failed the exam, leading the doctors at Bellevue to recommend commitment.
Fred went to see Kris and learned that he threw the exam because he thought Doris betrayed him. Fred assured him that wasn't the case, that this was all Sawyer's doing. Fred agreed to help get him released and went to Judge Henry Harper to demand a hearing for Kris.
In the hearing that followed Gailey announced his intention to prove Kris Kringle was Santa Claus. This led to some tension between Doris and Gailey - she felt that he was being unrealistic in his goals and was overreaching. Meanwhile the law firm he was part of demanded he drop the case or they would drop him. Gailey refused and resigned from the firm. Fred told Doris he was going to focus his efforts on helping people like Kris who were in trouble and needed help.
After several witnesses - including prosecutor Thomas Mara's son Thomas Mara Jr. - testified that they believed in Santa Claus the State of New York conceded the existence of Santa Claus. But they then insisted on definitive proof that Kris was Santa Claus.
Fred was in a real bind, not being able to find anyone who could definitively prove that Kris Kringle was Santa Claus. Kris meanwhile had received a letter from Susan Walker, and Doris had wrote on the letter that she believed in Kringle too - making him very happy that he was able to get Doris and Susan to believe in Santa Claus.
Fred soon discovered that the United States Postal Service had delivered a large amount of mail to Kris at the courthouse. Taking three of the letters as evidence, he came back in to court and gave them to Judge Harper, saying that the Federal government was recognizing Kringle as Santa Claus. When Mara stated that he didn't think three letters was sufficient proof, Fred responded that he had further evidence but he hesitated to produce that evidence. Harper insisted so Gailey had the postal employees bring all the mail in and dump it on Harper's desk. Harper then ruled that since the Federal Government was recognizing Kringle as Santa Claus he wasn't going to dispute that and ordered the case dismissed.
Kris came over to the bench to thank Judge Harper for freeing him, and wished him a Merry Christmas before departing. Meeting Doris outside, he thanked her for believing in him. He invited her to the nursing home where he lived for a party the next day. Doris invited Kris to dinner, but he refused since he had other plans that night with it being Christmas Eve.
At the party Susan was disappointed that Kris apparently had failed to get her the house she wanted. She was ready to stop believing in Santa but Doris told her that she had to have faith. At the end of the party Kris gave Doris and Fred directions for an alternate route home. The route took them past a house which Susan saw and insisted they stop at. Running into the house Susan told her mother and Fred it was her house, that Kringle had given it to them. Seeing it was for sale Doris and Fred decided to buy the house and start a family together.
Doris and Fred soon noticed a hat and cane that looked very familiar. Doris hoped that it had been left behind by the previous owners. Fred thought maybe he hadn't done such a wonderful thing after all.
- At the after party Natalie Wood - who played the role of Susan - didn't recognize Edmund at first since he had shaved off his beard once his role in the film was complete.