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On Our Merry Way

On Our Merry Way(1948)

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A Miracle Can Happen had a complicated history. It began production in mid-July 1946 with an episode starring Charles Laughton, but that episode was never used. The story dealt with a minister summoned by a young boy to the bedside of his seriously ill father. When they arrive at the house, the boy disappears. The father tells the minister that he did not send for him but is glad that he is there. The minister reads from the Bible to the bedridden father and he feels better. As he is leaving the minister sees a photograph of the boy and asks the father where the son is. The father then replies that the boy died many years before. In addition to Laughton, other cast members included Henry Hull, John Qualen, Almira Sessions and Orley Lindgren. This episode was directed by King Vidor and photographed by Edward Cronjager. In his autobiography, co-producer and star Burgess Meredith claims that he directed the Laughton episode and when his co-producer, Benedict Bogeaus, later told him that "the backers" wanted the episode eliminated, showed the film to David O. Selznick who offered a half-million dollars for that section with the intention of throwing out the other episodes and starting all over. Meredith stated that Bogeaus refused and that the footage was destroyed.
       Shooting on the Laughton episode finished on August 3, 1946 and production on the other episodes resumed on 20 August with Vidor directing the sequences involving Meredith and Paulette Goddard, who were married to each other at the time. A 29 August Hollywood Reporter news item August reported that some filming was being done on the Goldwyn lot. On 4 Sep, the Hollywood Reporter reported that the Vidor/Meredith segments would finish shooting that day and that director Leslie Fenton would start the Fred MacMurray segment the following day. It was later reported that Fenton was filming far out on Ventura Boulevard, near Grant's Junction, in the San Fernando Valley.
       A 13 September Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Skitch Henderson had been signed to compose and conduct the score for the film. On February 14, 1947, Hollywood Reporter reported that George Stevens was then shooting an episode of A Miracle Can Happen at General Service Studios. This was the James Stewart and Henry Fonda story. In a modern source, director John Huston stated, "In 1947, as a favor to Burgess Meredith, I directed an episode with James Stewart and Henry Fonda. . ." Apparently, when Huston was unavailable to finish the episode, George Stevens took over. An May 8, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that A Miracle Can Happen would be previewed shortly in ten Eastern and Midwestern cities with the Laughton episode still in place. On 8 Aug, a Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Bogeaus planned to shoot a new episode and eliminate the Laughton episode, which was regarded as too serious for the otherwise light-hearted picture. On 1 Oct, the replacement episode, starring Dorothy Lamour and Victor Moore, started production at General Service Studios with Leslie Fenton directing and Ernest Laszlo as director of photography.
       A Miracle Can Happen opened in New York on February 3, 1948 to less than ecstatic reviews: "A million dollar cast in a ten-cent film," stated the review in New York Daily News. On April 9, 1948, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that On Our Merry Way had been announced as the new title for A Miracle Can Happen, which had been pulled from release two months earlier after it had opened under the original title in New York, Philadelphia and Detroit. The news item further reported that subsequent polls of the public indicated that, because of the original title, the film was believed to have a religious theme and that the new title and advertising copy would point up the fact that the film is "a high comedy." When the film was originally released, it ran 108 minutes but in its re-release version, it ran 98 minutes, with the missing ten minutes probably cut mainly from the MacMurray episode. Copyright materials only relate to the 98 minute version. The pressbook for On Our Merry Way lists Fred Widdowson instead of Robert Priestley in the set decoration category. It also includes Scotty Rackin as Head Hairdresser and Skitch Henderson as an additional music supervisor. Henderson and Donald Kahn are also credited with writing the song "Baby Made a Change in Me," which could not be identified in the print viewed. The film's subsequent history involves legal disputes among the prinicipal participants and shareholders and, in 1953, the Security-First National Bank's foreclosure on its loan.
       The CBCS lists the following actors whose appearance in the released film has not been confirmed, although it is likely that some of them appeared in the deleted Laughton episode: Nana Bryant, Walter Baldwin, Daniel Haight, Joe Devlin, Peggy Norman, Dick Scott and Broderick O'Farrell.