My Four Favorite Christmas Movie Santa Clauses

It's that time of year again, when I can watch Christmas movies and have it be seasonably acceptable. And, as I start doing that, I do find myself reflecting on the movies I've watched dozens of times and, in particular, those that have Santa Claus.
Even though Santa should be one of the easiest characters to play, not all movie Santas are treated equal. So, I'd like to share my four favorites.

Ed Asner in Elf

A lot of Christmas comedies make the mistake of trying to make Santa Claus funny too. That doesn't need to be the case, however, and it is usually best to keep Santa in more of a "straight man" role. Even though Asner only has a few minutes in this movie, he does a great job of that when asked and comes off as both serious and compassionate, two things I would expect to see from Santa.

Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street

I think the thing that always wins me over about this version of Santa Claus is the mystery surrounding him. Is Kris Kringle really Santa? Or, is he just a confused elderly man? Since I would expect Santa to be mysterious, I do like that. Plus, this is one of the few movie Santa Clauses that can speak more languages than just English.

Douglas Seale in Ernest Saves Christmas

Much like Asner, Seale had to play the straight man to Jim Varney's Ernest P. Worrell. However, the thing that really wins me over with this Santa is the way he provides counseling both to a runaway girl (Noelle Parker) and to the has-been actor (Oliver Clark) he wants to replace him. Once again, that compassion is something I would expect from the man in red.

Austin Pendleton in Christmas With the Kranks

OK, to be fair, Pendleton didn't really play Santa in this movie. He played an umbrella salesman named Marty who happened to dress like Santa during the holidays. But, I'm still counting him. This is both because the movie hints, at the very end, he might really be Santa and, for a time, his mysterious knowledge about everyone in town was actually quite entertaining. Those two things combined make him as memorable as any other movie Santa Claus I can think of.


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