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The Miracle

The Miracle(1959)

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After the opening credits, a written prolog states that the English armies intervened when Napoleon's armies "roared through Spain" and that "out of this desperate crisis grew a legend of Divine Mercy which has endured, undimmed by time, to cast its light upon our troubled world of today." The Miracle was based on the Karl Vollmoeller and Max Reinhardt pantomime of the same name. Featuring music by Englebert Humperdinck, it opened in London in 1911 and played throughout Europe, opening in New York in 1924. Unlike the film, which was set in 1812, the pantomime was set in the Middle Ages.
       According to a studio memo dated July 9, 1942 found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library, Warner Bros. planned to make a production of The Miracle as early as 1942. At that time, Henry Blanke, who ultimately made the film, was named as producer. Edmund Goulding was to direct and Samson Raphaelson was hired to write a screenplay based on the original stage script. February 1952 Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety news items reported that Warners had again activated the film, planning for it to be one of the studio's "most important" productions of 1952. However, the film was not produced until 1958.
       The CBCS lists the character played by Elspeth March as "Sister Isabella," but she is called "Sister Domenica" in the film. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Hollywood Reporter news items add Florence Vinson, Nadine Dennis, Paul Fierro and Tom Wilson to the cast. A Hollywood Reporter news item also adds Gladys Cooper to the cast, but she was not in the released film. A June 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Richard Burton would be cast, but he did not appear in the final film.
       According to a July 30, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, Harry Stradling and Harry Stradling, Jr., were assigned as cameraman and second cameraman respectively on the film. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Stradling as the director of photography until late August 1958, after which his name was replaced by Ernest Haller, who was the sole credited director of photography onscreen. A February 1958 Daily Variety news item reported that the studio brought former director and production department head Tennant "Tenny" C. Wright out of a two-year retirement to serve as production manager. Although only Frank Butler was given screen credit for the film's script when the picture was initially released, the film was actually co-written by Butler and his daughter-in-law, the blacklisted writer Jean Rouverol. Rouverol's credit was officially restored by the WGA in 1998.
       Although April and May 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items reported that the film was to be shot in the Cinemiracle process, the final film was shot in Technirama. Although March and April 1958 Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter news items reported that Spain and Mexico were considered as shooting sites, the film was shot in the Los Angeles area. According to a September 1958 Los Angeles Examiner article, the Gypsy camp sequence was shot in the Santa Susanna Mountains around Calabasas, CA. In this article director Irving Rapper, while discussing the shooting location and the cast recruited from numerous countries, stated, "We're trying to prove that Hollywood doesn't have to go to Europe to make an international spectacle." According to a October 15, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, The Miracle was anticipated to cast approximately 5500 "extras" during its production, which was a marked difference from other films, as there had been a decline in recent months.
       Despite the religious theme of the film, the New York Times review criticized that the filmmakers changed the "reverent" and "mystical" quality of the original stage play to one that was "talkative, baudy and vulgar" and "only begins and ends in church." Commenting on the lavish production that offered bullfights, parties, battles, dancing and "choirs of nuns," the Variety review stated that the film "has about everything...except a genuinely spiritual story." The Los Angeles Times review jested that the main character played by Carrol Baker was "both [a] nun and none too chaste" and that the character is "really a sort of Sister Mary Baby Doll," referring to one Baker's previous films, the 1956 Baby Doll (see entry above), in which she played the title role.