The Miracle (1959)

121 mins | Melodrama | 26 December 1959

Director:

Irving Rapper

Producer:

Henry Blanke

Cinematographer:

Ernest Haller

Editor:

Frank Bracht

Production Designer:

Hans Peters

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

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 9 Jul 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. Feb 1952 HR and DV 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, HR news items add Florence Vinson, Nadine Dennis, Paul Fierro and Tom Wilson to the cast. A HR news ... More Less

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 9 Jul 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. Feb 1952 HR and DV 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, HR news items add Florence Vinson, Nadine Dennis, Paul Fierro and Tom Wilson to the cast. A HR news item also adds Gladys Cooper to the cast, but she was not in the released film. A Jun 1958 HR news item reported that Richard Burton would be cast, but he did not appear in the final film.
       According to a 30 Jul 1958 HR news item, Harry Stradling and Harry Stradling, Jr., were assigned as cameraman and second cameraman respectively on the film. HR production charts list Stradling as the director of photography until late Aug 1958, after which his name was replaced by Ernest Haller, who was the sole credited director of photography onscreen. A Feb 1958 DV 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 Apr and May 1958 HR news items reported that the film was to be shot in the Cinemiracle process, the final film was shot in Technirama. Although Mar and Apr 1958 DV and HR news items reported that Spain and Mexico were considered as shooting sites, the film was shot in the Los Angeles area. According to a Sep 1958 LAEx 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 15 Oct 1958 HR 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 NYT 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 Var review stated that the film “has about everything…except a genuinely spiritual story.” The LAT 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), in which she played the title role.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Oct 1959.
---
Daily Variety
4 Feb 1952.
---
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1958.
---
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1959
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Oct 1959
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
26 Dec 1959.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1958
p. 12, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 1958
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1958
p. 4, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1958
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 1998.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
28 Sep 1958
Section 7, p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
26 Dec 1959.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1959
p. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1959
Part II, p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Oct 1959
p. 468.
New York Times
13 Nov 1959
p. 25.
Saturday Review
14 Nov 1959.
---
Time
23 Nov 1959.
---
Variety
11 Nov 1959
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Guest star:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward
Ward
MUSIC
Orig mus by
Mus supv
Orch
Vocal arr
SOUND
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
Scr supv
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Miracle by Karl Vollmoeller, as produced on the stage by Max Reinhardt (London, 1911).
SONGS
"Auld Lang Syne," music traditional, lyrics by Robert Burns
“Ave verum corpus,” music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, lyrics traditional
“Oh Maria, Madre Mia,” "Greensleeves," “British Grenadiers,” “Piobaireachd of Donald Dhu,” “Yo m’Alegro” and “Ave regina caelorum,” traditional
+
SONGS
"Auld Lang Syne," music traditional, lyrics by Robert Burns
“Ave verum corpus,” music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, lyrics traditional
“Oh Maria, Madre Mia,” "Greensleeves," “British Grenadiers,” “Piobaireachd of Donald Dhu,” “Yo m’Alegro” and “Ave regina caelorum,” traditional
“La morena gitana,” composer undetermined
and other songs.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 December 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 12 November 1959
Los Angeles opening: 25 December 1959
Production Date:
29 July--early November 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 December 1959
Copyright Number:
LP17466
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Technirama
Duration(in mins):
121
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19141
Passed by NBR:
No
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, ... +


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. +

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

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