Kris Kringle goes to work for Macy's as Santa Claus and is committed to an institution, but a friendly lawyer proves his case in court.
Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) finds the Santa Claus in Macy's parade is drunk, and he tells Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), who asks him to take his place. Doris's daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) watches the parade with Fred Gailey (John Payne) and says she does not believe in fairy tales or Santa Claus, but she helps Fred get invited for dinner.
Kris is hired by Macy's to help sell toys, but he tells a mother (Thelma Ritter) where she can find a toy her son wants. Fred takes Susan to meet Santa Claus, and Doris complains that it is against the way she is bringing up Susan without myths. Susan hears Kris speak Dutch. Doris asks Kris to tell the truth; but he asserts he is Kris Kringle, and she is about to fire him. Macy summons her and Shellhammer (Philip Tonge) and says that Santa Claus sending customers to other stores is winning approval. So Doris asks Kris to stay on but sends him to the psychologist Sawyer (Porter Hall). Doris calls in Dr. Pierce from the senior home where Kris lives. Neurotic Sawyer tells Doris to fire Kris, but Dr. Pierce argues that Kris is not dangerous. Doris and Shellhammer plan to have Kris stay with him, and Doris takes him home while Shellhammer tries to persuade his wife.
Kris tells Susan about imagination, and Fred invites Kris to stay with him. Susan asks Kris for a house. Gimble emulates Macy's policy of good will. At lunch the janitor Alfred tells Kris that Sawyer says he has a guilt complex. Kris tells Sawyer to stop psychoanalyzing Alfred and knocks him out with a stick. Shellhammer asks Doris to have Kris examined, and he and Sawyer take Kris to Bellevue. Fred gets a call and goes to see Kris in the asylum. Kris says he failed the test on purpose, but Fred offers to help him.
Fred files a legal petition, and Judge Harper (Gene Lockhart) sets a hearing. Sawyer tells Fred they want to avoid publicity, but Fred seeks it. Charlie Halloran (William Frawley) advises Judge Harper to get off the case. In court prosecutor Thomas Mara (Jerome Cowan) questions Kris, who says he is Santa Claus. Fred says he will prove it.
Fred tells Doris that he quit his law firm, and she gets upset. Macy testifies that he believes in Kris, and he fires Sawyer. Mara asks Judge Harper to rule if there is a Santa Claus. During a recess Charlie advises Harper not to destroy his political career. Harper rules he will keep an open mind. Fred calls Mara's son Tommy. Mara asks Fred to prove that Kris is the only Santa Claus.
Susan and Doris write a letter to Kris to cheer him up. A postal employee sees it and suggests they send the Santa Claus mail to the courthouse. Fred uses it as evidence, and Judge Harper dismisses the case. Susan is disappointed on Christmas Day, but Doris tells her to have faith. Kris gives Fred and Doris directions. They drive, and Susan finds the house. Fred kisses Doris, and they notice that Kris was there.
This fantasy promotes the Christmas spirit amid the
modern tendency to commercialize the holiday, suggesting that
intangibles such as love, kindness, imagination, and joy are real