The Miracle


2h 1m 1959
The Miracle

Brief Synopsis

When a 19th century nun elopes, the Virgin Mary takes her place at the convent.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Adaptation
Religion
Release Date
Dec 26, 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 12 Nov 1959; Los Angeles opening: 25 Dec 1959
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Santa Susanna Mountains, California, United States; Santa Susanna Mountains, California, United States; Santa Susanna Mountains, California, United States; Spain
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Miracle by Karl Vollmoeller, as produced on the stage by Max Reinhardt (London, 1911).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 1m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In 1812, in the village of Miraflores, Spain, the orphaned Teresa, a musically talented postulant at the convent of Miraflores, is struggling to be a good nun, but is also attracted to worldly ideas of romance and "knights in shining armor." She serves penance for her frequent disobedience, which causes an older nun, Sister Domenica, to call her a gypsy. Despite her lapses, she is happy at the convent and her love for the Mother Superior is surpassed only by the devotion she feels for the statue of the Blessed Virgin that holds a place of honor in the chapel. She prays often, projecting onto it her feelings for the mother she never knew. The villagers, too, take pride in the statue and believe that St. Mary reciprocates by blessing their fields with abundant crops and good weather. During a church festival, as the villagers and a band of pickpocketing gypsies mingle, a regiment of British dragoons march through the village, in preparation for battle with Napoleon's army. Teresa catches the eye of a handsome captain, Michael Stuart, who rescues a young child from being trampled. Overcome with new feelings, Teresa prays fervently to the Virgin to bring victory to the captain and his men. Although the soldiers win the battle, they suffer many casualties and the convent is turned into a hospital for their wounded. Among the severely injured is Michael, who suffers from a bullet near his lungs. Again Teresa prays for Michael's life, promising to be a good nun in return. Michael, a nephew of the Duke of Wellington and a native of Devon, survives and takes a special interest in Teresa. During one of their conversations, Teresa sees the pocket watch Michael carries, which he explains has been in his family for generations. Although he asks her to marry him, Teresa refuses, feeling obligated to take vows in return for her answered prayers. However, when Michael leaves to join his troop, she chases after him and agrees to meet him at the inn. The pleasant weather turns into a storm when she returns to pray at the foot of the statue, begging for guidance. During a clap of thunder, Teresa removes her robe and runs away into the rain, and the Virgin steps down from her pedestal and puts on the robe. When the Reverend Mother later comes to the chapel, she finds the statue missing and a woman she assumes to be Teresa serenely praying at the altar. On her way to the inn, Teresa discovers that the French are burning the village and sees corpses of English soldiers strewn on the road. When a French sergeant attempts to rape Teresa, the gypsy matriarch La Roca and the gypsy troubadour Flaco, who are looting in the wake of the French, intervene and take her to their camp. Among the stolen items is Michael's pocket watch and when Teresa hears that the English soldier from whom it was taken is dead, she discards the cross at her neck and renounces her faith. Taking up life with the gypsies, she sings sad songs at their campfire. Anxiously, La Roca watches her sons, Carlitos and Guido, compete for the attention of Teresa, who is oblivious in her mourning. Meanwhile, Michael, who is alive, escapes from a French prison camp and flees to unite with Teresa at Miraflores, where the disappearance of the Blessed Virgin's statue is blamed for an unending drought. To the Reverend Mother, Michael explains how his orderly robbed him before fleeing and was subsequently killed by the French. In a processional of nuns, Michael spots the image of Teresa, radiant and changed, and Mother Superior tells him that she has taken her vows and become an exemplary nun. Sadly, he proceeds to meet his regiment in Portugal. Eventually, Teresa agrees to marry Guido, but, on the day of their wedding, the jealous Carlitos betrays his brother to the French, who want him for robbery. After Guido is ambushed and killed, La Roca blames Teresa for her sons' discord and Guido's death, and orders her to leave camp. Hoping to win her affection, Carlitos follows Teresa, but is shot down by La Roca, who had dreamed a premonition of his death the night before. After intercepting the fleeing Teresa, Flaco offers to accompany her to Madrid. In the city, while Teresa distracts the crowd, Flaco picks their pockets. She gains the attention and, soon, the patronage of the great matador, Cardoba, who sponsors her as a café singer. Although the gallant Cardoba never smiles, he ardently wishes for her love. She never gives in to her feelings, however, believing that her love brings bad luck to the recipient. Instead, she takes up with an older aristocrat, Casimir, who arranges for her to perform in concert halls, and she becomes famous as "Miraflores the Gypsy." Hurt by Teresa's rejection, Cardoba takes risks in the ring, causing rumors that he is "losing his luck." Although she will not proclaim her love for him, Teresa's concern prompts her to attend his bullfight. After dedicating the bull to her, Cardoba successfully completes a series of maneuvers which has the crowd cheering. As he acknowledges their acclaim and smiles at Teresa, he is charged by the bull from behind and killed. In grief, Teresa leaves Casimir, who believes he will die from her absence, and embarks on a performance tour of the major cities of Europe as "La Miraflas the Gypsy" accompanied by her friend Flaco. In Brussels, she is reunited with Michael after she spots him in a parade. Again, he asks for her hand, but she superstitiously refuses, fearing for his safety. At a ball during which she meets the Duke of Wellington, the soldiers are ordered to leave for battle. Before departing, Michael mentions that the statue is missing from Miraflores. Disturbed by a foreboding, she searches for a chapel in which to pray and begs that Michael be returned to his people and given a long life. Then, after making arrangements with a priest, she and Flaco set off for Spain. During a bloody battle, Michael miraculously escapes death. On his return to Brussels, the priest gives him a letter from Teresa, which begs him not to follow her. Although the priest does not believe Teresa's "superstition" that she bargained with the Blessed Virgin for Michael's life, he notes that the dents on Michael's helmet indicate how closely he came to dying. When Teresa and Flaco reach Miraflores, which has been decimated by a four-year-long drought, Teresa bids Flaco, her "true friend," goodbye. In the chapel she prostrates herself and prays, unaware that a shadow of a veiled figure reaches toward her and then mounts the pedestal. When Teresa looks up, she sees the statue standing in its rightful place. A storm then breaks out, drenching the fields and prompting the nuns to come in gratitude to the chapel. There, unaware that Teresa had ever left, they find her praying at the foot of the miraculously restored Blessed Virgin.

.

Cast

Carroll Baker

Teresa, also known as Miraflores the Gypsy and La Miraflas

Roger Moore

Capt. Michael Stuart

Walter Slezak

Flaco

Vittorio Gassman

Guido

Katina Paxinou

La Roca

Dennis King

El Conde De Altimira, also known as Casimir

Gustavo Rojo

Cordoba

Isobel Elsom

Reverend Mother

Carlos Rivas

Carlitos

Torin Thatcher

Duke of Wellington

Elspeth March

Sister Domenica

Daria Massey

Gata

Lester Matthews

Capt. John Bolting

Perri Bova

Margarita

Sally Cooper

Catalina

Madlyn Rhue

Nun

Joan Sudlow

Nun

Rudy Alonzo

Child

Nick Thompson

Farmer

Salvador Baguez

Farmer

Pilar Del Rey

Farmer's wife

Belle Mitchell

Farmer's wife

Antony Montenaro

Boy

Adele Zarate

Girl

Steven Cruz

Toddler

Ed Colmans

Priest

Eduard Franz

Priest

Quentin Sondergaard

Guarda

Patrick Westwood

Gypsy

Dorothy Neumann

Gypsy

Patricia Michon

Gypsy

Charles Horvath

French sergeant

Jean Bori

Officer

Victor Lundin

Sergeant

Jose Sanchez

Newsboy

Felipe Turich

Proprietor

George Merino

Wine proprietor

Steve Soldi

Fowl proprietor

Tom Tamarez

Book proprietor

Robert Contreras

Knife grinder

Rodolfo Hoyos

Café manager

George Trevino

Cordoba's manager

Rodd Dana

Courier

Barron Wells

Waycott

John Stevens

Kilted lieutenant

Gail Ganley

Lieutenant's wife

Vernon Gray

Venables

Gavin Muir

Colonel

Norma Varden

Mrs. McGregor

Barry Mason

Sentry

Mike Steen

Dragoon

Madeleine Holmes

Peasant woman

Manuel Paris

Peasant woman's husband

Jack Tesler

Peasant

Herman Rudin

Coachman

Dino Berisso

The Cuadrilla Picadors

Alfred Shelly

The Cuadrilla Picadors

Bernard Gozier

Sword handler

Abel Franco

Sword handler

Anthony Conde

Banderillos

Ruben Moreno

Banderillos

Edward Hashim

Soldier

Frank Baker

Soldier

Irene Calvillo

Harlot

Julio Torres

Specialty dancer

Martin Yturri

Specialty dancer

Claire Dubrey

Penny Stanton

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Adaptation
Religion
Release Date
Dec 26, 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 12 Nov 1959; Los Angeles opening: 25 Dec 1959
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Santa Susanna Mountains, California, United States; Santa Susanna Mountains, California, United States; Santa Susanna Mountains, California, United States; Spain
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Miracle by Karl Vollmoeller, as produced on the stage by Max Reinhardt (London, 1911).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 1m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The Miracle


Max Reinhardt's tale of a nun who ventures into the world to follow the soldier she loves while a statue of the Virgin Mary takes her place was one of the 20th century's great stage productions. For the 1924 New York premiere, Reinhardt converted the theatre into a Medieval cathedral, transporting the audience back in time. Warner Bros. bought the stage rights in 1942 as a vehicle for Bette Davis and then spent the next 17 years trying to get it on screen. Finally, they transported the action to the Napoleonic wars, with sister Carroll Baker falling hard for British soldier Roger Moore (in a role planned for Richard Burton or Dirk Bogarde). The studio hired an international cast -- including Katina Paxinou, Vittorio de Sica, Carlos Rivas and Walter Slezak -- but canceled plans to shoot throughout Europe, using the argument that they were bringing the international spectacle back to Hollywood. Baker chose the role to escape typecasting after her success as the juvenile temptress in Baby Doll (1955), but was none to please when reviewers referred to her character as "Sister Mary Baby Doll." Divorced from her earlier notoriety, however, the performance survives thanks to her sincerity and conviction in the midst of the almost operatic staging.

By Frank Miller
The Miracle

The Miracle

Max Reinhardt's tale of a nun who ventures into the world to follow the soldier she loves while a statue of the Virgin Mary takes her place was one of the 20th century's great stage productions. For the 1924 New York premiere, Reinhardt converted the theatre into a Medieval cathedral, transporting the audience back in time. Warner Bros. bought the stage rights in 1942 as a vehicle for Bette Davis and then spent the next 17 years trying to get it on screen. Finally, they transported the action to the Napoleonic wars, with sister Carroll Baker falling hard for British soldier Roger Moore (in a role planned for Richard Burton or Dirk Bogarde). The studio hired an international cast -- including Katina Paxinou, Vittorio de Sica, Carlos Rivas and Walter Slezak -- but canceled plans to shoot throughout Europe, using the argument that they were bringing the international spectacle back to Hollywood. Baker chose the role to escape typecasting after her success as the juvenile temptress in Baby Doll (1955), but was none to please when reviewers referred to her character as "Sister Mary Baby Doll." Divorced from her earlier notoriety, however, the performance survives thanks to her sincerity and conviction in the midst of the almost operatic staging. By Frank Miller

Quotes

I am not a Christian. Christianity is a faith that betrays its believers!
- TERESA
I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN!
- TERESA

Trivia

Carroll Baker was concerned about being typecast after her provocative role in the controversial Baby Doll (1956), and began refusing parts. The studio offered her a choice of roles and she chose this one because it was as different as possible.

Notes

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.



Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Technirama

Released in United States 1959