A Miracle Can Happen (1948)

108 or 98 mins | Comedy | February 1948

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HISTORY

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 3 Aug 1946 and production on the other episodes resumed on 20 Aug with Vidor directing the sequences involving Meredith and Paulette Goddard, who were married to each other at the time. A 29 Aug HR news item Aug reported that some filming was being done on the Goldwyn lot. On ... More Less

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 3 Aug 1946 and production on the other episodes resumed on 20 Aug with Vidor directing the sequences involving Meredith and Paulette Goddard, who were married to each other at the time. A 29 Aug HR news item Aug reported that some filming was being done on the Goldwyn lot. On 4 Sep, the HR 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 Sep HR news item reported that Skitch Henderson had been signed to compose and conduct the score for the film. On 14 Feb 1947, HR 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 8 May 1947 HR 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 HR 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 3 Feb 1948 to less than ecstatic reviews: "A million dollar cast in a ten-cent film," stated the review in NYDN . On 9 Apr 1948, the HR 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. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Feb 1948.
---
Daily Variety
2 Feb 48
p. 3.
Daily Variety
32 Jun 1950.
---
Down Beat
7 Apr 48
p. 8.
Down Beat
14 Jul 48
p. 8.
Film Daily
2 Feb 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1946.
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1946.
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 46
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1946 p. 2.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 1946.
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1946.
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 1946.
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1946.
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1947.
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1947 p. 17.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1947.
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1947.
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1949.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Jan 48
p. 4038.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Feb 48
p. 4049.
New York Times
4 Feb 48
p. 28.
Variety
4 Feb 48
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod assoc
Asst to prod
WRITERS
Orig story
[James Stewart--Henry Fonda episode]
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cine [James Stewart--Henry Fonda episode]
Cine [Dorothy Lamour--Victor Moore episode]
Cine [Fred MacMurray episode]
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Supv ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
Ward
MUSIC
Mus supv
Orch arr
SOUND
Sd tech
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
STAND INS
Piano double for James Stewart
Trumpet double for Dorothy Ford
SOURCES
MUSIC
"My Melancholy Baby," music by Ernie Burnett.
SONGS
"The Queen of the Hollywood Islands," words and music by Frank Loesser.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Along Came Baby
On Our Merry Way
Release Date:
February 1948
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 3 February 1948
Production Date:
mid July 1946--early October 1947 at General Service Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Miracle Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 June 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1789
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
108 or 98
Length(in feet):
9,694 , 8,791
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12263
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Recently married Oliver H. Pease has been pretending to his wife Martha that he is an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Banner when, in fact, he is employed there as a classified ad salesman. One morning, Martha gives him a question to pose to the public for his regular column: "What great influence has a little child had upon your life?" As he leaves for work, Oliver learns that all their furniture will be repossessed that evening, and at work, his bookmaker is waiting for him to pay up. After the real "Roving Reporter" dismisses Martha's question, Oliver approaches the editor, Mr. Sadd, telling him that he represents the publisher, who wants to improve the "Roving Reporter" column and has submitted a question to be used by Oliver, whom the publisher insists do the assignment. Mr. Sadd, who is unaware of Oliver's true role at the newspaper, has to agree and soon Oliver, followed by his bookie, asks the question around the city.
       At a nightclub, he meets musicians Lank and Slim, who tell him about the time they became involved with a "baby": While touring in an impoverished band, their decrepit bus breaks down in a small beach community. In a coffee shop they meet the mayor's son, Zoot. Zoot is a terrible trumpet player but, in order to get money to repair the bus, Lank and Slim say that they can arrange for him to win a lucrative talent contest if he can persuade his father to let them run it. Maxim, the gas station owner who is repairing the bus, says that he wants to enter his "little girl" Lola in the ... +


Recently married Oliver H. Pease has been pretending to his wife Martha that he is an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Banner when, in fact, he is employed there as a classified ad salesman. One morning, Martha gives him a question to pose to the public for his regular column: "What great influence has a little child had upon your life?" As he leaves for work, Oliver learns that all their furniture will be repossessed that evening, and at work, his bookmaker is waiting for him to pay up. After the real "Roving Reporter" dismisses Martha's question, Oliver approaches the editor, Mr. Sadd, telling him that he represents the publisher, who wants to improve the "Roving Reporter" column and has submitted a question to be used by Oliver, whom the publisher insists do the assignment. Mr. Sadd, who is unaware of Oliver's true role at the newspaper, has to agree and soon Oliver, followed by his bookie, asks the question around the city.
       At a nightclub, he meets musicians Lank and Slim, who tell him about the time they became involved with a "baby": While touring in an impoverished band, their decrepit bus breaks down in a small beach community. In a coffee shop they meet the mayor's son, Zoot. Zoot is a terrible trumpet player but, in order to get money to repair the bus, Lank and Slim say that they can arrange for him to win a lucrative talent contest if he can persuade his father to let them run it. Maxim, the gas station owner who is repairing the bus, says that he wants to enter his "little girl" Lola in the contest. Lola turns out to be an attractive young woman who shows Lank and Slim that she can effortlessly play trombone, trumpet and clarinet. At the contest, on the end of a pier, after it is announced that first prize will be a two-week engagement with the band and that Lank will be the judge, Maxim shows up with band leader Harry James and installs him as the judge. When it is Zoot's turn to perform, Lank disappears beneath the bandstand to play for Zoot while he "fakes." Unfortunately, Lank is standing in a motor boat that starts rocking severely, causing him to become seasick, and Zoot to produce some very strange notes. Slim then introduces Lola, who dazzles the audience with her trumpet rendition of the same melody which Zoot and Lank attempted, and is awarded first prize by James. Later, Lola invites Slim and Lank to join her band in the bus her father has repaired for her.
       After their story ends, Oliver goes back on the street and escapes from his bookie by scaling a wall and entering a house belonging to film actress Gloria Manners. Gloria answers Oliver's question by telling him about being a bit player in a film with child star Peggy Thorndyke and an old actor named Ashton Carrington. Peggy complains about Ashton forgetting his lines and is generally obnoxious, causing Ashton and Gloria to become very nervous. After Gloria ruins Take 37, she and Ashton are fired, but tell Peggy and her mother off. Gloria learns that Ashton has a script which would be perfect for her, and after Peggy comes to apologize, she offers to take the script to the studio head. Peggy also performs with them in an audition with the result that Gloria gets a contract and Ashton becomes her manager.
       When Gloria's story ends, Oliver, still trying to avoid the bookie, climbs a fire escape and, at a window, meets Al. In response to Oliver's question, Al tells him about the time he and his fellow con man, Floyd, were driven by the police to the county line near Carson Corners: There, Edgar Hobbs, a young orphan boy posing as gangster Sniffles Dugan, holds them up at gunpoint and tells them he has a lot of money at his gold mine. When Edgar tells them that he lives with a rich uncle, Al and Floyd plan to return the runaway and claim a reward. After Edgar plays various practical jokes on them, Al goes into town to try to find the boy's uncle and discovers that he is president of the local bank. At his home, Al meets Edgar's sister, Cynthia, and learns that Uncle Eli does not want his nephew returned. Back in the hills, Al and Floyd are about to leave when they spot a policeman and Edgar threatens to tell him what they have been planning. Later, they return Edgar to his uncle, along with a pony they have bought, telling him it was an inducement to get Edgar to return home. When Al and Floyd ask Eli for the cash they spent on the pony, he threatens to call the sheriff so they agree to work for him. Oliver now discovers that Al has become a stage magician, has married Cynthia and she, Floyd and Edgar assist him in his act.
       Back at the paper, Oliver is fired from his "classified" job for having been absent all day. Sadd, who has discovered his ruse, tears up his copy and throws him out, but later decides to read the column. Outside, the bookie roughs Oliver up and he is taken home by two policemen. He then tells Martha the truth but, much to his surprise, she welcomes him with champagne, because she has known all along about his job and does not mind. As the furniture is being taken away, Sadd comes to tell Oliver that he likes his column and asks him how he came to think of the question. Martha says that she gave it to him because she is going to have a baby. Sadd thinks this will make a great "topper" for the column which, henceforth, Oliver will be writing. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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