It would be easy to play Santa Claus as a holiday caricature who boasts "ho ho ho" at the top of his lungs, but Edmund Gwenn's Academy Award-winning performance (Best Supporting Actor) in "Miracle on 34th Street" shows a much more tender side of the Christmas mascot. He speaks to children as though they were his equal. Scenes like Kris Kringle heartily speaking Dutch to a young orphaned girl (Mary Field), illustrate how greatly this performance has transcended the decades.

With Gwenn stealing the show, it can be easy to overlook the film's wealth of memorable performances. You have names like Natalie Wood, Porter Hall, Gene Lockheart, and Maureen O'Hara bringing this timeless tale of yuletide cheer to life. It's John Payne, however, who is arguably tasked with the second most responsible role in Fred Gailey, the New York City lawyer who advocates on behalf of Kringle in court.

It's difficult to think of "Miracle on 34th Street" and not recollect the pivotal scene where Gailey opens the courtroom doors to postal workers, who drop off sacks upon sacks of mail, all of which contain letters addressed to Santa. Whether Gailey actually believes Kringle is actually Santa is irrelevant. He knows that discrediting Kringle is an effort to undo all of the kindness and goodwill the kind man has brought to New York.

Even with such a definitive ending in place, there exists a lost screenplay for a sequel that Payne had written and never got to make.

When Payne Passed Away, So Did His Screenplay

In her autobiography "Tis Herself," O'Hara recounted how Payne was a generally pleasant presence on set. "When John Payne arrived on the set of Miracle each morning, I made sure to greet him with a big, joking smile to make up for the frowns he teased me about on 'To the Shores of Tripoli' and 'Sentimental Journey,'" said O'Hara.

As it would appear, Payne loved working on "Miracle on 34th Street" so much that he wrote an entire screenplay for a potential sequel:

"We talked about it for years, and he eventually even wrote a screenplay sequel. He was going to send it to me, but tragically died before he could get around to it. I never saw it and have often wondered what happened to it."

"Miracle on 34th Street" seems pretty cut and dry by the time it reaches its happy ending, but it would be fascinating to see what kind of ideas Payne had rattling around in his mind. Could the lost sequel treatment have revolved around another Christmas story involving Kringle, or would it have followed Bailey building a life with Doris Walker? Sadly we'll never know, as O'Hara seems to be the only person who even knew of its existence. Here's hoping someone in the Payne estate comes across the lost screenplay at some point or another.

"Miracle on 34th Street" is currently streaming on Disney+.

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